In 2009, it took $77.4 million in adjusted gross income to crack the top 400. (That just barely got you in; the average income of everyone on the list was $202.4 million.)
Where it gets interesting is how the top 400 made their money:
Wages and salaries: 8.6 percent
Interest: 6.6 percent
Dividends: 13 percent
Partnerships and corporations: 19.9 percent
Capital gains: 45.8 percent
A few conclusions are obvious:
Working for a salary won't make you really rich.
Making only safe "income" investments won't make you really rich.
Investing only in stock of large companies won't make you really rich.
Owning a business or businesses could not only build a solid foundation of wealth but could someday...
Generate a huge financial windfall--and make you really rich.
Don't trust the IRS? Fine. Check out the top 10 on the Forbes billionaires list. Gates. Buffett. Ellison. Koch. Walton. Adelson. All entrepreneurs. (I worked my way down into the 200s and still couldn't find an employee, so I got bored and stopped looking.)
Clearly getting really rich in financial terms is the result of investing in yourself and others, of taking risks, of doing hundreds of small things right...and then doing one or two big things really right.