McCain attended some 20 schools in his childhood before becoming the third-generation McCain family member to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He graduated in 1958 -- fifth from the bottom of his class. He joined the military as a naval aviator and was shot down over Vietnam and held captive for more than five years, enduring torture and untreated injuries that limit his ability to move his arm to this day.
McCain retired from the Navy as a captain and joined second wife Cindy's family beer distribution business as a public relations representative for Anheuser-Busch.
However, McCain quickly got into politics, winning a House seat in 1982, re-election and later claiming a Senate seat for Arizona.
Today both candidates are wealthy, though McCain vastly surpasses Obama in personal wealth, thanks to his wife, Cindy McCain, the daughter of a multimillionaire Anheuser-Busch distributor.
"They are significantly more wealthy than the average American," said Sheila Krumholtz of the nonpartisan government finance watchdog group the Center for Responsive Politics.
McCain is ranked eighth in terms of net worth out of 100 U.S. senators, and Obama is ranked 67th, according to the Center for Responsive Politics Web site, www.opensecrets.org.
McCain's average net worth is $36.4 million compared with Obama's almost $800,000 average net worth, Krumholtz said.
Obama's recent wealth has come from the sale of his memoirs, including his latest best-selling "The Audacity of Hope."
"Virtually all of [McCain's] wealth comes from Cindy McCain," Krumholtz said. "If we were to take away Cindy McCain's assets, his net worth alone would be less than $100,000."
Neither candidate has a background in economics or business, and both rely on the advice of a cadre of economic experts.
Advisers say Obama isn't locked into one ideology on how to fix the economy but instead relies on a network of economic advisers. He met last week with a team of star economic gurus, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, several former Treasury secretaries, CEOs, labor insiders and billionaire Warren Buffett.
"He'll talk to anybody with good ideas," said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute who was at the meeting. Bernstein is part of a large cadre of outside economic experts who participate in weekly conference calls with the campaign.
"There isn't one economic guru or doctrine that he's followed for years and years," said Furman, the director of Obama's economic policy. "He's interested in getting a diverse range of advisers and seeing them bounce ideas off of each other, critique each others' ideas, then making a call," Furman said of Obama.
Obama's other full-time economic advisor is Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, whose profile has been lowered after a Canadian diplomat reported he assured them Obama's anti-North American Free Trade Agreement rhetoric was mostly campaign bluster.
Like Obama, McCain advisers say the Arizona senator values imput from a wide variety of people.
"There are people who will weigh different priorities with different levels of urgency," Griffin said of the McCain economic team. But generally McCain gravitates to the idea that "the private sector will utilize resources more efficiently that create jobs and is better for the long term."