Where millionaires like Oprah and Mark Cuban were in their 20s

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Many wealthy people can trace their successful beginnings to their 20s. After all, your 20s are typically the time when you'll experience exciting life changes, such as graduating from college, getting your first job and living on your own. But, it's also the age where you'll learn hard lessons, including how to deal with rejection or how to survive on a small paycheck.

If you're a millennial, these success stories might inspire you. From Oprah Winfrey to Mark Cuban, click through to see what these millionaires — and billionaires — were doing in their 20s.

Where Millionaires Like Oprah and Mark Cuban Were in Their 20s (GOBankingRates.com)
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Where millionaires like Oprah and Mark Cuban were in their 20s

Bill Gates: Cobbled Together Software for Hardware He'd Never Seen

Every young entrepreneur needs someone to take a chance on them, but that chance must be earned. Work hard to create something of value, so when an opportunity presents itself, you can bring something to the table that makes you indispensable. That's one of the ways Bill Gates built his fortune

In 1974, Harvard student Gates read an article in Popular Electronics about a new computer made by a small company in New Mexico. Gates and fellow Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen contacted the company and claimed they were working on software designed for the computer, reports BBC.

When the computer manufacturer requested a demonstration, Gates and Allen scrambled to get the program ready. When the program was tested for the first time in Albuquerque, the software worked perfectly. Soon after, both Allen and Gates headed to New Mexico to work on the software.

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Mark Cuban: Got Fired and Inspired to Be His Own Boss

To be a successful billionaire entrepreneur like Mark Cuban, you might want to follow his example. Cuban learned a life lesson at 25 that made him fully commit to starting his own business.

When a lazy, egotistical boss told Cuban not to chase a client, he did it anyway. The boss fired him on the spot for disobeying — even though Cuban would have earned the company $15,000.

"[B]eing fired from that job was the determining factor in my business life," Cuban wrote in an article for Forbes in 2013. "I decided then and there to start my own company. I didn't have that much to lose, and it was something that I knew I had to do."

Ever since, Cuban has spent his life trying to do the opposite of everything that boss represented, making the unmotivated, ego-driven supervisor a kind of reverse mentor. In fact, Cuban shuns titles like "CEO" and seems to value hard work and good sales numbers over everything else.

Today, the millennials who follow their instincts, take chances and stick to their beliefs will likely be the ones who go the furthest.

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Richard Branson: Launched a Mail-Order Record Startup

Virgin Group founder and billionaire Sir Richard Branson struggled throughout his schooling and forewent college. Instead, the 65-year-old followed his entrepreneurial instinct and started selling records by mail in 1970, reports Inc. He started a mail-order business when he was just 20, and it soon parlayed into a record shop, then a studio and eventually a record label that signed then-controversial acts like the Sex Pistols.

Virgin is now one of the most high-profile companies in the world, with dozens of investments and subsidiaries. It all started because Branson identified a problem in the market — high record costs — and positioned himself as the solution.

The takeaway? Look for things that bug you about an industry you love, come up with a solution and work hard until the money rolls in.

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Sam Walton: Worked as a Retail Sales Trainee

When Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton died in 1992, his namesake store was the giant of the American retail landscape. But Walton's customer-first focus started early, with his 1940 retail job at a JCPenney store, reports Entrepreneur magazine.

As a 20-something sales trainee, Walton put the customer first, often leaving paperwork undone. Walton's boss even told him that he wasn't cut out for retail. Despite this, Walton's success was proven by the extra $25 in commissions he earned each month — equal to over $400 today.

"There is only one boss — the customer," Walton reportedly said. "And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

If you're thinking about one day starting a business, always remain humble and take care of your customers and supporters — whether you're a sales trainee or the CEO. Without them, even the biggest and strongest companies can fall.

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Steve Jobs: Founded Apple Out of His Garage

The late Steve Jobs was arguably the most important inventor and executive to emerge from the modern tech revolution — and certainly one of the most prominent. But in 1976, 21-year-old Jobs was just a young college dropout messing around with new technology in his family's garage with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, reports TIME.

Today, Apple is the most valuable brand in the world that's worth more than $150 billion, according to Forbes. And it all started with Jobs as a curious young man.

No one learns it all in college — or outside of college — and young people should consider themselves sponges who are just beginning their real education. Surround yourself with people who share your passions, and make sure those people are more experienced than you, more advanced than you and more knowledgeable than you. You can't learn if you're the smartest person in the room.

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Oprah Winfrey: Got Demoted, But Stayed Open to New Opportunities

In her early 20s, Oprah Winfrey got a promotion to be a co-anchor of a Baltimore news station — a huge accomplishment for someone so young. Yet, Winfrey proved too green for the responsibility and after just a few months was demoted.

"I shall never forget April 1, 1977," Winfrey said in an interview with Baltimore Magazine. "I got called out of the newsroom to meet with the general manager. ... I was devastated. I knew it was a horrible demotion ..."

Soon, another opportunity came up to co-host a daytime talk show. Winfrey initially resisted the idea but decided to try it. "From that first day, I knew instantly this is what I was supposed to do," she told the magazine. "I felt like I had come home to myself."

Like Winfrey, 20-somethings shouldn't give up if they encounter setbacks in their careers. Sometimes, what might seem like a failure is actually an opportunity to achieve greatness.

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Kanye West: Survived a Devastating Car Accident

In October 2002, rap superstar Kanye West's career — and life — was almost cut short after a car accident. After the accident, he told MTV, "My jaw was broken in three places. I had nasal fractures — I'd be talking to people and my nose would start bleeding."

But just a few weeks later, West recorded his first single "Through the Wire," which he rapped through his broken jaw, reports Rolling Stone.

Reflecting on the accident, West realized that his legacy could have ended with mediocre work. "Now when I go into the studio, I act like this could possibly be my last day," he said in a 2005 interview with USA Today.

Every 20-something should remember that the future belongs to them — but they need to give it their all in the here and now, too.

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Eminem: Released a Failed Album Before Getting Picked Up By Dre

Marshall Mathers — also known by his stage name Eminem — came from a broken home and endured bullies in Detroit's east side, reports Rolling Stone. But, Mathers found a passion for words and rapping, and verbally sparred in the fiercely competitive Detroit rap battle scene. Even so, he failed to reach stardom with his first solo album, "Infinite."

Eminem kept at it, though, and in 1998 his "The Slime Shady" EP landed with Dr. Dre, a rap legend and super producer. Dr. Dre listened to the EP, recognized Eminem's impressive talent right away and signed him. Eminem went on to become one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful rappers of all time.

Through years of rejection and adversity, the only thing Eminem really had turned out to be the only thing he needed — persistence. When they're ready to give up, millennials can look to Eminem as an example of what can be achieved if they keep at it.

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Madonna: Took Odd Jobs to Pursue Singing

In 1978, when she was around 20 years old, pop superstar Madonna moved to New York, reports the Rolling Stone. But before she became known as a "Material Girl," Madonna worked a number of odd jobs in the city to support herself.

"Trying to be a professional dancer, paying my rent by posing nude for art classes, staring at people staring at me naked," Madonna wrote in a piece for Harper's Bazaar. "Daring them to think of me as anything but a form they were trying to capture with their pencils and charcoal. I was defiant. Hell-bent on surviving. On making it."

But eventually, her hustling paid off. By the early '80s, she recorded and released her self-titled debut album — and the rest is pop music history.

No matter what the industry or the circumstance, there will never be a substitute for hard work and discipline. These are the traits that are essential to succeeding in any pursuit.

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16 billionaires who inherited their fortunes
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Where millionaires like Oprah and Mark Cuban were in their 20s

16. Laurene Powell Jobs

Net worth: $14.4 billion

Age: 52

Country: US

Industry: Media

The widow of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs inherited his wealth and assets, which included 5.5 million shares of Apple stock and a 7.3% stake in The Walt Disney Co., upon his death. Jobs' stake in Disney — which has nearly tripled in value since her husband's death in 2011 and comprises more than $12 billion of her net worth — makes her the company's largest individual shareholder.

Though she's best recognized through her iconic husband, Jobs has had a career of her own. She worked on Wall Street for Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs before earning her MBA at Stanford in 1991, after which she married her late husband and started organic-foods company Terravera. But she's been primarily preoccupied with philanthropic ventures, with a particular focus on education. In 1997, she founded College Track, an after-school program that helps low-income students prepare for and enroll in college, and in September she committed $50 million to a new project called XQ: The Super School Project, which aims to revamp the high-school curriculum and experience.

Last October, Jobs spoke out against "Steve Jobs," Aaron Sorkin's movie about her late husband that portrays him in a harsh light, calling it "fiction." Jobs had been against the project from the get-go, reportedly calling Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale to ask them to decline roles in the film.

(Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

15. Azim Premji

Net worth: $16.5 billion

Age: 70

Country: India

Industry: Technology

In 1966, 21-year-old Azim Premji dropped out of Stanford in the wake of his father's death to take the helm of his father's company Western India Vegetable Products — later renamed Wipro. It was under Premji's leadership that the company diversified into toiletries and bath products and, eventually, IT, and the company grew exponentially. Now India's third-largest IT giant, Wipro generated revenues of $7.6 billion in its most recent fiscal year.

Just days into the new year, Premji named Abidali Neemuchwala, a Dallas-based consultancy executive, the new CEO of Wipro, citing him as the best leader to take Wipro into "its next phase of growth." Neemuchwala had been brought on to Wipro as chief operating officer last April after years of working for rival Tata Consultancy Services.

Premji is known for his generosity. He signed the Giving Pledge, committing to donate at least half of his wealth to charity, and in 2015 was named "the most generous Indian" on the Hurun India Philanthropy list for the third year in a row.

(Photo by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint via Getty Images)

14. Dieter Schwarz

Net worth: $20.9 billion

Age: 76

Country: Germany

Industry: Retail

Dieter Schwarz joined his father's food-wholesaling business in 1973 and opened the company's first discount supermarket shortly thereafter. He took over as CEO when his father died in 1977 and rapidly expanded the business outside Germany, rebranding the company as Schwarz Gruppe.

The parent company umbrellas Lidl, a successful grocery-store chain and the second largest in Germany behind Aldi, and Kaufland, a chain of "hypermarket" stores similar to Walmart. Lidl has nearly 10,000 stores across 26 European countries and is set to break ground on US soil in 2018. Schwarz Gruppe now pulls in $85 billion in annual sales.

The German billionaire lives a quiet life out of the spotlight with his wife and two kids in their hometown of Heilbronn. He's reportedly a generous donor to educational causes.

(Photo by Ashok Saxena, Alamy)

13. Georg Schaeffler

Net worth: $22.2 billion

Age: 51

Country: Germany

Industry: Manufacturing

Georg Schaeffler served in the German military and held a short career in corporate law in the US before jumping aboard his father's company, Schaeffler Group, the nearly $11 billion (in sales) ball bearings and auto-parts maker that Schaeffler now co-owns with his mother.

The company made a splash in 2008 with its $17 billion hostile takeover attempt of tire and auto-parts maker Continental AG, which went south and left Schaeffler Group saddled with debt that it's managing to this day. It still owns a nearly 50% stake in Continental.

Schaeffler Group has recently invested nearly $550 million in its electric and hybrid car parts business, and it expects to double the number in the next five years.

(Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

12. Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud

Net worth: $22.5 billion

Age: 60

Country: Saudi Arabia

Industry: Diversified investments

Prince Alwaleed comes from royalty — he is the grandson of Abdul Aziz al Saud, the first ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — but he also built his fortune with savvy investments in a range of companies across the US and the Middle East. He founded Kingdom Holding Co. in 1980 and has since invested in everything from real estate to entertainment to education, with stakes in companies like Twitter, The Four Seasons, Time Warner, and Motorola.

Recently, Prince Alwaleed also made a play for ride-hailing service Lyft, reportedly grabbing a 2.3% stake by putting up $105 million of a nearly $250 million round of funding the company raised in December.

Prince Alwaleed has an enigmatic relationship with his money. In 2013, he sued Forbes for allegedly underestimating his wealth. But last summer he announced plans to donate his entire fortune to charity anyway.

(Photo by Pool Interagences/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

11. Mukesh Ambani

Net worth: $24.8 billion

Age: 58

Country: India

Industry: Petrochemicals, oil, and gas

Mukesh Ambani took over as chairman of Reliance Industries when his father, the company's founder, died in 2002. The enormous industrial conglomerate generates $62 billion in annual revenue from its interests in energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, and, more recently, telecommunications.

Ambani is the richest person in India with a personal fortune of over $24 billion. He owns a 27-story Mumbai mansion that cost $1 billion to build.

And if Ambani's projections for India's economy prove correct, expect that net worth to soar. Four years ago, Ambani predicted that India would grow from a $1.4 trillion economy in 2011 to a $30 trillion economy by 2030 — a bullish estimate considering that India's GDP today stands at $2.2 trillion.

(Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images)

10 through 8. Forrest, Jacqueline, and John Franklyn Mars

Net worth: $28.6 billion each

Age: 84, 76, and 80

Country: US

Industry: Candy

Siblings Forrest, Jacqueline, and John Franklyn "Frank" Mars inherited a stake in the iconic candymaker Mars Inc. when their father, Forrest Sr., died in 1999. The notoriously private trio co-own but don't actively manage the maker of M&M's and Milky Way bars, which their grandfather started in 1931 as a confectionary business in his kitchen in Tacoma, Washington.

In 2008, Mars Inc. branched out from chocolate to gum, when it acquired the Wrigley Jr. Co. for $23 billion. Since then, it's delved into pet food, buying Iams and two other brands in 2014 from Procter & Gamble for close to $2.9 billion.

Together the three siblings run the Mars Foundation, which gives primarily to educational, environmental, cultural, and health-related causes. In March 2015, Frank Mars was made an honorary knight by Queen Elizabeth II.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

7. Bernard Arnault

Net worth: $28.9 billion

Age: 66

Country: France

Industry: Luxury goods

Bernard Arnault's LVMH houses 70 luxury brands from Louis Vuitton to Hennessy to Dom Perignon, all controlled by family parent company Groupe Arnault. By the 1980s and '90s, Arnault, who started out as a civil engineer, had assumed control of the family business and proceeded to buy high-end fashion house Christian Dior, reviving it from the brink of bankruptcy. Like most LVMH brands today, Dior once again thrives as an industry standard bearer, helping the firm haul in a record $33 billion in revenue in 2014.

This year, the French chairman and CEO is joining US-based private-equity firm Catterton to form an investment firm with a consumer focus. The new firm, to be named L Catterton, is targeting $12 billion in assets under management and will be 40% owned by LVMH and Groupe Arnault.

(Photo by ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

6. Liliane Bettencourt

Net worth: $29 billion

Age: 93

Country: France

Industry: Cosmetics

The heiress to the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune and the company's largest shareholder, Liliane Bettencourt is the richest woman in Europe and the second-richest woman in the world, with a net worth of $29 billion. She no longer has a hand in business operations, but L'Oreal and the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation she cofounded with her late husband continue to prosper. She's an avid art collector, owning pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and Munch.

In recent years, Bettencourt became a household name in France as the central figure in an infamous trial in which judges examined whether the billionaire was taken advantage of by those close to her. The trial closed in May 2015 when eight people, including trusted friends and financial advisers, were convicted of exploiting the heiress.

Bettencourt was back in the news again late last year after accusations were made against her former butler and five journalists for recording meetings with the billionaire and thus violating her right to privacy. The butler, Pascal Bonnefoy, claimed that he made the recordings to show Bettencourt's fragile state — all six were acquitted in early January.

(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, File)

5. Alice Walton

Net worth: $33.2 billion

Age: 66

Country: US

Industry: Retail

The daughter of late Walmart founder Sam Walton, Alice Walton holds a major piece of the company fortune, making her the richest woman on earth. Though she never took an active role in running the superstore like her brothers, she's become the target of pushback from minimum-wage Walmart employees who view her highfalutin lifestyle as insensitive and ignorant to the plights of many workers.

Instead of spending time at Walmart, Walton has become a patron of the arts. Her immense personal collection includes pieces from Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, and Georgia O'Keefe. In 2011, she opened the $50 million Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, where a number of her famous paintings are on display.

Walton also recently donated 3.7 million of her Walmart shares to the family's nonprofit and put her Texas ranches — one a working horse ranch, the other a luxurious vacation spot — on the market for a combined $48 million.

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

4. Rob Walton

Net worth: $33.5 billion

Age: 71

Country: US

Industry: Retail

Samuel Robson "Rob" Walton is the oldest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton. He started working at the iconic retail behemoth in 1969, holding positions from senior vice president to general counsel to chairman, a role he stepped down from in June after 23 years on the job. His son-in-law was named as his successor.

Despite Walmart's reputation as a greedy corporation that underpays its employees, the Walton family — the richest in America — has a philanthropic streak. Regulatory filings on New Year's Eve revealed that he and his brother each gave away 1.5 million Walmart shares to the family charity, Walton Family Holdings Trust, while sister Alice gave away 3.7 million shares, for a total family donation of $407 million. It's an incredible amount, but it's also ultimately a drop in the bucket for the Waltons, whose stake in the company — about 50% — is worth nearly $100 billion.

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

3. Jim Walton

Net worth: $34.8 billion

Age: 67

Country: US

Industry: Retail

James "Jim" Walton's parents, Helen and Sam Walton, purchased a controlling stake in Arkansas' Bank of Bentonville the year before opening the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962 — when Jim was just 14. Within five years, the family owned 24 of the retail stores and in 1972 listed Walmart on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1975, after working in Walmart's real-estate department for a few years, Jim joined his parents' bank, later renamed Arvest Bank Group. He's now chairman and CEO of the regional community bank, which has $15 billion in assets.

The businessman is also director of Walton Enterprises, the holding company for the Walton family assets, and chairman of Community Publishers, an Arkansas-based newspaper firm. After the death of his brother John in 2005, Jim joined the board of Walmart, where he serves as a director today.

While America's richest family remains incredibly private, the Walton Family Foundation, of which Jim is secretary and treasurer, has donated millions to charitable causes. In December 2015, Jim and his siblings donated $407 million worth of Walmart shares to a newly formed trust that funds the Walton's philanthropy, which focuses on educational, cultural, community development, and social causes.

(Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

2. Charles Koch

Net worth: $46.8 billion

Age: 80

Country: US

Industry: Diversified investments

Charles Koch is chairman and CEO of multifaceted conglomerate Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in America which their father founded. His younger brother David is the executive vice president. The company employs 100,000 people and generates $115 billion in sales from its diverse company, which makes everything from petrochemicals and Dixie Cups to raw clothing materials.

Outspoken in the world of conservative politics, the Koch brothers, who have a combined net worth of $94.2 billion, wield a heavy influence over the upcoming 2016 US presidential race. The two at one point favored Republican candidate and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, but have since said that they won't support any of the current candidates in the primary. But they, along with their vast donor network, plan on pitching in some $750 million during the 2016 election cycle.

Recently surfaced documents revealed that Charles Koch's plans to reshape American politics date back 40 years, when he began strategizing and developing a libertarian movement.

(Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images)

1. David Koch

Net worth: $47.4 billion

Age: 75

Country: US

Industry: Diversified investments

Along with his brother Charles, David Koch runs Koch Industries as executive vice president. The second-largest private company, $115 billion (in sales) Koch Industries manufactures everything from fertilizer and Dixie Cups to asphalt and biodiesel.

Famously conservative, the brothers also maintain immense political influence and pledged to spend, along with their vast donor network, some $750 million on 2016 campaigns and causes. David tends to stay out of the spotlight more than his brother Charles, who announced in November that the brothers would not be backing any of the current GOP candidates in the primaries, a sign that they aren't confident in the state of the party.

David has had two brushes with death. He survived a plane crash in 1991 in which everyone else in first class died, and he also won a battle with prostate cancer. He's become one of the world's most generous givers since, pledging to contribute more than $1.2 billion to cancer research, hospitals, education, and cultural institutions over his lifetime through his David H. Koch Charitable Foundation.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)


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