Lexd's Blog

I write about what I want!

Warren Buffett’s Philanthropic Pledge July 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lexd @ 2:53 pm

This is pretty random given the normal subject matter of my blog, but I had to share. If you are unaware, Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates are advocates for philanthropic measures for the world’s very wealthy individuals. They’ve gotten together and created a program called The $600 Billion Challenge, where they ask US billionaires to pledge at least half their net worth to charity now or at the time of their death.

As someone who grew up in the Seattle area, I am a huge fan of Bill and Melinda Gates’ philanthropy efforts (especially through their foundation), so I’ve been watching this develop — and it’s fantastic to see it get such great coverage in the media.

This is super cool in and of itself, but reading Warren Buffett’s official philanthropy pledge gave it an official AWESOME status. Here’s some brain fodder for today:

“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.

My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.)

My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.

The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. 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. My pledge starts us down that course.

A couple lines in here really resonated with me (in bold). Of course Warren Buffett doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck or anything, but for me, his ideas about possessions owning you and living with what you need were particularly poignant. As someone who is packing up her own and her BF’s life in boxes, it’s amazing how material items gain a false sense of importance. I’m already trying to strip as many of these items as I can … and be thankful that I have a wonderful loving boyfriend, intelligent coworkers, and a huge network of incredibly supportive friends and family. Thanks, Warren.

Currently loving: “Takeover” by Jay-Z, Snobby Joes (yum, today’s lunch!), the incredible photo of a Balinese temple on my Islands wall calendar

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