He's one of America's greatest success stories. But despite being the world's richest man during his time, J. Paul Getty is almost forgotten today.
The wealth Getty amassed is almost unimaginable. At one time, his estimated worth was roughly 1/900th of the entire U.S. economy. Today that would equate to $160 billion -- four times Warren Buffett's net worth.
Getty got his start in the windswept oil fields of Oklahoma. In 1914, at the age of 21, he became a wildcatter, searching for oil in some of the most unforgiving land in the country.
By the time he was 23, Getty had earned his first million (although $1 million in 1916 would be worth about $20 million today).
But J. Paul Getty was not just an oilman. And while he did make a fortune drilling for oil, he also made a fortune in a completely different place -- Wall Street.
[ Enlarge Image ]Consider the story of Tide Water Associated Oil Co. Getty first bought the shares in 1932, in the middle of The Great Depression. The Dow had dropped from a high of 380 in 1929... all the way down to 40 -- a fall of nearly 90% in three years. Investors had dumped everything. No one was buying stocks.
Getty first bought shares of Tide Water at just $2.12 per share. Five years later, they traded above $20. And this is just one example of his success. Some stocks he owned grew to 100 times the value he originally bought them for.
So how did Getty make so much money investing? Lucky for us, he told anyone who would listen how to make a fortune in the stock market.
About 47 years ago, Getty wrote a book called How to Be Rich. Each chapter details a different aspect about how he acquired and maintained his wealth -- including how he made millions investing.
What might surprise you is that even though Getty made his fortune in the market starting more than 80 years ago, his lessons still apply today... especially at a time when most investors are running scared.
So how did one of the world's first billionaires make his money in the stock market?
He found dividend-paying companies with dominant positions in their market and he held them for the long-term.
He didn't believe in buying strong dividend-paying companies and then selling at a loss when the market fell a few percentage points...
"It is possible to make money -- and a great deal of money -- in the stock market. But it can't be done overnight or by haphazard buying and selling. The big profits go to the intelligent, careful and patient investors, not to the reckless and overeager speculator. The seasoned investor buys his stocks when they are priced low, holds them for the long-pull rise and takes in-between dips and slumps in stride."
-Billionaire J. Paul Getty, How to Be Rich
This advice has never been more important. Investors are nervous. I know that many have started dumping their holdings out of fear. They aren't focused on the actual operations of the companies they own... they are worried about their short-term stock prices.
To be a successful investor, you can't view the market like this.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you should just blindly hold every stock you ever buy. And I'm not saying that the market won't go down periodically, taking even the world's strongest companies down with it.
But the world's greatest investors view these times as opportunities. J. Paul Getty did this 80 years ago at the height of The Great Depression... and Warren Buffett does it today.
There is simply no better time to make money than when the market falls...
"Sound stocks, purchased for investment when their prices are low and held for the long pull are very likely to produce high profits through dividends and increases in value."
- Billionaire J. Paul Getty, How to Be Rich