Back in May 2009, a group of the richest people in the US gathered for a secret meeting of billionaires.The event was organised by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and hosted by David Rockefeller. The other attendees include Oprah Winfrey, Eli and Edythe Broad, Ted Turner, Chuck Feeney, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Julian Robertson, John and Tashia Morgridge and Pete Peterson.
The topic of discussion was not on any economic rescue or world domination, but on philanthropy. The full details of that meeting wasn’t made available then, but details have now came out in a recent feature by Fortune magazine.
Gates and Buffett wanted to start what can be called the biggest fundraising drive in history by getting billionaires to pledge a certain portion of their wealth to charity during their lifetimes or at deaths. The bar was set at 50% of their wealth so that it would be easier to get people to join the cause. (!)
Warren Buffett himself has personally pledged 99% of his wealth to be given away to charity. He humbly states that while his donation is large in absolute dollar terms, it is less than what most other people give.
“Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day. Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.”
“Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs.”
While most of us will not be able to pledge 99% of our wealth (at least when we are alive anyway) to charity, why not lend out some of our money for a worthy cause? You can start from as low as US$25 by helping to microfinance people in poorer countries. And it’s not even a donation but a loan.
Warren Buffett also shares his thoughts on possessions:
“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.”
Do we really own our possessions, or are our possessions owning us instead? Buying a house means decades of work (and our time) just to pay it off.
Our most precious asset is really our time. For those of us who can’t really afford to give monetarily, we can choose to give it in time. Be it in mentoring or companionship, it is sometimes worth much more to the person receiving.
What are you doing with your time today?