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Big Bucks Await

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Forbes columnist and investment guru Ken Fisher points out that people can become rich both in strong and weak economies — which is good to know given today’s current environment. In his newest book, The Ten Roads to Riches, Fisher provides thoughtful and often amusing accounts of various ways a person can become wealthy. In so doing, he expands on the theory explored in his previous books, that the best way to accumulate wealth is to save your money, be frugal and invest wisely.

So what are the other nine roads to riches? Well, before getting to that, Fisher provides a warning: Parts of the book may be offensive to some people. He advises that readers will find certain suggestions ridiculous, tacky and terrible. While I may agree, it’s these suggestions that help make the book so much fun to read.

For instance, the chapter “Marry Well, Really Well” might be considered a bit distasteful to some. But heck, Melinda Gates, John McCain and John Kerry all have done pretty well by that kind of move. Fisher advises readers to hang out where the ultra-wealthy are hanging out, including investment seminars, Republican Party events and community charities.

This follows other ideas that may be more palatable. For instance, the first chapter, “The Richest Road,” details the advantages of starting a business that could eventually become the next Microsoft, Nike or Charles Schwab. Fisher notes that this seems to work for both Ph.D.s as well as college drop-outs. However, it’s not for the faint-hearted. “It requires courage, discipline, Teflon skin, strategic vision, a talented supporting cast, and maybe luck. Those lacking entrepreneurial spirit needn’t apply — nor folks who are fear-driven,” writes Fisher. He advises readers to pick a path in a burgeoning field, such as the service industries, technology, health care or financials. “Financials took it on the chin lately, but folks always need to invest and borrow,” he writes.

If you’re not interested in starting your own business, Fisher highlights non-founder CEOs, like General Electric’s Jack Welch. “Sometimes reinventing is easier than creating from whole cloth,” he writes. Fisher also notes that half of America’s largest firm CEOs make in excess of $8.3 million per year. Some suggestions: be passionate about the company you work for and develop strong leadership skills. He describes “leading from the front,” which includes never asking employees to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, such as flying coach when you’re flying first class.

Another way to become mega-rich? Forget becoming a CEO. Instead, hitch a ride with someone who is on such a career path. “Ride-alongs” attach to the right horse, and help the horse, explains Fisher. An example? Warrant Buffett’s sidekick, Charlie Munger, who is now worth $2 billion. How to pick the visionary to hang with? Make sure he or she has an exciting business vision, is good at delegating and isn’t someone who keeps failing in familiar ways. Finally, be endlessly loyal, and don’t complain.

Another option is presented in the chapter “Steal It –Like a Pirate, But Legally.” How? By becoming a plaintiff lawyer. And forget the Ivy League college route: Fisher notes that today’s top plaintiff lawyers went to mediocre colleges and lackluster law schools. Potential targets include the tobacco industry, asbestos and, of course, pharmaceutical firms. Another option? According to Fisher, the road paved with fees from Other People’s Money (OPM) — money management, private equity, brokerage, banking, insurance, etc. “OPM is the commonest road for the ultra-wealthy. It isn’t how you get to be the very richest, but it’s how most of the mega-rich get there,” he writes.

The Ten Roads to Riches is probably more fun than practical. But if your New Year’s resolution is to become mega-wealthy, reading the book may inspire some ideas.

Mary Scott is the co-author of Companies with a Conscience and can be reached at [email protected]