In May 2009, a group of the most powerful individuals in the world held a secret meeting to discuss the plans for their significant wealth. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett convinced David Rockefeller to to preside over the first of several billionaire meet-ups. Their idea was first to discuss philanthropy with like-minded individuals and determine how they could go about promoting the idea of giving wealth away to worthy charities and organizations.
Through several follow-up meetings, all closed to media, the billionaire cabal agreed in principle to encourage themselves and other super-rich individuals in the country to pledge to contribute 50% of their wealth throughout their lifetime or in legacy to charity. Fortune Magazine broke the story yesterday.
If you want to keep current with who is pledging what, monitor givingpledge.org, which will be updated some time in the future with those who pledge to participate in this charitable challenge.
Let’s not forget that billionaires who give away 50% of their wealth will still be left with more money than they know what to do with. If they wish to leave a portion of their estate to children and grandchildren, there could be more than enough left over. Fortune estimates that 50% of the wealth of the top 400 wealthiest individuals in the United States could amount to $600 billion.
It’s easy to be jaded when hearing these large dollar amounts. The government recently invested over a trillion dollars in economic stimulus, and numbers like these have been in the news recently. $600 billion would have an amazing impact for philanthropic beneficiaries. There is a chance here to shape society in ways that a government could never do.
What about those of us who aren’t billionaires? Is giving away 50% of your net worth during your life time or at the time of your passing realistic? Well, giving away charity at that level during while you are living and accruing life-related expenses, like food and shelter, could be a challenge.
Will you join the pledge and donate half of your net worth to charity? Is philanthropy at these levels a luxury only the super rich can enjoy?
Published or updated June 17, 2010.