The Accounting Shortcut That Made Him World’s First Billionaire in 10 Weeks

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  • John D Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire in 1916
  • His formal business training included a 10-week class in accounting

John D Rockefeller, born on July 8, 1839, became the world’s first billionaire in 1916. Forbes reported that there were 2,755 billionaires worldwide in 2021. Rockefeller used his business sense to establish Standard Oil Company, which made him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Despite his immense wealth, Rockefeller only studied accounting for 10 weeks. His father, a con-artist, used to say, “I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ’em sharp.”

At the age of 25, Rockefeller became the wealthiest man of his time and controlled as much as 90% of America’s oil market. His wealth, adjusted for inflation, would be equal to $30 billion today. By the time of his death in 1937, his assets came to 1.5% of America’s total economic output, which would be equivalent to a net worth of $340 billion today. Currently, Elon Musk is the richest person in the world with a personal fortune of just under $250 billion.

Rockefeller was born to William Avery Rockefeller and Eliza Davison in Richford, New York. He started his first job as an assistant bookkeeper before opening his first business in 1859 with money he saved and a loan from his father. In 1870, he entered the oil business and focused on refining crude oil. Rockefeller married Laura Celestia “Cettie” Spelman in 1864.

Overall, Rockefeller’s story showcases how a short period of formal training in accounting can lead to immense success in the business world. Despite studying for just 10 weeks, he was able to establish a monopoly in the oil industry and become the world’s first billionaire.

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