Just How Much Money Did The Wolf Of Wall Street Actually Make In His Heyday?

If you’re here reading this page, then you’re probably familiar with Leonardo Di Caprio’s blockbuster, award-winning film “The Wolf of Wall Street”. The larger-than-life portrayal of former New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort seems too mind-blowing to be true but while parts of the movie were said to be fictionalized, the real wolf himself claims that some of these outrageous scenes really took place.

After watching the movie, one of the most intriguing questions in everyone’s mind is exactly how much did Jordan Belfort make during his peak as a stockbroker. The movie portrayed Jordan’s extraordinary rise from being a “pond scum” trainee stockbroker to launching his own company, Stratton Oakmont, and making loads of cash in the process. These incredible scenes are enough for people to wonder about how much was the real Jordan Belfort worth in the 90s.

Based on the movie, Jordan Belfort’s books, and numerous interviews, here are the answers to these frequently asked questions about The Wolf of Wall Street.

How Much Money Did Jordan Belfort Make?

At the beginning of the film, Leonardo Di Caprio who portrays Jordan Belfort narrates that he made $49 million US dollars in a year, only $3 million dollars short of earning $1 million for every week of the entire year. This claim was supported in a Telegraph article stating that Belfort was making close to $1 million US dollars a week and that he once earned over $12.5 million dollars in three minutes. Another article from the Independent states that he was earning an estimated £600,000 a week, which is around $937,500 US dollars using 2014 exchange rates when the article was published.

In a more recent interview published at The Red Bulletin in 2019, Jordan Belfort candidly shared that at Stratton Oakmont’s peak, he was earning about a quarter million US dollars a day, $30,000 an hour, $5,000 US dollars a minute.

If you’re thinking that that is just too much money, then think again. This is because Belfort claimed that it wasn’t just him. He added that it was a free-for-all as everybody was making a huge amount. Belfort even said that he had all these employees he referred to as ‘kids’ who had no business earning more than a minimum wage, all easily making a million dollars a year. Not bad, huh?

How Much Money Did Jordan Belfort Have at His Peak?

If Jordan Belfort made this much money, the next natural question would be how rich he actually was during that time. How much money did Jordan Belfort have at his peak?

To answer the question regarding how much was Jordan Belfort worth in the 90s is a bit tricky and difficult. While Belfort boasted about his astonishing money-earning capability and his numerous luxury assets, there is no single source that verifies the exact amount of what his total wealth was during that time.

The same 2014 Independent article indicated above suggests that he was reputedly worth around £60 million or $93 million US Dollars at his peak. You might be thinking that this amount may seem too little compared to how much he was actually making. But don’t forget that Jordan Belfort also lived his life like a king and he spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of his money living a lavish lifestyle filled with drugs, vices, and women.  He also lost money while he was trying to launder his dirty cash. 

Aside from the massive amount of cash Jordan Belfort had, he also owned a mansion in Long Island, a luxurious estate at the Hamptons, a private jet, a helicopter, a fleet of supercars including a white Ferrari, 3 horses, and other real estate properties. 

And don’t forget the 167-foot yacht which was once owned by fashion icon Coco Chanel. The yacht was a wedding gift to his ex-wife Nadine Caridi but it infamously sank in the Mediterranean on their way to Monaco.

So How Did Jordan Belfort Make All This Money?

Okay, now that the most pressing questions about how much money he was making and how much did he have at that time are answered, you’re probably wondering:

What did he do to earn that money?  

The 3-hour long movie mostly covered what Jordan Belfort did to enrich himself, however, if you’re not familiar with stocks at all, it might seem confusing for you and you might need a much simpler explanation on how he made that money.

As mentioned already, Belfort was a trainee stockbroker for one of the top firms in Wall Street, New York, L.F. Rothschild. When he finally got his stockbroker’s license in 1987, he was unexpectedly laid off because of the Black Monday stock market crash, which is considered the first contemporary global financial crisis. Being laid off led to Belfort finding other opportunities outside of Wall Street where he learned about pink sheets and penny stocks. 

Jordan Belfort Trading Penny Stocks

In simple terms, penny stocks are stocks that are worth less than five dollars per share. These are usually stocks of public companies that are not quite big enough to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.

What made penny stocks attractive for Jordan Belfort is that he was able to earn 50% commission on the stocks he sold, where areas, he was only getting 10% commission on what he was selling in Wall Street even if those were Blue Chip stocks.

Jordan used his Wall Street-honed selling skills to push these penny stocks to unsuspecting people. He would make exaggerated claims about practically insignificant companies and pretend that they are the hottest up and coming businesses that will make shareholders lots of money. Once he sold these stocks, he got 50% of the total sale.

Could he have made the same amount of money just stockbroking?

While Wall Street stockbrokers do make a lot of money, it’s hard to tell whether Jordan Belfort would’ve made the same amount of money during that time if he stayed in Wall Street stockbroking.

Since he lost his posh job at L.F Rothschild, it was difficult for him to find a job as a stockbroker in any Wall Street company. That was the reason he ended up selling penny stocks in the first place. Penny stocks are easier to manipulate because not a lot of information is available about small-time companies. It’s said to be more challenging to do a pump and dump scamp on more established companies and create fake demand. Plus, having a stable Wall Street job wouldn’t have pushed Belfort to go out on his own and build his company.

Why was Wolf of Wall Street illegal?

Penny stocks are legitimate stocks so selling them and making a fifty percent commission on the sale is not really illegal. Maybe you’re thinking, why was Jordan Belfort arrested by the FBI then if penny stocks are legitimate stocks? Why was it illegal when Jordan Belfort was selling these stocks?

If Jordan Belfort probably stuck to just selling penny stocks using his savvy sales skills, this could’ve been minor enough for the FBI to take notice, however, he went way beyond just selling because he started scamming people.

Aside from fabricating details about the companies he was selling, Belfort also got involved in a pump and dump scheme when he launched his own firm, Stratton Oakmont.

A pump and dump scheme means pumping up or falsely increasing the value of cheap, worthless stocks by using made-up information about the companies, therefore, increasing demand. The higher the demand, the higher the price of the stocks will be.

Once the people invest in these stocks at inflated prices, the scammers then dump these stocks, so their prices will fall and investors will lose their money as they are stuck with worthless stocks. The pump and dump scheme operated by Stratton Oakmont resulted in investor losses of roughly $200 million US dollars.

Belfort also used “ratholes” or front men so he could illegally own large shares of company stocks. One infamous example was when Belfort took Steve Madden’s shoe company public. Belfort secretly owned 1 million shares of the 2 million units available for public offer. When the company went public, Belfort used ratholes to purchase these stocks at the price he set and he bought back all of these stocks to create a fake demand so he could hike up the stock price. When the price of the stock was at its highest, he offloaded all of his stocks to make a profit.

Because of the dirty money Belfort was making, he also got involved in money laundering by hiding his money in secret Swiss bank accounts. He even used money mules to illicitly transfer his money out of the country.

What is His Net Worth Now? Jordan Belfort’s Net Worth in 2020

Jordan Belfort is now 57 years old and it is said that his net worth is roughly around $-100 million US dollars. Yes, that’s a negative sign right there. 

The reason why Belfort has a negative net worth is that, in addition to serving time in federal prison, he was ordered by the courts to pay $110 million dollars in restitution to the victims of his firm’s pump and dump schemes. As of 2018, court documents indicate that he reportedly just paid around $12.8 million dollars.

What Does He Do for Money Now? Jordan Belfort’s Career in 2020

Jordan Belfort is now a motivational speaker and author. He wrote two memoirs after being released from jail – Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street. Both books have been translated into about 18 languages and sold in more than 40 countries. He was said to receive a $500,000 US dollar advance for writing his first book.

For the film rights of his book, Jordan Belfort sold it for $1.045 million US dollars and he reportedly received $940,500. In one interview, he said that the money he earned from the book and the film went to his victims, but this has not been confirmed by the courts if it was true.

As a motivational speaker, Jordan Belfort charges from $20,000 to $75,000 US Dollars per engagement. For a one-hour speech, it can cost a client at least $20,000 US dollars. While his sales seminar fees for his “Straight Line System” are said to be at the $80,000 US Dollar range.

How does this compare to what he made in his heyday? Obviously, this is only a fraction of what he used to earn a stockbroker. While his per hour rate in his motivational speaking work nowadays is quite comparable to the $30,000 he used to make per hour back in the day, keep in mind that he is unlikely to be paid 8 straight hours for his speeches today unlike when he would make that amount of money every hour he was trading, every single working day.