“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Will Durant
The mega-rich have built habits that have led them to be successful, but there are plenty of memes and real-life, in-depth stories that will tell you the opposite. You’ll see stories discrediting Jeff Bezos’ “garage startup” called Amazon.com Inc AMZN because he received $300,000 from his parents, or that Elon Musk was far from a self-starter because his father was a rich Engineer in South Africa.
Something we forget is that we are allowed to acknowledge both sides. Of course, Bezos and Musk had a massive advantage given the position their parents put them in. Of course, their upbringing was atypical, privileged, and not what you envision when you hear of stories about ‘ground-up, self-starters, etc’. However, we can also applaud their ability to maintain and grow with the tools they were provided.
See, just having money does not make success a forgone conclusion. How many lottery winners wind up broke? Various reports say 70%. Yet, when we imagine hitting it big, we all say we’d be “set for life”.
The point is, that long-term success can’t be luck or privilege. There are too many opportunities for stupid decisions that people like Musk and Bezos have to avoid on a daily basis to have their fortunes be made by accident. Sure, it’s uncommon to find yourself at the same starting point that any billionaire on this list found themselves at in the beginning. But, it’s absolutely within our control to learn from the discipline, the business savvy and the ability to make smart long-term plays to manage your money, assets and wealth. While each of these moves may not be perfect for any individual's set of circumstances, it’s worth looking into the types of risks these billionaires find to be worth it.
With all that being said, what were the world’s wealthiest getting into this week (8/12/22 - 8/19/22)?
Bill Gates is already Ecolab Inc’s ECL largest shareholder. But this week, according to Barrons, the billionaire and Microsoft Corporation MSFT co-founder doubled down on this investment, purchasing even more. The move may resemble something you can use in your own portfolio. Ecolab is down nearly 27% YTD. Gates saw a stock he clearly believed in when he made his original investment. Despite the stock being down, he likes and believes in the company and doubled down on his instinct. If you believe in the product, just pretend that that stock is on sale.
One reason for the move in Ecolab may have to do with a story reported on Yahoo! Finance, crediting Gates for saving Biden’s Climate Bill. Bloomberg Green reported that “One of the world’s richest men felt he had to give one of the nation’s most powerful lawmakers a little pep talk…” The same article claims that Gates has sunk tens of millions into green cement startups like Ecocem, CHEMent, and Brimstone Energy.
There was also the matter of nuclear fission startup TerraPower. TerraPower, obviously not yet on market, has raised well over $700 million to develop advanced nuclear reactors to serve as alternatives to the existing reactors that make up the vast majority of the world’s civilian nuclear fleet. Set to be in operation by 2028 and with a price tag of $4 Billion, these are not moves to be taken lightly. You can read more about TerraPower at CanaryMedia. One interesting investing note on the matter is where the startup is getting its money from. Investments include over $250 million from a group in South Korea and previous funding being contributed by none other than..
Warren Buffett may be plotting for the future by backing Gates, but in the present moment, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) just received approval on August 19, 2022, to purchase up to 50% of oil giant Occidental Petroleum Corporation OXY. The news of Buffett’s involvement alone helped the stock jump nearly 10% to close the day. Berkshire is already heavily invested in the company, which has led to some speculation regarding Buffett’s willingness to buy the entire company. CNBC reported “He will likely continue to buy as much as he can get below $70 or $75. If you own 30% or 40% and would like to buy it out at $95 or $100, you saved a lot of money,” said Cole Smead, president of Smead Capital Management and a Berkshire shareholder. “This stock trades like a casino. The market is giving him all the stock he wants.”
Jeff Bezos made a ton of money betting on startups as well. In fact, he likely made a fortune by investing in Airbnb Inc ABNB nearly a decade before they went public. Bezos has an eye for up and comers in the Real Estate sector, as he was one of several high-profile investors to participate in Arrived Homes’ seed round in 2021. Arrived Homes is a real estate investment platform that allows retail investors to buy shares of single-family rental properties with as little as $100.
Bezos’ Amazon was in the news this week, as the company filed a legal complaint accusing the Federal Trade Commission of "harassing" current and former executives, naturally including Bezos himself. The filing made on August 5, 2022, hasn’t hurt the company, as Amazon is up nearly 13% over the past month.
Elon Musk also stayed in the news, per usual, this week. There was the tweet about purchasing Manchester United PLC MANU, which was quickly clarified as a joke by Musk himself. He likely had to clarify since Man. U. is a publicly traded company. CNN discussed the potential for SEC action against Musk regarding the matter, but it seems unlikely. However, Musk needs to be careful, as his tweets literally move markets. Manchester United jumped immediately following the tweet and is up $2.50 in the past month.
Twitter Inc TWTR seems to get Musk in hot water in more ways than one lately. Aside from trolling, thanking Billie Eillish and general mockery, there’s the whole matter of… acquiring the entire company. The purchase has been in the news for months, but there was an interesting development this week. Musk’s team used Botometer to estimate that 33% of visible accounts on the platform were simply spam or fake. However, Botometer creator and maintainer Kaicheng Yang said the figure "doesn't mean anything". BBC tackled the story in depth.
Finally, Musk’s baby, Tesla Inc TSLA made news for several reasons this week. On Friday, Musk stated that Tesla is slowing down the rollout of its next “Full Self-Driving Beta” software update (10.69) due to “many major code changes.” Musk’s full tweet said: “There are many major code changes, so this will be an extra cautious rollout. Releasing on 8/20 to ~1000 Tesla owners, then 10.69.1 next week to accommodate feedback & release to ~10k customers, then 10.69.2 week after & release to rest of FSD Beta.”
The news comes during the same week that Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged Tesla to manufacture its cars and batteries in the country. The President and Musk talked previously about the mov and had met earlier this year. The Indonesian President envisions the country as a hub for all EVs, not just batteries. Approaching rapidly is the meeting in November when the country will host a leaders summit for the Group of 20 major economies. It should be noted that Tesla isn’t the only EV company on Indonesia’s radar, as they already have investments or planned investments from Toyota Motor Corp TM, Mitsubishi Corp MSBHF, and Hyundai Motor Company HYMTF.
A couple of takeaways:
Invest in what you're passionate about. Despite what you may think about Gates or Musk, or the backlash they receive, it’s clear they spend time, money and energy on the projects that matter most to them.
Double down on your investments and things that you believe in. And don’t be afraid to play both sides. If Warren Buffett can back nuclear fission, while also taking steps toward acquiring an entire oil company, you can invest in health-conscious Simply Good Foods Co SMPL and sugar pusher Hershey Co HSY.
Take your time, invest in what you believe, only invest what you can afford to lose and develop positive habits by investing in yourself. Do these things, and you’ll be better for it.
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Photo: Created with images from Steve Jurvetson, National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution and Anthony Quintano on Flickr
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