Retirement these days doesn't sound like much fun. Too much scrimping and saving and trying to figure out how to turn a lousy Social Security payment into a government gold mine.
Why not aim higher? What would it take to retire and live like Bill Gates or one of those oil-rich sheiks? Research says millionaire status may not make you happy, but it's worth a shot. Here are some wealth-producing possibilities.1. Win the Mega Millions Lottery. The jackpots start at $12 million, paid in 26 yearly installments. Win at age 65 and your income won't run out until you're 91 -- and at that point, who cares? The ticket costs a modest $1, but the odds of matching all five numbers on your lottery ticket plus the Mega number is 1 chance in 175,711,536. Mathematician Durango Bill points out on his Mega Millions Odds website that there are 1.7 fatalities for every 100 million miles driven. If you drive one mile to the store and back to buy a Mega Millions ticket, you will have driven two miles and the odds that you will be killed or kill someone in the process is 1 in 29,411,765. Those odds are six times better than the odds of winning the Mega Millions Lottery. So don't shut down your 401(k) yet.
2. Profit From an IPO. Initial public offerings have turned lots of people into millionaires. Some of them have become multi-millionaires. In the last year, according to Renaissance Capital, the average total proceeds from a technology IPO are $5.1 billion. It is not unusual for the founder of a tech company to own at least 10% of the company's stock at the time it goes public. Ten percent of $5.1 billion is $510 million. So if you take your company public at age 65 and get those kinds of returns, you ought to be able to spend $9 million or $10 million a year for the next 25 or 30 years without having to worry about running low on cash.
3. Be a Star Athlete. Despite his troubles, golfer Tiger Woods remains the highest-earning athlete in the United States for another year. According to Sports Illustrated, Tiger made $20.5 million in winnings and $70 million in endorsements for a total of $90.5 million in annual compensation in 2010. His next closest competitor Phil Mickelson came in at $61.7 million. Number three on list of highest-earning athletes in 2010 was boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who made $60.3 million. Average earnings of top-50 pro athletes is $26 million. Collect that every year for five years, invest it well, and you can afford to live on at least $1 million a year until it doesn't matter anymore.
4. Be a Top CEO. Topping the Wall Street Journal's list of highest-earning businessmen is Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of software maker Oracle Corp., who received $1.84 billion in compensation over the last 10 years. He is followed by Barry Diller, former CEO of IAC/InterActive and current chairman of spinoff Expedia.com, who made $1.14 billion in the last decade. Runners-up are Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Ray Irani at $857 million, Apple Inc.'s Steve Jobs with $749 million and, in fifth place, Capital One Financial Corp. CEO Richard Fairbank at $569 million.
5. Marry Well or Pick the Right Parents. Christie Walton, the 55-year-old widow of John Walton, inherited her money -- an estimated $24 billion, according to Forbes magazine -- after her late husband died in an airplane crash near their home in Wyoming in 2005. Currently, she's the fourth-wealthiest person in the U.S. The couple's money came from their shares in Walmart, which was founded by her father-in-law Sam Walton and his brother James in 1962. She also cashed in when First Solar, a firm her husband invested in early, rose 400% compared to its opening price at the 2006 IPO.
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