The world’s seventh-richest person explained how in 2006 he pledged to distribute all of his Berkshire Hathaway shares—more than 99% of his net worth—to philanthropy. With his latest $4.1 billion distribution, he’s already more than halfway there.
The rest of his 238,624 shares, worth about $100 billion, remain destined for charity—with Buffett planning to continue giving to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the Sherwood Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Novo Foundation, and the Gates Foundation.
Buffett puts his generosity simply: “Over many decades I have accumulated an almost incomprehensible sum simply by doing what I love to do. I’ve made no sacrifice nor has my family. Compound interest, a long runway, wonderful associates, and our incredible country have simply worked their magic. Society has a use for my money; I don’t.”
He states, “A much more admirable form of philanthropy than mine involves the giving of personal time and effort. I’ve done little of that. Those who give their love and time in order to directly help others—perhaps adding a monetary gift that requires them to give up the purchase of something meaningful for their own use—are the heroes of philanthropy. America has millions of such givers.
“These people receive no recognition whether they mentor the young, assist the elderly or devote precious hours to community betterment. They do not have buildings named after them, but they silently make those establishments—schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, whatever—work smoothly to benefit those who have received the short straws in life.”
Buffett joined the exclusive club of people worth more than $100 billion in March, after shares in Berkshire Hathaway rose to history levels in 2021.
Though some of the advice in Buffett’s latest statement goes out only to the few, it’s still wise and worth heeding: “After much observation of super-wealthy families, here’s my recommendation: Leave the children enough so that they can do anything but not enough that they can do nothing.
“I’m delighted that my three children—now in their mid-60s—pursue philanthropic efforts that involve both money and time. More important, they are happy that they can be involved in helping others. They have their mother’s genes.”
A co-founder of the Giving Pledge—which encourages the super-rich to give their wealth away—the billionaire businessmen finishes his latest release on a hopeful note: “America’s best days most certainly lie ahead.
“What’s happened here since 1776 has not been a historical fluke. Philanthropy will continue to pair human talent with financial resources. So, too, will business and government. Each force has its particular strengths and weaknesses. Combined, they will make the world a better place—a much better place—for future generations.”