Enter the maze

Wanna Be A Rock Star?

Man, question mark and money

Want to make sure your life turns out the way you want? Want to trade this life for Fortune and Fame? If you believe Nickelback then 'you wanna be a Rock Star'!

Some people want a hedonistic life. Some want to be famous. Others just want to be stinking rich. Some want all three.

So are Nickelback right? What is the best way to get all three - and quickly - say before the age of 35? In fact, let's not set our sights too low. Let's aim to be one of the richest people in the world. Let's think billionaire. Let's assume too that we have to do it without relying on accidents of birth - no inheritance from Mummy and Daddy's money to look forward to. Winning the lottery wouldn't even get you close so don't rely on your luck alone either. How you actually gonna do it?

From the queues of people wanting to be on reality TV programmes like X-factor most people seem to agree with Nickelback's solution: the way to early riches is to become a Rock Star or maybe a footballer like Beckham, or a film star. It's people like that that fill the super-rich but young and self-made lists isn't it. Well isn't it?

Nice idea, but no.

Some of those people do make a lot of money in a short time, though they have to as for most their career is likely to be very short. They don't stay famous or in the rich lists for long and are unlikely to make super-rich.

They are all Techno Stars.

There is one very obvious pattern to Forbes' 2007 self-made super-rich list of the top billionaires on the planet. Almost a quarter of the top super rich made their money in a similar way. They aren't film stars, rock stars or sports stars. They are all techno stars. They are also all self-made billionaires. That contrasts with the other people in the same league. With one exception, the rest are all there because of family wealth or are old: they took their time to extreme wealth. Contrast that with the Google guys, say, who made the top 30 by their 30s.

Number one - the richest person on Earth with 56 billion dollars - is not surprisingly Bill Gates, who with Paul Allen (Number 19) set up Microsoft. Paul Allen went on to found Dreamworks, a company working on the boundaries of film-making and computer science. They now use much of their personal wealth (and time) solving humanitarian problems, focussing on things like health and education. Yes many rock stars do charity gigs like Live Aid occasionally, so if saving the Earth is your aim then becoming a Rock star may be one way to give you some clout to make a difference. It's nothing compared to what someone as rich as the Microsoft pair can do though.

Not far behind is Lawrence Ellison, worth 21.5 billion dollars. He made his name by creating the company Oracle that was largely responsible for pushing the database revolution - not just using databases of course but creating the software that allows other people to use databases. As he's said "Money is just a method of keeping score now."

There are then the Google pair Sergey Brin and Larry Page sharing position 26. They only have 16 billion dollars each, but, hey, they only founded Google in 1986. They plan to "do no evil" with their riches and also want to plough money into charity. What else do you do when you have that kind of silly money?

At positions and 30 and 31 in the rich list come Michael Dell and Steven Ballmer. Ballmer is 'just' another Microsoft man. Dell of course is responsible for Dell computers. He has the ear of a President as he is on the United States President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Want to make a difference? He can.

In short, programming/computers and inheritance are the most likely source of riches for the richest people in the world. Programming is the only way to reach the top without inheriting money (or being the Russian president's protege).

The other advantage of the technology route to riches over the Rock Star way is you can aim higher still. Don't wind up dead at 40 from the drug-induced lifestyle of rock stars - why not aim to still be enjoying being filthy rich at 100 too.