Could you give away 99% of what you own? Probably not, but that’s something Warren Buffett has promised recently. “More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death” he wrote recently (pdf).
“I will continue to live in a manner that gives me everything that I could possibly want in life”, he says of the remaining 1%, but that’s still a remarkable generosity.
After all, what is money for if not for putting to use? Despite the name of this site, I’m all for great wealth when it’s put to good use. And after a lifetime of accumulating vast sums, Warren Buffett is better placed than most to talk about how to use money well. He knows the limits of wealth, the things it cannot buy.
Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends.
Buffett’s letter is the first to be posted at the Giving Pledge website, where he and Bill and Melinda Gates are encouraging America’s wealthiest families to give away half their wealth. If the richest 400 were to do so, it would amount to over $600 billion – more than 400 people and their families could ever use, I’m sure you’ll agree.