How did Elon Musk make his money and what is his net worth?

Elon Musk is the richest person on the planet

A close up of Elon Musk in a tuxedo at the Met Gala
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The billionaire CEO has just completed a $44 billion takeover of Twitter, leaving many asking how did Elon Musk make his money?

As the richest person in the world and a public figure who's made headlines for some rather bizarre choices - his baby's name (opens in new tab) being one of them - Elon Musk draws a lot of intrigue from the general public. Most recently he's been in the news after he bought Twitter, a deal that's been ongoing for months and one which Musk had previously pulled out of.

And just like people have been wondering what is Rishi Sunak's net worth (opens in new tab) and how much money did the late Queen have (opens in new tab), the $44 billion deal has everyone wondering what is Elon Musk's net worth and how did he make his money?

How did Elon Musk make his money?

Elon Musk has made his fortune from several business ventures. While he's best known as CEO of electric car company Tesla and private rocket firm SpaceX, he's also the founder of Neuralink (opens in new tab) and The Boring Company (opens in new tab).

Neuralink develops brain-machine interfaces which connect humans and computers, while The Boring Company plans to improve traffic by constructing inner city tunnel networks.

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However, it's Tesla that is Musk's most profitable business. In 2021, the electric car company surpassed $1 trillion in market value, overshadowing the combined value of five of its biggest rivals: Volkswagen, Toyota, Daimler, Ford and General Motors.

The company was founded by engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003 before Musk took over as CEO. Eberhard and Tarpenning wanted to prove that "electric vehicles can be better, quicker and more fun to drive than gasoline cars."

How did Elon Musk make his money before Tesla?

Elon Musk became the largest shareholder of Tesla in 2004 and has been CEO since 2008. But back in 1995 he founded an online local business directory called Zip2, which was bought by Compaq Computer Corp in 1999 for $307 million.

The sale reportedly earned Musk $22 million, and after that he founded an online bank called X.com, which later merged with Confinity to become PayPal. In 2002, eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion, and it's thought Musk made around $170 million from that sale.

That same year, Musk founded spacecraft engineering company SpaceX, the value of which rose to over $125 million in May 2022, according to Reuters (opens in new tab).

Was Elon Musk born rich?

Elon Musk was born into a well-off family in South Africa. He was born in 1971 to Maye Musk, a Canadian model and dietician, and Errol Musk, a South African who owned a successful engineering business.

According to the MailOnline (opens in new tab), Errol was a millionaire before the age of 30, and there are also reports that he became 'half owner' of an emerald mine in Zambia in the 1980s - though Elon Musk denies these claims.

Musk has also refuted claims that his family wealth helped propel him towards his current billionaire status, claiming in a series of tweets (opens in new tab) that when he first started Zip2 he had over $100,000 of student debt to pay off and couldn't afford a computer. He added that in order to pay rent at the time, he turned the house he was living in into a nightclub and charged $5 for entry.

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What age did Elon Musk become a billionaire?

Elon Musk was 41 years old when he made his first billion back in 2012, according to Forbes (opens in new tab).

He debuted on the Forbes World Billionaires List (opens in new tab) that year with a net worth of $2 billion, after Tesla saw a 30% increase in stock price year over year. Tesla stock noticeably jumped in February that year, following the unveiling of the Model X.

The self-made billionaire has come a long way from when he made his first millions after selling Zip2 at 27 years old, becoming the richest person in the world towards the end of 2021, surpassing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

How did Elon Musk get so rich during the pandemic?

Billionaires saw their net worth skyrocket during the pandemic, as central banks boosted share prices, interest rates were cut and there were massive increases in the supply of money through the bond-buying process known as quantitative easing.

Gabriela Bucher (opens in new tab), Oxfam's executive director, explained: "Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom."

According to The Guardian (opens in new tab), Elon Musk saw his wealth increase 10-fold to $294bn in the first 20 months of the pandemic.

How rich is Elon Musk? Net worth revealed

Elon Musk is currently the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $221.5, according to Forbes. Musk's net worth has previously surpassed the $300 billion mark twice before.

The Tesla CEO's net worth has been known to fluctuate, however. It fell to below $200 million in February 2022 after Tesla shares dropped and the global stock market reacted to the invasion of Ukraine (opens in new tab), and Musk then lost $10bn of his net worth in May after allegations emerged that he had sexually harassed a flight attendant.

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