Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry

The 2011 Forbes world’s billionaires list broke a record. It highlighted 1,210 billionaires with a total net worth of $4.5 trillion. As of this writing, Oprah Winfrey remains the lone African American on Forbes Billionaire’s List, among six people of color.

While we admire and envy the wealthy lifestyles of celebrities like Oprah, Tyler Perry and Bob Johnson, we must remember that we, too, have a chance at wealth creation. It requires major lifestyle changes for many of us.

Oprah, Tyler and Bob have a few things in common. They desire to be wealthy, are entrepreneurs and are philanthropic. Oprah Winfrey told Duke University’s 2009 graduating class during their commencement ceremony, “It’s great to have nice homes … it’s great to have a private jet. Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn’t great is lying to you.”

Bob Johnson

Winfrey’s comments may punch some in the gut as egotistical, but others will find it encouraging. Destitution doesn’t benefit anyone. Winfrey’s many acts of kindness, the most notable being the former Oprah’s Angel Network and the academy for girls in South Africa, are prime examples of why her perspective is empowering. At the start of this year, the queen of talk expanded her media empire and launched the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and plans to retire from daytime talk this spring.

Tyler Perry pours his heart and soul into playwriting and filmmaking. A few years ago, he invested his earnings in a 200,000-square-foot studio complex on acres in southwest Atlanta. His most awe-inspiring move yet is the invaluable purchase of an island in the Bahamas. It’s reported that the Bahamas, a stable member of a democratic government, has no income tax.

Bob Johnson was the first African American to make the Forbes’ list of billionaires and even graced their cover. He earned his first billion after founding and selling Black Entertainment Television (BET). The network played a significant role in introducing urban and hip-hop culture to suburban and rural America. He fell off the list after a divorce and some other business moves.

The world’s richest person, Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, is self-made and has a net worth of $74 billion. He has holdings in Saks and the New York Times, and he has a vast art collection. He tells Forbes that he seeks to boost his investments in Colombia because of their openness for oil exploration, mineral assets and growing middle class.

None of the aforementioned individuals were born with silver spoons in their mouths or inherited their wealth. Each of them had a plan, followed their passion and took risks.

Creating wealth is simple, and we have the recipe for financial success. There are three main ingredients: income, discipline and time. Invest your money, preferably on a monthly basis, and leave it alone. The interest will compound. In other words, interest will accrue on the principal as well as interest from past years. According to Albert Einstein, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.”

You do the math. –yvette caslin