What was the most common subject studied in college by some of the world’s top billionaires?
Surprisingly, as many would assume, it wasn’t physics, mathematics, engineering, or business. It’s not even computing/information technology, as many others would assume, given the number of billionaires in the tech space like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
The answer, surprisingly, not surprisingly, is economics. According to stats compiled by Bold.org based on Forbes’ billionaire rankings, when looking at individual degrees, economics sits at the top, with 16 of the top 100 billionaires having studied the subject. Billionaires such as Warren Buffett, Alice Walton, and Elon Musk all have degrees in economics.
- Economics – 16
- Computer Science – 9
- Electrical Engineering – 5
- Mathematics – 5
- Law – 4
Elon Musk graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Steve Cohen, Meg Whitman, and Bob Kraft studied economics in college. Warren Buffett studied business administration but attended the New York Institute of Finance to focus on economics.
What is it about economics that makes it a common thread among so many of the world’s richest people? It’s probably because they understand the flow of money and have mastered that flow to fatten their pocketbooks.
Supply and demand are at the heart of economics, the flow of money caused by supply and demand, and all the factors that affect supply and demand.
People with an understanding of economics see the world in a different light than anyone else. While psychologists focus on the emotional and psychological factors behind a person’s actions or behavior, economists look deeper at a person’s behavior and motivations and their interactions with others to explain the impact of this interaction on the consumption of particular goods and services and the entire economy.
Economists don’t take anything at face value. They look deeper for more concrete explanations. Take, for example, McDonald’s. I wouldn’t blame anybody for thinking that McDonald’s built its fortune on selling burgers, fries, and shakes. But the truth is, McDonald’s didn’t build its wealth on the back of the Big Mac. It built its wealth from real estate.
McDonald’s built its empire from real estate. By owning the land on which its restaurants are built and operated by franchisees, McDonald’s tapped into the true source of wealth, real estate – a commodity that will always have demand but is subject to limited supply. By leasing the land to franchisees, McDonald’s makes money before the first Big Mac is even rung up at a new restaurant.
Economics is all about capturing as much demand as possible.
Tesla wants to capture as much demand for electric vehicles as it can. When it was the only game in town, it could get away with only offering one or two models, but as other car makers have entered the fray, it has expanded its line to include a lower-priced model, an SUV, and a forthcoming truck.
IBM was famous for producing two printers that basically cost the same but were sold at different price points. Why? To capture demand. IBM produced two printers, a cheap one and an expensive one, and the only difference was one had an additional chip. That chip was the only difference between the low-end and high-end printers. You would think the more expensive printer had the extra chip, but you would be wrong. The cheaper printer did, and the purpose of the extra chip was to slow down the low-end printer to make the higher-end printer more appealing – thus catering to both cost-conscious and performance-conscious customers.
People who understand demand make money. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc understood supply and demand. He understood that land is a limited commodity and that the demand for his franchises was red hot because of the success of Big Mac and other offerings. He basically created instant tenants for his land by selling McDonald’s franchises.
Successful investors chase demand – especially demand for assets that are in limited supply and that consumers will always need and want. That’s why so many ultra-wealthy investors have commercial real estate as their portfolio’s top one or two assets.
Commercial real estate – especially in segments like multifamily and other residential rental segments – is an asset with consistent and ongoing demand. Not only that, but because the affordability of owning a home is becoming more and more out of reach, the demand for rental housing far outstrips supply. This constant demand offers investors consistent cash flow and growth built to withstand recessions and insulate from inflation.
Investors who understand demand and chase it become wealthy from investing in assets like real estate that generate consistent recession-resistant cash flow that appreciates over time and that offer tax benefits other assets don’t offer for padding the bottom line.
To be a billionaire, start by understanding supply and demand.
Kyle Jones is a co-founder and Key Principal of TruePoint Capital, LLC. Kyle is responsible for the company’s strategic planning, investment decisions, asset management, and overseeing all aspects of the company’s financial activities, operations, and investor relations.
Kyle obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas State University – San Marcos, where he also played Division 1 Baseball.