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25 Richest people in America and how they did it

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Mandel Ngan // Getty Images

25 Richest people in America and how they did it

Getting your tax return back can make you feel like a million bucks. But there are people in the U.S. who are making millions of dollars every day. Some invested young. Others invented life-changing devices. Who are the wealthiest people in America? How did they accumulate their fortunes? And, what are they doing with it now?

From technology, to investments, to software development, there are many ways to make it in America. Big money is being made, so Stacker compiled a list of the 25 richest people in America. The rankings were made using Forbes 400 (Real Time) data on April 5, 2018. The list starts in the billions of dollars and only climbs higher, ending with the man worth over $100 billion. 

Read on to see just where the co-founders of Microsoft, department store moguls, and a shoe designer rank in this list of the wealthiest people in America. Some had an inheritance to start off with, while others had much more struggle along the way.

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Steve Jurvetson // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Elon Musk

Estimated net worth: $19.20 billion
Age: 46
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
How they made their money: Tesla Motors

Elon Musk was born in South Africa and moved to California to pursue a Ph.D. in the mid-90s. He first earned financial success with the development of Zip2, an online city guide, and PayPal. In the early 2000s, he began developing electric cars with his company Tesla Motors. The Tesla Roadster starts at $200,000 and is the same car Musk sent to space with his SpaceX exploration program. 

 

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TechCrunch // Flickr

#24. Laurene Powell Jobs

Estimated net worth: $19.20 billion
Age: 54
Residence: Palo Alto, CA
How they made their money: Apple, Disney

Starting as a trader for Goldman Sachs, Laurene Powell Jobs rose to prominence in the world of Wall Street before marrying Apple founder Steve Jobs in 1991. After Steve’s death in 2011, Laurene inherited 5.5 million shares of stock in Apple, along with a 7.3 percent stake in the Walt Disney Company. She is now a philanthropist and advocate, having founded College Track to help marginalized children go to college and Emerson Collective to focus on education reform and environmental protection.

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Mark Nayman // WIkimedia Commons

#23. Len Blavatnik

Estimated net worth: $19.90 billion
Age: 60
Residence: London
How they made their money: diversified

Len Blavatnik has a diversified portfolio of investments. From oil to chemicals to music, the billionaire is known for his high-reward but risky business deals. The 60-year old has stakes in the chemical company LyondellBasell, clothing retailer Tory Burch, Warner Bros. Records, and Spotify.

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Gert-Martin Greuel

#22. James Simons

Estimated net worth: $20.00 billion
Age: 79
Residence: East Setauket, NY
How they made their money: hedge funds

James Simons is the founder of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund management firm of $58 billion. He retired from the firm in 2010, though he still receives benefits. The 79-year-old now runs the Simons Foundation, which invests in math and science education.

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Jordanatvulcan // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Paul Allen

Estimated net worth: $21.60 billion
Age: 65
Residence: Mercer Island, WA
How they made their money: Microsoft, investments

The Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen actually came up with the company’s iconic name. But beyond developing technology, Allen has invested in real estate and media companies. He oversees Vulcan Inc. to fund environmental research, as well as his ownership of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers. 

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Eric Piermont // Getty Imgaes

#20. Thomas Peterffy

Estimated net worth: $22.30 billion
Age: 73
Residence: Palm Beach, FL
How they made their money: discount brokerage

Born in Hungary in 1944, Thomas Peterffy is the CEO of Interactive Brokers, an electronic brokerage firm for daily trades. Peterffy came to the U.S. in his early 20s, fleeing Russian violence. He got his first job on Wall Street by learning computer coding, which he said was easier than learning English.

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Oracle PR // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Michael Dell

Estimated net worth: $23.60 billion
Age: 53
Residence: Austin, TX
How they made their money: Dell computers

Michael Dell’s dream of developing and selling computers began in his dorm room. Less than 10 years later, he became the founder and CEO of Dell. Dell’s vision for computers was the ability for consumers to buy machines customized to their needs. Today, the computer technology has a market worth of $13.5 billion.

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Pool // Getty Images

#17 (tie). Jacqueline Mars

Estimated net worth: $24.70 billion
Age: 78
Residence: The Plains, VA
How they made their money: candy, pet food

M&M’s, Snickers, Skittles, Milky Way--these are all products of Mars, the candy maker partially owned by Jacqueline Mars. She inherited the company from her family, which founded the factory in 1911. Today, Mars oversees the candy maker’s varied products beyond candy, including chewing gum and pet care products. 

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WPA Pool // Getty Images

#17 (tie). John Mars

Estimated net worth: $24.70 billion
Age: 82
Residence: Jackson, WY
How they made their money: candy, pet food

With his sister Jacqueline, John Mars owns the Mars manufacturing company, which produces candy, chewing gum and pet care products. In 2015, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

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Steve Dykes // Getty Images

#16. Phil Knight

Estimated net worth: $30.60 billion
Age: 80
Residence: Hillsboro, OR
How they made their money: Nike

Known as the “shoe dog,” Phil Knight is the co-founder of Nike, which brings in $34 billion a year. Knight got his start with shoes while running track at the University of Oregon under legendary coach Bill Bowerman. The company had a rocky start when its Japanese manufacturer backed out of a deal, but the isolation forced Knight to create his own line of shoes that would eventually become the iconic Nike brand.

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Jesús Gorriti // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Steve Ballmer

Estimated net worth: $37.00 billion
Age: 62
Residence: Hunts Point, WA
How they made their money: Microsoft

The energetic 62-year-old Steve Ballmer began his career at Microsoft and rose to be the company’s president in 1998, then CEO in 2000. He purchased the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise in 2014, and he also has stakes in Twitter.

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Bectrigger // WIkimedia Commons

#14. Sheldon Adelson

Estimated net worth: $38.20 billion
Age: 84
Residence: Las Vegas, NV
How they made their money: casinos

Sheldon Adelson is a billionaire casino business magnate, owning the company that oversees the Sands Expo & Convention Center and the Venetian Las Vegas. Adelson is the son of immigrants from Lithuania and Wales. He also owns two newspapers—the Las Vegas Review-Journal in the US and the Israel Hayom in Israel.

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Walmart // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Alice Walton

Estimated net worth: $41.30 billion
Age: 68
Residence: Fort Worth, TX
How they made their money: Wal-Mart

Alice Walton inherited Wal-Mart Inc. from her father and Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. She is considered the richest woman in the world. Walton is known for her curation and support of the arts.

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Gage Skidmore // Flickr

#12. S. Robson Walton

Estimated net worth: $41.50 billion
Age: 73
Residence: Bentonville, AR
How they made their money: Wal-Mart

S. Robson Walton is an heir of the Wal-Mart fortune, along with his siblings Alice and Jim. He was chair of the company’s board for 23 years. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest company with revenues above $485 billion.

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Walmart // Flickr

#11. Jim Walton

Estimated net worth: $41.60 billion
Age: 69
Residence: Bentonville, AR
How they made their money: Wal-Mart

Jim Walton, like his siblings Alice and S. Robson, inherited Wal-Mart from his father. Today, he runs Arvest Bank, an Arkansas-based financial services company.

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James Duncan Davidson // O'Reilly Media, Inc.

#10. Sergey Brin

Estimated net worth: $46.90 billion
Age: 44
Residence: Los Altos, CA
How they made their money: Google

Sergey Brin runs Alphabet, the conglomerate organization best known for owning Google. Brin co-founded Google in 1998 with Larry Page after the met at Stanford University. Google owns 90 percent of the search engine market, fueled by products such as Google Chrome and Google Home.

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Stansfield PL // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Larry Page

Estimated net worth: $48.20 billion
Age: 45
Residence: Palo Alto, CA
How they made their money: Google

Computer scientist Larry Page revolutionized the online search engine with the invention of Google with co-founder Sergey Brin. The two created the company in 1998 and later developed products such as Google Maps, the Pixel phone and Chromebook.

 

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David Berkowitz // Flickr

#8. Michael Bloomberg

Estimated net worth: $50.20 billion
Age: 76
Residence: New York, NY
How they made their money: Bloomberg LP

In 1981, Michael Bloomberg founded the financial information company Bloomberg LP. The company, with revenues of more than $9 billion, would later develop Bloomberg News, along with services for financial trading. Bloomberg had a political career as mayor of New York City between 2002 and 2013.

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Oracle PR // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Larry Ellison

Estimated net worth: $56.10 billion
Age: 73
Residence: Woodside, CA
How they made their money: software

Larry Ellison founded the database management system Oracle in 1977. He remains a board member of the company, which has expanded into cloud technology and is the second-largest software development firm behind Microsoft. Ellison is also a prominent philanthropist funding cancer research.

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aradaphotography // Shutterstock

#5 (tie). Charles Koch

Estimated net worth: $60.60 billion
Age: 82
Residence: Wichita, KS
How they made their money: Koch Industries

Charles Koch is the chairman of Koch Industries, the far-reaching corporation involved in oil production, chemicals, commodity trading and investing. He inherited the company from his father Fred Koch and is a co-owner with his brother David. The two brothers are known for their involvement in conservative politics and think tanks.

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Lars NIki // Getty Images

#5 (tie). David Koch

Estimated net worth: $60.60 billion
Age: 77
Residence: New York, NY
How they made their money: Koch Industries

David Koch is a co-owner of Koch Industries with his brother Charles. He is also very involved in politics--he was the vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party in 1980. David currently resides in New York and oversees chemical production for Koch Industries.

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b_d_solis // Flickr

#4. Mark Zuckerberg

Estimated net worth: $62.10 billion
Age: 33
Residence: Palo Alto, CA
How they made their money: Facebook

As the well-known story goes, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard University in 2004. Less than 15 years later, the social media platform—worth more than $476 billion—has more than 2.2 billion users and is credited with connecting people around the world. It is also at the center of the Cambridge Analytical scandal, which has required Zuckerberg to testify before Congress.  Zuckerberg remains the company’s CEO and is expanding his interests in philanthropy. 

 

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The White House // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Warren Buffett

Estimated net worth: $85.70 billion
Age: 87
Residence: Omaha, NE
How they made their money: Berkshire Hathaway

Known in the investment world as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett made his fortune investing in media, energy and insurance through his company Berkshire Hathaway. The Nebraska native assumed control of the company in the 1960s. In 2006, Buffett announced he would be donating his fortune to charity.

 

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Kuhlmann/MSC // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Bill Gates

Estimated net worth: $90.90 billion
Age: 62
Residence: Medina, WA
How they made their money: Microsoft

Along with Paul Allen (#21 on our list), Bill Gates founded the technology company Microsoft in 1975. He stepped away from the company to pursue philanthropy with his wife. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is focused on improving global healthcare and eradicating poverty. The foundation has a trust of more than $40 billion.

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Mandel Ngan // Getty Images

#1. Jeff Bezos

Estimated net worth: $117.20 billion
Age: 54
Residence: Seattle, WA
How they made their money: Amazon.com

The tech entrepreneur Jeff Bezos is the first man to be worth more than $100 billion. He created the e-commerce platform Amazon, which has an annual revenue of more than $177 billion. Bezos owns The Washington Post and the aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin.

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