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How oil titan T. Boone Pickens doles out his fortune

Rick Newman
·Senior Columnist

T. Boone Pickens is worth nearly $1 billion, but his kids and grandkids better not come looking for a handout. “I’m not going to make anybody rich,” he tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “I tell my kids, I’ll help you, but if you want to get rich, you’ll have to get rich on your own.”

The oil titan, chairman of BP Capital, has hit a rough patch now that oil prices have plunged from the low triple-digits a couple years ago to the mid-doubles now. He also lost a bundle betting on wind energy during recent years. Pickens was worth $4 billion or so before the recession hit in 2008, according to Forbes, but fell off the billionaire’s list in 2013. He’s still got an enviable fortune, however, and if he blows it, it won’t be on family.

Pickens, 88, has 5 grown children and 13 grandkids, and none of them enjoys a place on the patriarch’s personal payroll. “They all work,” Pickens says. “They have real jobs. They don’t work for me.”

Pickens does have trust funds and other investments in his kids’ names, but in amounts, he says, that won’t alter their need to be self-sufficient. “I do matching funds when I can,” he says. “If I have a good year and one of them earns $50,000, I match the $50,000. One of my granddaughters said, ‘well, what if I don’t work?’ I said, well you don’t get any matching funds.”

Like others his age, Pickens thinks young people today get discouraged too easily and mistakenly think they’ve got it tougher than earlier generations. “It was hard to get a job when I got out [of college] in 1951 as a geologist,” he told a crowded ballroom at the recent Skybridge Alternatives conference in Las Vegas. “Only 4 out of 28 geologists in my class got jobs.”

His advice to anybody trying to get into the business now: “Go out there, take what you can get and know it will recover. You’re in a tough period right now, but the oil business isn’t going away. It will come back.” Pickens might become a billionaire again when it does.

Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman .