Markus Persson - Image Source:
Markus Persson – Image Source:

If you are young and a billionaire, how do you spend your money? Well, you may want to do what 38-year-old Swedish billionaire Markus Persson did one night: He threw a wild party that cost him $118,000. Yes, it is whooping $118,000!

A Forbes magazine article states that Persson had also brought his 47 employees to an island in Europe where they partied for five days. At present, he is splurging on the realization of his boyhood fantasy — an office with a big bar, DJ booth and secret rooms hidden behind book shelves.

Persson is one of the youngest billionaires in Forbes’ 2015 list of world billionaires. He recently became a billionaire after Microsoft bought for some $2 billion his invention called Minecraft, a video game very popular among young children. To date, Minecraft has more than 100 million downloads with one download costing $4.

When he was still growing up, Persson, a computer geek since he was seven years old, was so obsessed with the computer that he had to fake sickness to skip school. He was unable to finish high school, but his mother later forced him to take up a programming course. He started inventing video games at age 24.

As a result of his being glued to the computer for years, he had stayed home 24 hours a day. He is unlike ordinary young men who spend their time playing ball games, enjoying the company of their friends in bars or taking vacations.

Now Persson is making up for lost time with a vengeance by splurging on the things he missed when he was in his 20s.

His spending ways as a rich man are entirely opposite to the 10 Filipino billionaires in the Forbes’ 2015 list of world billionaires numbering 1,826.

Henry Sy, founder of the SM mall empire and the richest Filipino with $14.2 billion assets, was practically a miser like Silas Marner even when he was already rich in the early 1960s. At that time he had already three or four Shoemart malls. (At present, there are some 35 malls all over the Philippines).

I remember buying a pair of shoes at the Shoemart store in Cubao, Quezon City in the late 1960s. Henry Sy himself was attending to customers, and he was just dressed in a cheap white T-shirt. And I could imagine he was just then eating lugaw (rice porridge) for lunch. He had to economize, and whatever profits he had were deposited in the bank. The amounts accumulated over the years, and he later used these as his capital for the construction of bigger, spacious malls.

The nine other Filipinos in Forbes list are Chinese-Filipinos, except real estate magnate Manny Villar who is in the list for the first time. The eight others are John Gokongwei (Robinson malls, UFC, Asia Pacific Airline, etc.), Enrique Razon Jr. (port services and Solaire casino),  Andrew Tan (Megaworld), Lucio Tan (Fortune Tobacco, Asia Brewery, etc.) George Ty (banking), David Consunji (construction), Tony Tan Caktiong (Jollibee), Lucio and Susan Co (Puregold malls) and Robert Coyiuto Jr. (electrification).

Like Henry Sy, all these Filipino billionaires were also very thrifty when they were starting. This enabled them to accumulate funds which they later used as their capital for bigger businesses.

Most of them started from scratch, and their rags-to-riches story makes us realize that even with a very humble beginning, we can make it to the top of the wealth ladder.

But the beginning of Mohed Altrad, a French billionaire, is one that is extremely humble. Born as a Bedouin, he wandered in the Syrian desert when he was young. His mother died when he was four years old, and he was disowned by his father. Raised by his grandmother, he was not allowed to go to school because shepherds do not need education. But he sneaked out of the house to go to school, walking barefoot for at least one hour on the dunes.

When was already working, he pursued his dream of having a good education, and later, he earned a baccalaureate.

Afterwards Altrad migrated to France, and for some days he ate only once a day. A few years later, he entered into the construction-material business in which he made a pile of money. Now that he is a billionaire, he can eat the best food that money can buy.

I cannot help but be envious of Altrad’s success. I, too, have a very humble beginning, and I had also strived patiently to have an education. I had worked hard and continue to work hard, but so far what I have in my plate is just … plain rice.