Elon Musk, the Relatable Billionaire: Doesn’t Own a House, Couch Surfs With Friends

Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO, is perhaps one of the most polarizing public figures of recent times, both because of his business model and his outspokenness on many issues. Elon Musk is also the world’s richest man by net worth, a multi-billionaire who, as per his own words, is homeless.
Elon Musk does rare interview, sheds some light into his un-billionaire-like lifestyle 7 photos
Photo: YouTube / TED
Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8
The topic of Elon Musk’s wealth is often brought up whenever he speaks about his plans to make our planet greener and better and save it from immediate destruction or when he exposes his dreams of helping humanity find a new home on Mars when those plans stop working. While supporters cheer him on as humanity’s bravest champion, detractors often use his wealth as the counter-argument that nullifies many of his stated goals.

When you could save billions of people from starving on Earth right now with your money, why to spend it on building space rockets for a future that might not even happen, his critics are often saying. What's the purpose of talking about sustainable living when you could buy an entire country if you wanted, and you probably dine on ponies on golden platters, only fly private, and enjoy the kind of luxurious life mere mortals only dream of?

Musk has heard the criticism, but he is no longer bothered by it. Last weekend, in a rare but wide-ranging interview with Chris Anderson for TED Talk, he addressed it and, at the same time, sets the record straight on what he's doing with his money. If you were expecting stories about multi-million yachts, mega-mansions, and rich people's toys, then you're in for a surprise. Elon Musk is a most relatable billionaire.

Elon Musk is homeless – not in the sense that he lives rough, but that he doesn’t own a house anymore. In what is perhaps the only case of a bum billionaire, he usually couch surfs at his rich friends’ homes, and he doesn’t indulge in the billionaire lifestyle. In addition to not owning a house, Musk doesn’t own a yacht either or any other fancy and expensive toy. If anything, that alone sets Musk apart from every other outrageously rich person out there, most of whom spend millions on all the trappings of the A-list life.

The only exception for Musk is his private plane, but that is a necessity and not a whim, he explains. He has to travel a lot for work, and the time would be wasted on the road instead of using it for meetings if he didn’t fly private.

“I'm literally staying at friends' places,” Musk says (at the 1.01-minute mark in the video below). “If I travel to the Bay Area, which is where most of Tesla's engineering is, I basically rotate through friends' spare bedrooms. I don't have a yacht. I really don't take vacations. It's not as though my personal consumption is high. I mean the one exception is a plane, but if I don't use the plane then I have less hours to work.”

And work is almost everything that Musk does. Well, that and having babies because – he says with a smile – he’s trying to set a good example by having more than one child since humanity is in grave danger of population collapse. He says the work he does at Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink is philanthropy because it’s for the sake of mankind.

As for all the criticism thrown at him, he chooses to focus on the reality of philanthropy instead of the perception of it. “Philanthropy is difficult,” he says, and since we’re not multi-billionaires, we’ll have to take his word for it.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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