Elon Musk: My Wealth Is Not A ‘Giant Pile Of Cash’

Samantha Miller

Billionaire Elon Musk disputed recent reports that claimed his net worth grows by $8.6 million every hour, stating that his wealth is largely tied to his ownership stakes in companies he helped build rather than hard currency.

Musk took to X on Sunday to respond to a report by Daily Dot that said his net worth had ballooned to $250 billion over the past three years from $24.6 billion, averaging out to $142,680 per minute or $8.56 million per hour based on his Tesla holdings alone.

“If he went to bed for eight hours, he’d wake up the next morning to find himself $68,486,400 richer,” the report stated.

The eccentric tech mogul said such metrics present a misleading picture. “It’s not a giant pile of cash,” he wrote. “I really just own stock in the companies that I was instrumental in creating.”

Musk explained that because his net worth is dominated by his stakes in Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, The Boring Company and other ventures, it fluctuates based on stock prices rather than growing at a steady rate.

“Technically, I ‘lose’ way more than that every time Tesla stock randomly drops,” he noted.

As of late 2022, Musk owned over 423 million Tesla shares representing 13.4% of the automaker’s total shares outstanding. With Tesla stock closing at $250.22 on Friday, Musk’s stake is worth about $106 billion. But given the volatility of the stock, he has likely experienced daily swings far greater than $8.6 million per hour.

For example, on a single day in November 2021, Musk lost $50 billion in net worth after Tesla shares plunged 15% due to his infamous Twitter poll asking whether he should sell 10% of his holdings. The selloff wiped out more in paper wealth than most people earn in a lifetime.

While Musk has leveraged his Tesla shares as collateral for personal loans, he has long insisted his true ambition is to advance Tesla and SpaceX’s missions rather than amass cash. He even voiced frustration in 2018 when Forbes labeled him the richest person in the world, tweeting at the time: “How strange. Well, back to work.”

Musk’s focus on execution over wealth is evidenced by the fact that his salary at Tesla is minimum wage in California, which equates to about $40,000 annually. He has never taken a paycheck from SpaceX.

His modest salary means most of Musk’s staggering paper gains over the past few years have yet to be realized. And while he has cashed out nearly $40 billion worth of Tesla shares since late 2021, likely to finance his purchase of Twitter as well as to pay taxes, his remaining net worth is still predominantly illiquid.

Musk is estimated to have paid over $11 billion in taxes in 2021 due to exercising stock options, which contributed greatly to him being named Time’s Person of the Year for 2021. He has stated he is perfectly willing to pay taxes on realized gains.

But until he converts more of his equity stakes to cash, Musk’s theoretical $8.6 million per hour accumulation exists mostly on paper. It cannot be definitively said to contribute to his bank account or lifestyle on an hourly basis.

While Musk’s $250 billion fortune is an unfathomable amount relative to median household wealth, he argues it is not an accurate measure of his cash flow or riches. The multi-billionaire’s protestations underline the complexities of tracking the net worth of ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

Musk remains the world’s richest person by most estimates, with his net worth surpassing quarter trillion dollars. He is trailed on the Forbes real-time billionaire’s list by LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and family at $185.3 billion.

The eye-popping numbers stem from Musk holding significant ownership percentages in revolutionary companies he helped build. In addition to his Tesla and SpaceX stakes, he is believed to have controlling equity in Neuralink, The Boring Company and Twitter after his $44 acquisition of the social media platform in October 2022.

Musk has disrupted industries from electric vehicles to rockets to online payments during his career. But even as estimates of his wealth soar to unprecedented levels, it’s an abstract form of riches he insists he does not have full access to and has not been his ultimate goal. By anchoring his worth to the executable creation of firms like Tesla and SpaceX, Musk diverges from the common billionaire archetype of hoarding cash.

While critics may scoff at the idea that someone with a quarter trillion dollar net worth is not rapidly accumulating vast liquid sums, Musk contends that if he were motivated chiefly by money, he could have retired long ago on his riches from the sale of PayPal.

Instead, he has plowed his billions into new transformative companies including Neuralink’s brain implants and The Boring Company’s underground tunnels. And he has shown a willingness to leverage his entire Tesla stake if needed to fund SpaceX’s ambitions to colonize Mars.

For Musk, his fortune is a means to achieve goals beyond personal enrichment. And as his companies’ valuations fluctuate amid the normal turbulence of markets, the numbers do not present an accurate or constant measure of newfound wealth, contrary to the viral narrative around his supposedly making $8.6 million every 60 minutes.

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Samantha Miller is a business and finance journalist with over 10 years of experience covering the latest news and trends shaping the corporate landscape. She began her career at The Wall Street Journal, where she reported on major companies and industry developments. Now, Samantha serve as a senior business writer for Modernagebank.com, profiling influential executives and providing in-depth analysis on business and financial topics.
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