America's first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, once said, "If your only goal is to become rich, you'll never achieve it."

Like most cliches, it's also true: If the only thing you care about is making money, then no matter how much money you make, it will never be enough. That's why there's only one way to be really, really rich.

Still, even though we all define success differently (and we all should define success differently), most of us factor wealth into our success equation. That's definitely true for the people who made the 2016 Forbes "Richest Person in Every State" list.

Seeing what the richest people are worth is fun, but what is more telling is how they made their money.

Let's start with a breakdown of the number of "richest" by industry:

  • Finance and Investments: 8
  • Fashion and Retail: 7
  • Food and Beverage: 5
  • Manufacturing: 4
  • Media and Entertainment: 4
  • Technology: 4
  • Energy: 3
  • Health Care: 3
  • Sports: 3
  • Service: 2
  • Real Estate: 2
  • Automotive: 1
  • Diversified: 1
  • Gambling, Casinos: 1
  • Logistics: 1
  • Metals and Mining: 1

Interestingly, for all the celebration of tech entrepreneurs, only four were the richest in their respective states. (Here's looking at you, Bill G. and Mark Z.)

Where it gets more fun is the source of their wealth. Thirty-two out of 50 people possess wealth that is "self-made." That means, in one generation, 32 people created fortunes that surpassed everyone else in their state--including people who inherited significant sums and had the opportunity to increase those sums.

That dovetails nicely with data from "Top 400 Individual Income Tax Returns Reporting the Largest Adjusted Gross Incomes," an annual report issued by the IRS. Here's how the top 400 made their money:

  • Wages and salaries: 8.6%
  • Interest: 6.6%
  • Dividends: 13%
  • Partnerships and corporations: 19.9%
  • Capital gains: 45.8%

What does all this mean?

  • Working for a salary won't make you rich, and
  • Neither will only making safe "income" investments, and
  • Neither will investing only in large companies.

On the other hand:

  • Owning a business or businesses, whether in whole or partnership, could not only build a solid wealth foundation but could someday...
  • Generate a huge financial windfall.

The data clearly supports the last point. A total of over 3,800 taxpayers have made the top 400 since 1992, but only 27 percent appear more than once, and only 2 percent appear 10 or more times.

Clearly, getting rich--in monetary terms--is the result of investing in yourself and others, taking risks, doing a lot of small things right...and then doing one big thing really, really right.

And that means being an entrepreneur.

Published on: Jun 1, 2016