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How does Elon Musk spend his billions?

·4-min read
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk grimaces after arriving on the red carpet for the Axel Springer award, in Berlin, Germany, December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk grimaces after arriving on the red carpet for the Axel Springer award, in Berlin, Germany, December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool

Worth over $164 billion, Elon Musk is the second richest person in the world at the moment. He ranks only after Jeff Bezos who is worth $177 billion and just above Bernard Arnault the Chairman and CEO of the luxury goods brand, LVMH. Bill Gates, once the richest person in the world trails Musk by a solid margin.

How did Elon Musk make his billions?

Elon Musk got his first pay cheque when he was all of 12. Growing up in South Africa, Musk had taught himself how to code and created a video game. He sold the source code for that game for $500. Eventually Musk moved to Canada where he spent a lot of time doing hard labour — think cutting logs, shovelling grains, cleaning the boiler room etc – before he landed a summer internship at the Bank of Nova Scotia.

Even when he was at University, Musk was always hustling. He sold full PCs and computer parts to his fellow students. If there was something wrong with your personal computer or if you needed to pimp it up for video games etc, you’d go to Elon Musk who’d do the job for a fraction of the price you’d spend at the service centre.

Aside from a part scholarship, his income from the PC business and through some other innovative means – Musk had turned their house into a secret bar and entry was capped at $5 – Elon Musk managed to pay his way through college. He graduated with a degree in physics and economics and had intended to complete his PhD but ditched it to found an internet start-up called Zip2 that was a city guide software for newspapers. He founded Zip2 along with his brother, using the $28,000 seed money that their father had agreed to invest.

In just four years, they managed to sell the company for a whopping $307 million making Musk, who walked away with $22 million, a millionaire for the first time. Instead of sitting pretty on his earnings, Elon Musk invested half of it to co-found, an online banking service. Eventually this company was merged with PayPal, earning Musk a majority stake in the company. When eBay bought out PayPal, Musk became even richer. He earned $180 million from the deal.

It was at this point – and mind you it was just 2002 right now – Elon Musk decided to get into space exploration and founded the company with which we now associate him: SpaceX. In another few years he would go on to co-found Tesla and SolarCity, a company that provided solar power systems. While these companies made Musk quite rich indeed, the divorce with Justine, his first wife, almost drove him to bankruptcy. For over two years Elon Musk struggled to stay afloat but when Tesla made its debut in NYSE in 2010, Musk made his millions again. Another two years later, he was a billionaire with a net worth of $2 billion

Over the years, Elon Musk has founded two more companies: The Boring Company and Neuralink. While one develops boring machines to drill tunnels for underground transportation systems (for eg Virgin’s Hyperloop) to help reduce traffic congestion in major cities, the latter is developing brain-to-machine interface devices that will empower people suffering from paralysis to mentally interact with their mobile and computing devices.

As of now, Elon Musk is worth $151 billion.

How does Elon Musk spend his billions?

For one he doesn’t blow his cash on super-expensive vacations. Barring the annual camping trip he takes with his kids Elon Musk rarely ever takes extended breaks. Typically, he spends his time in his offices or factories and returns to one of his four mansions in Los Angeles.

Real Estate is where Elon Musk spends a lot of his money. By some accounts, he owns residential property worth $70 million in LA’s tony Bel-Air neighbourhood. He has been buying property in the area since as early as 2012. His first purchase was a bachelor pad that sat on a 1.67 acre estate and cost him $17 million.

Musk also loves cars. While he prefers driving around in a Tesla, he also owns a couple of petrol cars: a Ford Model T and a Jaguar E-Type Series 1 Roadster. In 2013, he even splurged nearly a million dollars on the Lotus Esprit submarine car that featured in the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

In 2012, soon after he became a billionaire, Elon Musk signed the Giving Pledge, through which he’s promised to donate majority of the wealth he’s earned during his lifetime, though he’s not made his letter of commitment public. He also occasionally pledges his money to different causes but by some accounts he’s not donated more than $25 million through his foundation. Of this, he’s given $10 million to the Future of Life Institute alone to regulate artificial intelligence, an area that some believe would serve his business interests.

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