(The latest report is for 2009, which to you and me was a long time ago but to the government is really, really up to date.)
In 2009 it took $77.4 million in adjusted gross income to make the top 400. That might sound like a lot, but it's down from $109.7 million in 2008 and significantly down from a record high of $138.8 million in 2007.
A mere $77.4 million only got you in, though; the average earnings were $202.4 million, a lot of money but well down from the $334.8 million average in 2007.
Where it gets interesting is how the top 400 made their money:
Wages and salaries: 8.6%
Partnerships and corporations: 19.9%
Capital gains: 45.8%
The top 400 averaged $92.6 million in capital gains income--16% of the total capital gains reported by all taxpayers. (Do the math and the whole 1% thing seems like an overestimate.)
Working for a salary won't make you rich.
Neither will making only safe "income" investments.
Neither will investing only in large companies.
Owning a business or businesses, whether in part or partnership, could not only build a solid wealth foundation but could someday...
Generate a huge financial windfall.
The data clearly supports the last point. A total of over 3,800 taxpayers have made the top 400 since 1992, but only 27% appear more than once, and only 2% appear 10 or more times.
Clearly, getting rich--in monetary terms--is the result of investing in yourself and others, taking risks, doing a lot of small things right... and then doing one big thing really, really right.
And hopefully achieving other goals along the way--because then, even if you don't get rich, you'll still be wealthy.