Why do billionaires still work?

I’ve always wondered about something… why do people such as Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey still work? Why don’t they “cash out” and live a stress-free “life of luxury” consisting of yachting, traveling, partying, etc.?

For the same reason they became so rich. They are workaholics. Their personality does not change with success.

Just a guess.

When interviewed, most billionaires say that they obviously don’t need anymore money but it becomes a game to them, the dollars become points, and they want to get the highest score they can.

Lobsang’s point is also true. You can’t be a self-made billionaire without a huge success and work drive. There is not enough luck in the world to propel someone that high by accident. That doesn’t go away. Billionaires generally aren’t content to just lay around on the beach.

My father-in-law is 70 years old and a self-made multi-millionaire. I have never seen a harder worker in my life. He works as the president of his company until 8 or 9 pm every weekday night. On the weekends, he goes up to his 300 acre cattle farm in New Hampshire and does physical ranch hand type work all weekend. He started out poor and blue-collar and just forced his way up through shear determination and extreme hard work. He is as healthy as a horse and has no intentions of ever retiring.

I saw a documentry about this or at least the mentality behind this.

What they claimed is usually self made wealthy people like this get where they are at by setting goals for themselves. They start off small and work their way to bigger and better things. They maintain this habbit through out their entire lives. So finally when they reach a point of finacial satus that they don’t seem to have any more challenging goals that they can set for themselves they become very depressed if they just try and do a 180 and not do shit. Because after all we all know old habbits die hard.

So basicaly they still work so they can still set goals for themselves thus keeping them in a mental happy place. So really it becomes less about money and more about “Hmm, if I set out to take over the Time-Warner corperation; Can I do it? Hmm I think maybe I can.” And so goes the circle of life.

Of course the easy answer to this is that they are all just a bunch of power mad monsters.

Its also the reason why, 99% of the time, people who become instant millionaires by winning the lottery are almost always broke in five years. Its an artificial situation.

But people who are selfmade millionaires have slowly created their environment themselves and see nothing particularly different or magical the day their bank statement reads $1 000 000.

One of the best lines from a biography of Bill Gates (Hard Drive) goes something like:

On his 35[sup]th[/sup] birthday, after taking Microsoft public, William Gates III was now the richest man in the Western hemisphere.
And he counldn’t have cared less.

My hypotheses, as I have never truly had the “care-free” option are:

  1. There is little purpose in life if one is truly a hedonist, beyond the point of additonal hedonistic activities (read: Anna Nicole),
  2. The “life of luxery” most lottery players pursue becomes very tedious (i.e. boring) more quickly than the common folk (e.g. myself) imagine.

Finally, but not rating hypothesis #3, is that it is a full time occupation to manage an amount of money of that magnitude.


Ever notice a lot of old men die within six to twelve months of retirement? People need a purpose, something to wake up and work towards each day. Work fills that need for most. Take it away from them and they don’t know what to do with themselves.

Another point is that these people are leaders and probably feel a responsibility to those under them to continue seeking success.

Because people who are willing to stop working when they have enough money quit before they make a billion dollars.

Do you have a cite? I don’t mean like, “hey I’m picky; prove it,” but this has piqued my curiosity. I realize that lotteries are a tax on people bad at math, but I imagine there has to be some fair number that use the money intelligently, no?

My thoughts exactly. 99% is way inflated. There are two types of people who end up losing all their winnings;

  • those who naively invest it all in a business venture that they don’t know enough about or is beyond their capabilities to manage.
  • those who are just spend-thrift and careless.

But that certainly isn’t 99%.

Bill Gates would probably pay his billions to do what he’s doing now - that is be chief software architect. It’s not what he loves, I’d almost bet it was in his DNA. He’s a guy who’s job is doing what he loves to do.

Paul Allen on the other hand decided there was more fun to be had with his billion

Adding to what others have said, billionaires probably keep working for the same reason that Barry Bonds kept playing baseball after making tons of money AND setting the single-season home run record. If you like your job, why would you want to quit?

I think the idea ‘to build a reputation for years to come’ is somewhere in there. Opera would probably love to be known as ‘the woman who challenged society’ and that type of thing, not as ‘lazy billionares’.

Many people think extremely rich people are only driven by more money. Not true. Usually its carving out there name in history somewhere, using various projects. Some are just driven to prove people wrong. Richard Branson is a perfect example. Even though the guy is so successful, every idea he comes up with, critics still say “no way it’ll work!”. And he consistently proves them wrong.

Slight nitpick: from my understanding, Gates wasn’t much of a programmer, just one hell of a marketing manager.

He sealed all the right deals, helped out Paul Allen, and put his product at the forefront of technology.

And Im making it sound easy :wink:

Another point is that the money isn’t necessarily entirely liquid. If Gates is worth $x-biln, that probably involves the current price of MS stock, so he can’t just spend it, because no one else can buy that many $biln of it. Also, if Gates says “I’ve changed my mind, MS is fine without me, I’m cashing in, and spending half my money and burying the rest in gold bars in my mansion” then his stock is suddenly worth less :slight_smile:

Y’know, I always wondered, during the anti-trust hearings vs. Microsoft, what happens if they find Gates guilty, and he just says, “Okay, screw it. I’m gonna go sit by my pool and learn to play the guitar.” Close the doors at the factory and never publish another line of code for any Microsoft product. Kind of like Willy Wonka. Where would we be now?

Sorry, LINUX and Mac fans, I know it’s not nice to toy with you like that, but still…

Hmmm… well, first off, even if BG has a bazigload of stock in microsoft, he probably doesn’t retain enough interest in the company to force through a decision to shut down production and dissolve the assets. So he could decide to retire personally and even cash out of the company if he wanted to, (which would probably be enough of a dump to drop the share price a fair chunk.)

AFAIK, even if the justice department lays on some pretty heavy sanctions, microsoft will still be a moneymaker. Am I wrong about that? :slight_smile:

Self-made billionaires got where they are because they’re driven to succeed. If they just wanted to make their bundle and then live the carefree life, why keep on plugging for the billion ? You can live a very nice life indeed on, say, 50 million. Hire someone to take care of the money and live on the proceeds. Fuck, I would.

Of course, if we’re to believe Maslov’s pyramid, once you’ve secured shelter, food etc., you’ll start to work on self-realization. For some that’ll take the form of making more money. If they like running their business, the temptation to add more track to the train set is easy enough to understand. For others, the outlet can be yacht racing or boinking as many starlets as possible or mismanaging a Formula 1 team or raising thoroughbred racehorses or other activities I haven’t even heard of.

What you may want to do is take a look at those who do made their money the old-fashioned way - i.e., inherited it. Does anyone think that Paris Hilton is ever going to be in charge of the Hilton chain ?

How about getting on TV with a reality show featuring dozens of MBA’s competing to be your protege while the country talks about how much they can’t stop staring at your hair? :wink:

Nah, that’s just an activity I wish I hadn’t heard of. :stuck_out_tongue: