Ever lost money down the back of the sofa? Imagine losing $50 billion in two days.
That's how much Elon Musk lost this week, after agreeing to sell off 10% of his Tesla shares following a Twitter poll.
Plummeting share prices saw his net worth drop to $288 billion dollars, and yet Musk is still the world's richest person by a long shot.
In fact, he's now considered the richest person to ever walk the Earth.
To put Musk's wealth into context: if you earned one million dollars per year, it would take you 288,000 years to become as rich as him.
So how did Elon Musk get so rich? From PayPal to budgeting $1 a day on groceries, here's the story of Musk's unimaginable wealth.
Emeralds in his pockets: Musk's family wealth
Musk's story is not one of rags to riches, he's always been loaded.
He was partly able to found Tesla and SpaceX thanks to coming into a lot of money at a young age.
His father, Errol Musk, is a wealthy South African mining magnate, while his mother, Maye, is a Canadian supermodel.
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After Musk Snr. sold an emerald mine, the family became exceptionally wealthy.
Errol Musk once told Business Insider: “We had so much money at times we couldn’t even close our safe,” and that one person would have to hold the money in place and the other would have to close the door.
He added: “And then there’d still be all these notes sticking out and we’d sort of pull them out and put them in our pockets.”
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As a teenager, Elon reportedly walked around New York with emeralds in his pocket, which is a great head start for anyone looking to become the richest person in the world.
However, it was in Musk's teenage years that he really began to multiply his riches.
Musk's odd jobs, 120-hour workweeks, and $1 daily food budget
Despite coming from a wealthy family, Musk left home at 17 and moved to Canada, where he did a couple of odd jobs, including cleaning out a boiler room for $18 an hour.
He reportedly said he would have to “put on this hazmat suit and then shimmy through this little tunnel that you can barely fit in."
He added: "If you stayed in there for more than 30 minutes, you get too hot and die.”
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Even after he went to university, Musk adopted a typically stingy approach to budgeting.
He claims that, while at university, he budgeted $1 per day for food, subsisting mostly on hot dogs, green peppers, oranges, and pasta.
He has since expressed regret for it, and said: "I would not recommend anyone to live on $1 a day. That would not be super fun."
Making his first millions
Musk eventually left manual labour and got into software.
He was always into technology. In fact, the first 'deal' he ever made was when he coded a videogame at age 12 and sold it for $500 to a magazine.
Then, as he got older, Elon teamed up with his brother Kimbal to develop a city guide software called 'Zip2', which they later sold to Compaq (now HP) for $300 million.
With that money, he started X.com, one of the first online banks which focused on making it possible for people to transfer money online.
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It's something we take for granted today, but at the time, it was revolutionary. X.com merged with another startup that made digital wallets, Confinity, and PayPal was born.
PayPal is a big part of the reason Musk became so wealthy. eBay acquired it for $1.5 billion in 2002, and it became the default payment method for almost all transactions on the platform.
The company itself was generating billions every year in charges and fees on online shopping payments.
Off the back of those two sales, Musk had around $200 million in the bank. He had just turned 30.
Family life and an 'insane' work schedule
Musk partly attributes his present-day success to an 'insane' work schedule.
For some years, he has claimed to work between 85 and 120 hours per week, and says successful business founders should work at least 80 hours.
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He also organises his days into five-minute timeslots, which sounds exhausting.
Somehow, he has found the time to have seven children with three different women, most recently the Canadian singer Grimes.
She gave birth to Musk's seventh child in 2020, whom they famously named X Æ A-12.
The couple separated this summer after three years together.
Perhaps she didn't fancy fitting around his schedule anymore.
How Elon Musk became the world's richest man
Musk first stole the title of world's richest man from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos this January, after the value of Tesla stock shot up in price. At the time, he tweeted 'How strange… [Well], back to work…".
He retook the position of world's richest man in September off the back of another stock rally.
Musk claims he does not take a cash salary or pay himself bonuses from his companies, SpaceX and Tesla. Instead, he says, all of his money is wrapped up in stocks and shares.
This is also why Musk, unlike most ordinary people, barely pays any tax. Tax is paid on income, not wealth. In 2018, he reportedly didn't pay a penny in tax, and is often heavily criticised for not contributing his fair share like everyone else.
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In fact, his company SpaceX receives large taxpayer-funded grants from the US government, including $885 million in subsidies for its 'Starlink' satellite broadband project.
Musk insists that, to pay tax, he would have to sell his Tesla stock—something he pledged to do this week.
However, the billionaire justifies it by saying his money is being used to solve humanity's problems.
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He once tweeted: "About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth, and half to establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor like the dinosaurs or WW3 happens and we destroy ourselves," Musk has previously written in a tweet.
Last month, he also said he plans to "use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness."
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