You've probably heard his popular catchphrase, 'You're fired!'

The Donald has long been a bombastic figure on the American financial scene. He is a well-known real estate magnate, and he is almost as famous for his companies' bankruptcies as he is for his companies' lavish real estate projects.

But how did Trump get his start? And what does he think would make a great investment right now?

The Trump Secret

We hear a lot about Donald Trump's real estate empire. Yes, he's built it up to something truly lucrative. (Forbes puts his worth at $3.2 billion.) However, he didn't get his start from nothing.

So what's his secret?

Like so many successful and wealthy investors and businessmen, Trump had rich parents to help him get in the game.

His father was a wealthy real estate developer named Fred Trump. Fred's father had a firm -- Elizabeth Trump & Son -- that a young Donald worked at while he attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. (He had gone to Fordham University for two years before that, after graduating from New York Military Academy.)

In 1968, Trump joined his father's firm officially, and he was put in control of the organization in 1971. At that point, he renamed the company The Trump Organization.

He's been involved in numerous business ventures, some of which have gone bankrupt. However, Trump is too savvy to let company and project bankruptcies touch his personal fortune; in fact, he knows how to get back in there and work on the next big thing.

Donald Trump's Investment Advice

Since his family has long been involved in real estate, it's no surprise that Trump makes a lot of real estate investments. He has claimed that his father told him to know everything you can about what you're doing before you invest. This advice seems to be something he takes to heart when he invests in real estate. Since it's the family business, Trump knows a lot about it.

Indeed, his best investment is likely a real estate investment that he made in 1995: The purchase of 40 Wall Street, the old Bank of Manhattan Trust building. It is now known as Trump Tower.

Even though Trump tried to sell it in 2003, and it didn't work out, the building is still considered immensely valuable. Trump has claimed, on several occasions and in different venues, that he bought the building for $1 million. The building is probably worth several hundred million dollars right now.

But what would Trump tell others to invest in? According to Business Insider, Donald Trump believes that the best choice for investing is still equities and corporate bonds. But he also thinks that if you know how to do it, it makes sense to purchase foreclosed homes from banks. He suggests demanding good interest rates and long-term financing, presumably so you can make the most of leverage.

Trump recently said that he thinks that there are potential investment opportunities in Detroit, for those who can see the potential and buy the real estate. He pointed out, in Crain's Detroit Business, that rock bottom is a good place to invest. After all, where else can you go but up?

And he did use that philosophy when buying 40 Wall Street after it had been neglected as a result of a sale on behalf of late Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos falling through. (That tends to happen when your assets are frozen.) The building had been neglected, and Trump turned it into a prime piece of real estate.

The Investing Answer: Donald Trump had rich parents who were willing to help him get ahead in the real estate development business. Not all of us are that fortunate, though.

The good news is that we don't need our own rich parents to get ahead. If you know where to look, you can find good companies to invest in.