How Would John D. Rockefeller Have A Net Worth Of $418 Billion If He Were Alive Today?

December 27, 2021

John D. Rockefeller is considered the richest man in history. In his peak, John D. Rockefeller would have had an estimated net worth of $418 billion in 2022 (adjusted for inflation).

Rockefeller was an American business magnate, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He amassed most of his fortune from his company the Standard Oil Company, which he founded in 1870. As gasoline and kerosene grew in popularity through the late 1800s and early 1900s so did his net worth. In this article, we will discuss how John D Rockefeller became the richest man ever.

Early Life

Rockefeller was born in Richford, New York on July 8th, 1839. He was the second child of Bill Rockefeller and Eliza Davidson. His mother Eliza was a Baptist and his father was a businessman, salesman, but most notably, a con-artist. He self-identified as a “botanic physician” where he would sell elixirs that could cure various ailments. Bill didn’t have a strong moral compass as he also rarely stayed with his family and was rumored to have married another woman while still married to Rockefellers’ mom.

Rockefeller learned important lessons from both his parents growing up. His dad would try to cheat Rockefeller every chance he got in efforts to “keep him sharp.” His mother, trying to keep stability in her household, taught Rockefeller that reckless extravagance leads to a dire need for more.

When Rockefeller was sixteen, he got his first job as an assistant bookkeeper where he first discovered that he was adept at calculating transportation costs. Although he never made more than $58 dollars a year working as a bookkeeper, Rockefeller has said that he knew one day he would make $100,000 (equivalent to $2.74 million dollars in 2022).

Clark & Rockefeller

In 1859, at the age of 20, Rockefeller went into the business of produce commission (buying or selling perishable agricultural goods) with partner Maurice B. Clark. In their first year of business, Clark & Rockefeller netted $4,400. In their second year, they nearly quadrupled their net income to $17,000 (equivalent to $530,688 dollars in 2022).

Their profits only went up from there as the start of the American Civil War led to a massive increase in demand for food supplies. When the Civil War was coming to a close and the war-time profits were slowing down Clark & Rockefeller looked toward the refining of crude oil.

Standard Oil Co.

Rockefeller saw a market emerging for refined oil in the form of kerosene. Coal had previously been used to extract kerosene, but it was inefficient. However, even with all of its inefficiencies, the current mark up on refined oil was anywhere from 62% to 160%. This led him to start his own company, Standard Oil Co in 1870.

Many speculators attempted to make their fortunes through oil, but most were unsuccessful. This was mainly due to the fact that most refineries would keep the 60% of oil product that became kerosene, but dump the other 40% in rivers and massive sludge piles. Rockefeller cleverly avoided that waste by selling it as lubricating oil, petroleum jelly, paraffin wax, tar, and other by-products.

Rockefeller quickly grew the company by acquiring the least efficient competing refiners, improving its operations, getting bulk discounts on oil shipments, dropping its prices, and raising investment pools. By 1872, Rockefeller had purchased 22 of its 26 Cleveland, Ohio competitors. Standard Oil wasn’t just acquiring its competition, they also acquired their entire supply chain. It added its own pipelines, tank cars, and home delivery network.

Because they produced such a large quantity of oil they were able to keep their prices low which deterred competitors while also making their products affordable to the average person. By the end of the 1870s, Standard Oil was responsible for refining over 90% of U.S. oil, and Rockefeller was a multi-millionaire.

Monopoly

Since Rockefeller controlled over 90% of the oil industry, journalists and politicians constantly attacked Standard Oil as having unfair monopolistic practices. Unfair practices like these are what led to the passing of Antitrust laws and the creation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He retired in 1902 at the age of 63.

John D. Rockefeller Children

In 1864, Rockefeller married Laura Spelman and had four daughters and one son. Their son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., was involved in the development of Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. He was the polar opposite of his grandfather and took philanthropy and business ethics very seriously. By the end of his life, he had donated over $500 million to a variety of different causes, most notably in education.

David Rockefeller Net Worth

John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s youngest son, David Rockefeller, was an American banker who served as chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan (now part of JP Morgan Chase). David Rockefeller was the oldest living member of the third generation of the Rockefeller family. He was the family patriarch for 13 years ranging from August 2004 until his death in March 2017.

He had wide-ranging political connections and traveled often. David Rockefeller’s personal net worth was estimated at $3.3 billion at the time of his death in March 2017.

John D. Rockefeller Net Worth 2022

How much would John D Rockefeller be worth now? Well, in full retirement at age 63, Rockefeller earned over $58 million in investments in 1902 (just over $1.7 billion dollars in 2022).

At his peak in 1913, John D. Rockefeller had an estimated net worth of $418 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation in 2022). His personal wealth at the time was estimated at $900 million in 1913, which was almost 3% of the US GDP that year. This makes John D. Rockefeller the richest person in American history.

Today, the Rockefeller family is worth an estimated $11 billion dollars. This makes them one of the richest families in the world.

Key Takeaways

You can pave your own destiny: John D Rockefeller was born to a well-known con artist. He easily could have gone down a similar path but instead decided to have a strong moral code and marry only once. We can’t choose our family, but we are in complete control of our destiny.

[bctt tweet= “We can’t choose our family, but we are in complete control of our destiny.”]

There is never a lack of resources, just resourcefulness: Many entrepreneurs failed to take advantage of the growing oil market because they had to get rid of 40% of all the materials they would mine. Instead of wasting this 40%, Rockefeller decided to sell the perceived waste to companies that would need it.

[bctt tweet= “There is never a lack of resources, just resourcefulness.”]

Spotting opportunity and taking action: Just how Mr. Wonderful saw that computers and software would end up becoming a booming business in the 1990s, Rockefeller saw that refined oil in the form of kerosene would explode going into the 1900s. Rockefeller had no prior experience in oil manufacturing before starting Standard Oil. Most entrepreneurs teach themselves how to do things by taking action, not by studying. If Rockefeller waited to learn more about the oil industry before starting, he may have missed his opportunity.

[bctt tweet= “Most entrepreneurs teach themselves how to do things by taking action, not by studying.”]

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2 comments on “How Would John D. Rockefeller Have A Net Worth Of $418 Billion If He Were Alive Today?

  1. bhikan ramnarine Mar 13, 2021

    Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them, John D. Rockefeller has definitely achieved greatness, he was a super genius person.