For those yearning to be the richest man in the world (or even just a top billionaire), here's a tip:
Have an entrepreneurial parent. Studying engineering wouldn't be a bad idea either.
Those are conclusions one can draw from the 2010 Forbes list of the world's billionaires, released Wednesday evening.
His Lebanese father, Julián Slim Haddad, moved to Mexico in 1902 at 14 and started his first company, a dry goods store, in 1911 with his older brother. They put in a combined initial investment of little over $2,000, but 10 years later, they had merchandise worth over $100,000. By 1922, Don Julián’s net worth was reported to be $1,012,258 pesos between investments in real estate, businesses, and stocks.
Julián taught his son about investing and savings early in life. Carlos bought shares of Banco Nacional de México when he was only 12 years old.
Carlos also studied civil engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
All but one of the men on Forbes's Top 10 list had an entrepreneurial parent, even if, like the adoptive father of Larry Ellison (No. 6), he lost his real estate fortune in the Great Depression. The exception is Amancio Ortega (No. 9), whose father was a railroad worker and mother a maid.
Another characteristic shared by many of the Top 10: engineering training. Four of the 10 have formal engineering degrees. Besides Mr. Slim, Bernard Arnault (No. 7) went to the Ecole Polytechnique, an elite French business and engineering college. Eike Batista (No. 8) has a bachelor’s degree in metallurgic engineering. Mukesh Ambani (No. 4) is a chemical engineer.
Another two – Bill Gates (No. 2) and Mr. Ellison – have computer engineering backgrounds, though both dropped out of college.
The rest of the list made their billions without any engineering connection. Lakshmi Mittal (No. 5) followed his father into the steel business. Warren Buffett (No. 3) studied economics and founded Berkshire Hathaway, a highly successful holding company. Karl Albrecht (No. 10) transformed his mother's corner grocery store into a multinational supermarket chain.
Mr. Ortega, who is famously reclusive and has never given an interview, made his billions mostly in retail. He began making garments out of his home with his wife (they are now divorced) and now owns several popular clothing chains, including Zara, Massimo Dutti, and Stradivarius. He has also invested in real estate.