Image: Andrew Mason © Noah Berger, Bloomberg, Getty Images

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Many people dream of becoming independently wealthy over the course of a lifetime. The wise stash away their bonuses while the less prudent invest their money in risky endeavors and Internet scams. Then, there are those lucky few who make it look easy by turning pocket change into millions of dollars in no time at all. Here are the whirlwind stories of five regular people who have realized the worth of their business, idea or property virtually overnight:

Andrew Mason, entrepreneur

Andrew Mason, 30, is the brains behind the newest social-media sensation, Groupon.

Playing off the words "coupon" and "group," the site offers daily discounts on services and products. Revenue for 2010 is expected to have hit an estimated $350 million.

Pierre Le Guennec, electrician

For Pierre Le Guennec, a retired French electrician, it was who he worked for that turned him into an instant megamillionaire.

According to recent media reports, while Le Guennec was employed by Pablo Picasso before Picasso's death in 1973, the artist gave him 271 previously unknown pieces over the course of his employment. Although there is some controversy over these works, the collection of drawings, lithographs, cubist collages and notebooks is valued at an estimated $78 million.

Sandy Stein, inventor

At 52, airline flight attendant Sandy Stein invented accessorized key clasps to help women avoid losing their keys in their purses. She called the product Finders Key Purse.

Within four months of launching the product, Stein's company reached had $1 million in sales; at the eight-month mark, more than one million units were sold. Parent company Alexx expected 2010 earnings to total about $6.5 million.

Oscar Stohler, farmer

Rancher Oscar Stohler was skeptical about striking a fortune when drilling started on his western North Dakota farm. But the discovery of crude oil on his land a few years ago made the modest farmer -- who still drives his old pickup truck and wears a farm cap -- a millionaire. Stohler and hundreds of other farmers in North Dakota earned millions by owning oil-rich land.

Jonathan Duhamel, poker player

Though his longtime dream was to be an all-star professional hockey player, Jonathan Duhamel made his mark by raking in millions playing poker. On November 8, 2010, Duhamel, then 23, won $9 million in prize money in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He's the first Canadian to take the title in poker's biggest tournament.

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The millionaire bounce-back

If you are envious of these average Joes who catapulted from college dropout or electrician to megamillionaire, the good news is the number of Americans with millions is growing. As the economy recovers, wealth has been rising toward pre-recession levels in the United States. The number of millionaire households climbed 15.1% from 2008 to 2009, to a total of 4.7 million households, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group.