Money Lessons You Can Learn from Rihanna’s Journey to Billionaire Status

Rihanna pusts her hands up in celebration at an event where she dressed in formal attire.
Rihanna arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, March 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. John Locher/AP Photo

In 2022, Robyn Rihanna Fenty, better known by her stage name Rihanna, officially became one of America’s youngest self-made billionaires at 34.

Her road to financial success is particularly inspirational because of her humble beginnings. Born in Barbados, Rihanna grew up in a small bungalow with two younger brothers and parents who worked regular 9-to-5 jobs. After being discovered by American record producer Evan Rogers in her home country, Rihanna’s music career took off in the early 2000s.

But Rihanna didn’t stop there (and neither should you).

Five Money Lessons You Can Learn from Rihanna’s Journey to Billionaire Status

Using her brand to her advantage, Rihanna has accumulated a whopping net worth of $1.4 billion. Here are five valuable money lessons you can steal from Rihanna’s impressive journey to the Forbes’ billionaire list.

1. Create Multiple Income Streams

Though Rihanna is best known for her music career and hit songs like “Umbrella” and “Pon De Replay,” the bulk of her billion-dollar fortune comes from other ventures. In 2017, Rihanna launched her cosmetic company, Fenty Beauty, which quickly went viral across the globe due to its inclusivity of all skin tones. As of 2021, Forbes estimates Fenty Beauty to be worth a conservative $2.8 billion.

Besides Fenty Beauty, Rihanna has a 30% stake in her Savage x Fenty lingerie line, which was valued at $1 billion in February 2021. The billionaire pop star is also part owner of the music streaming service Tidal and a global ambassador of the athletic apparel company Puma. Not to mention that Rihanna has movie credits to her name as well for her roles in films such as “Ocean’s 8” and “Guava Island.”

Though most of us aren’t international superstars like Rihanna, we can still take inspiration from her and learn to diversify our income streams. For example, instead of relying solely on your 9-to-5, find ways to generate income through other avenues. Here are a few of The Penny Hoarder’s guides to side gigs:

Looking for more side gig inspiration? Here’s our list of 29 best side hustles.

2. Find Ways to Earn Money in Your Sleep

Even when Rihanna is fast asleep, her cosmetics and beauty brands continue to churn out millions in revenue as customers line up to buy her products at online and physical stores worldwide. By generating income passively, Rihanna can focus her efforts on expanding her multiple business empires and achieving her other long-term business goals.

Keep in mind that building passive income streams isn’t an overnight process. Rihanna dedicated multiple years to establishing her portfolio of businesses today. However, while it may take time and effort to build a steady stream of income that allows you to make money in your sleep, it’s worth the investment. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

1. Start a blog. If you love to write, consider setting up a blog on WordPress or Squarespace. Once you have a following, you can monetize your blog through paid ads by joining an ad management company like Mediavine. Depending on your niche, you could make anywhere from $15 to $30 per 1,000 pageviews by allowing ads on your site. In other words, if your site receives 100,000 pageviews a month, you can potentially bring in $1,500 to $3,000.

2. Sell digital products. Selling digital products like ebooks, courses or templates is one of the best ways to generate passive income. Though you may have to spend a few weeks or months creating the product, once it’s out there, you can sit back and watch the orders roll in — all on autopilot.

3. Invest in stocks or mutual funds. Investing in dividend-paying stocks and mutual funds is another way to make money in your sleep. The average dividend yield on S&P 500 index companies that pay a dividend fluctuates between 2% and 5% — which means you can make anywhere from $200 to $500 annually on a $10,000 portfolio. However, be sure to perform your due diligence and understand the market before investing your hard-earned cash.

4. Rent out your property. Whether it’s a spare room, vacation home or your entire apartment, renting out your space allows you to generate steady income streams without putting in too much effort. Remember that your rentals may not be passive investments right away since you’ll typically need to decorate your space, create a listing and build positive online reviews.

You can even rent out your driveway! Here’s our guide on how.

5. Explore affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is an advertising model that allows you to earn commission by promoting other people’s products. These commissions are usually a percentage of the sale price or a fixed amount. One of the easiest ways to become an affiliate marketer is through Amazon’s affiliate marketing program.

Looking for another way to make money in your sleep? Consider becoming a scooter juicer.

3. Play the Long Game

Nearly 120 million watched Rihanna grace the Super Bowl halftime show stage on Feb. 12, 2023. Despite not getting paid for the performance, she was able to leverage the massive platform to promote her brands. She not only dressed her backup dancers in apparel pieces from her Savage x Fenty clothing line but also touched up her makeup mid-performance with her own Fenty blotting powder.

These two subtle marketing moves reportedly helped Rihanna garner $5.6 million in earned media for Fenty Beauty and $2.6 million for Savage X Fenty within the first 12 hours. More than a month after her performance, she was still a trending topic on social media.

What we can learn from Rihanna is the value of investing in the long game despite not seeing immediate profits. Rihanna capitalized on her moment in the spotlight to promote her brand, even if it meant sacrificing a paycheck upfront. Ultimately, this savvy business move paid off in the form of significant earned media and long-term brand growth.

So, instead of trying to “get rich quick,” take calculated risks that align with your goals and invest in opportunities that can yield returns in the future — whether that’s by enrolling in courses to enhance your earning potential or seeking guidance from a mentor.

4. Don’t Let Your Financial Past Define Your Future

A decade ago, Rihanna nearly went bankrupt due to overspending and trusting the wrong people with her money. After winning the lawsuit against the accounting firm that mismanaged her assets, Rihanna began rebuilding her wealth and creating the empire she has now. Today, she’s one of the wealthiest women in the world and has skyrocketed her net worth by 700-fold.

A key money lesson you can learn from Rihanna is not letting your past financial mistakes define your future. When you’re stuck in a financial rut or buried in debt, it’s easy to get discouraged and think you can never dig yourself out of trouble, but that’s simply not true. Here are a few ways to regain control of your financial life, as Rihanna did.

  • Budget, budget, budget. To gain control of your finances, you must know where your money is going each month. If you haven’t already, consider downloading a budgeting app like Mint or Personal Capital on your phone to help track your expenses. According to the popular 50/30/20 rule, you should spend 50% of your after-tax income on needs, 30% on wants and 20% on savings or debt repayment.
  • Create an emergency fund. You never know what life could throw your way — a car breakdown, a hefty medical bill or even a job loss. Having a financial cushion to fall back on can be a lifesaver when unexpected emergencies happen and prevent you from going into debt. Most financial experts recommend that you stash away at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your emergency fund.
  • Be honest with yourself. To transform your financial life, you must be honest with yourself and understand how you got yourself into your current situation in the first place. For example, if you’re drowning in credit card debt, reflect on what habits led you there. Once you pinpoint the root cause of your money problems, you can take actionable steps to improve your financial health.
  • Pay off your debt.  Carrying high-interest debt can be a heavy burden that hinders your progress toward achieving your financial goals. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your debt payments, consider taking out a debt consolidation loan or using a balance transfer credit card to reduce your overall interest rates and pay off your debt faster.

5. Give Back to Your Community

In an interview with T Magazine, Rihanna revealed that her wealth means much more than just material possessions. She told the magazine, “Money means that I can take care of my family and that I can create jobs for other people. My money is not for me. It’s always the thought that I can help someone else.”

In 2012, Rihanna launched the Clara Lionel Foundation in honor of her grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. And in 2022, CLF committed $15 million to several organizations working on climate justice across the U.S. and the Caribbean. Rihanna’s philanthropic efforts remind us of the importance of using our wealth and resources to help those in need.

Giving back doesn’t mean you have to donate millions of dollars — every little bit counts. Here are some ways to give back to your community and make a positive impact in the world regardless of how much money you make:

  • Volunteer at local organizations, schools and charities.
  • Donate second-hand clothing and household items to thrift stores or homeless shelters.
  • Participate in neighborhood clean-up events or beach clean-ups.
  • Support local businesses and farmers by shopping at farmer’s markets and local stores.
  • Donate blood at a local blood drive.
  • Host a charity fundraiser or bake sale.
  • Sponsor a child’s education or a community program.
  • Support local animal shelters by donating pet food and supplies.
  • Participate in community fundraisers or charity runs.

Follow Rihanna’s Roadmap to Success

From humble beginnings in Barbados, Rihanna rose to become one of the world’s most successful musicians and entrepreneurs. Despite facing financial setbacks along the way, Rihanna remained steadfast in her pursuit of success and ultimately achieved her billionaire status.

While not all of us may have the opportunity to build billion-dollar empires, we can still follow Rihanna’s roadmap to financial freedom. By creating multiple income streams, learning to build wealth passively, investing for the long-term, gaining control of your finances and giving back to the community, you too can achieve your own version of the American dream.

Jamela Adam is a personal finance writer covering topics such as savings, investing, mortgages, student loans, and more. Her work has appeared in Forbes Advisor, Chime, U.S. News & World Report, RateGenius and GOBankingRates, among other publications.