“You'd be surprised by what emotion makes people do." -- Brit Bennett, "The Vanishing Half"

Saturday, November 19, 2022

I'm Giving Away My Fortune!

     I just found out that I have some surprisingly valuable art hanging on the walls of my house. I am also in possession of a remarkably prized collection of rare, antique shoes. But more on those in a minute.

     I live a modest lifestyle, but you should know that many of America's wealthiest people live fairly modest lifestyles as well. Investor Warren Buffett famously lives in a house in Omaha, NE, that he bought in 1958 for $31,500. Now it's worth a little over $1 million, but that's pocket change for someone worth more than $100 billion.

     I paid much more than $31,000 for my house. So I must be even wealthier than Warren Buffett, right? The fact that I drive an eight-year-old Subaru shouldn't fool you into thinking that I can't make a substantial charitable donation. And so today I am making a major announcement.

     I was inspired to make my pledge by the news last week that Jeff Bezos announced plans to give away most of his $124 billion fortune -- all except a few billion or so. So now, like Bezos, I am "establishing a framework to determine how to donate my wealth."

     Warren Buffett has founded an organization called The Giving Pledge. This is a campaign to encourage wealthy people to contribute a majority of their money to philanthropic causes. Bill Gates has signed onto this pledge. So have Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Carl Icahn and others. If they follow through, they will each be left with less than $50 billion. And some of the lesser lights, who aren't even worth $10 billion, may have to scrape by with only $1 billion or so!

     So I am now personally and publicly making the promise:  like Jeff Bezos and the others, before I die I will donate every single cent that I own above the level of $1 billion.

One of our priceless paintings
     Of course, I did not found a major internet company. So my fortune is a little less than $124 billion. Also, part of the Bezos fortune is supported by armies of Amazon workers, making $15 to $18 an hour, who contribute mightily to the Bezos bank account. I do not employ any minimum-wage workers who can fatten up my fortune.

     Also, I can't bolster my personal Fort Knox by firing thousands of employees in the name of "rightsizing," the way Zuckerberg and Musk are doing. And unlike some billionaires, I actually do pay my taxes. Every month the government grabs 10% tax, as well as the charge for Medicare, even before my Social Security benefit lands in the bank account.

     However, I do save a lot of money compared to Jeff Bezos and the others. For example, however Bezos avoids income tax, he does have to pay real-estate tax, property insurance and general upkeep on his 27,000-square-foot home in Washington, DC, as well as his 15-bedroom apartment in New York City and his $165 million mansion in L.A. 

     Meanwhile, I just pay for a Buffett-level home on a standard suburban street. Also, think how much I save by not own my own private jet. And just this past summer I saved $28 million by not buying a ticket for a 15-minute Bezos Blue Origin trip into space.

     Already I'm saving $100 million, making me $100 million richer than I otherwise would be.

     Also, I did inherit a substantial amount of money. When I was a kid my Aunt Alice gave me $2 for my birthday . . . every year! The dollars were slipped into an envelope, and when I saw George Washington's face peering out at me through the little hole, I felt like a million dollars . . . back when a million dollars meant something. If I had only held onto that money and invested it in Amazon stock when it went public in 1997, or Apple when it . . . no, no, we won't go there.

At $218,000 per pair they add up
     I am not at liberty to reveal how large my fortune is. However, just last week I not only started "establishing a framework to determine how to donate my wealth," but I began executing the plan. I sent one check to our local food bank for $25, and another for the school clothing drive. 

     Maybe that doesn't sound like much. But, for me, it takes a bite out of my account. And there's more to come, since it's just the start of the giving season. Meanwhile, I wonder what causes you support.

     But back to that art. Just last week a Cezanne was auctioned for $138 million. A Seurat went for $149 million. Look at that painting. I've got lots just like it. Just think how much I'll get for my collection!

     Also last week, one pair of Steve Jobs' Birkenstock sandals sold for $218,000. Well, B has a closet full of old shoes . . . not to mention the boots and sneakers in the back of the garage. What'd'ya think we'll get for them? The Giving Pledge . . . get ready. It's all going to charity. Thank you very much!


Trudi said...

World Central Kitchen. They rush to where there are hungry people and feed them... Extraordinarily low organization overhead... money goes for food.

gigi-hawaii said...

Haha! I donate no money to charity, but I do donate items. Don't know how much they are worth, as we don't itemize our donations. Anyway, I like your satire, Tom. Always a pleasure to read this kind of spoof. But, hey, there is a kernel of truth in all of this, isn't there?

Celia said...

Great post, what a saver you are. :-) I give to our local food bank, dollars go much farther than purchased groceries and to a local homeless shelter that helps people get medical care and jobs. Give my gently used clothing to an agency who gives them away rather than charging for them. It's not a lot but there you are.

DUTA said...

'Less is more', and since we don't take any of our material possessions with us on our final journey, I suggest to myself and to others: de-clutter, donate, embark on a minimalistic way of life!

Rita said...

You are so clever. I love this article. Since I wrote often about corporate wrongdoing on my blog, I really like you pointing out how the other half lives.

Arkansas Patti said...

Enjoyed your post. You have given me a goal to shoot for and like you I promise to donate everything over 1 billion before I die. That is a fairly safe pledge:)
Actually I donate now to the local food bank and a no kill animal shelter. Best I can do.

Kay said...

This is so funny! We shall donate to charity anything over $1 billion in our account when we're gone. We do donate to several causes that our dear to our hearts though. We like the Hawaii food bank, public radio and TV, and numerous environmental and world health organizations.

ApacheDug said...

Enjoyed the read and that's very generous of you Tom! If another one of those Mega Million lotteries comes around with a 2 billion dollar jackpot, and you happen to win, we'll see what you have to say then ;^)

Tom said...

Doug -- Ha, ha, trying to put me on the spot, are you?!? But I'm a man of my word. If I win $2 billion I'll only keep $1 billion for myself and give the rest away. Of course, that would require me to start buying lottery tickets ...

Linda Myers said...

I have a friend who is leaving several million to charities. She has no children or family. I, however, have many children, and as I expect they will help me out as I age, they'll be the beneficiaries of whatever is left. My parents did the same for me and my sister, so it's kind of an expectation of mine. My husband, one of ten children and recipient of no inheritance, thinks we should spend down to the last dime.

Ed said...

Not early enough, but quite awhile ago, I read a book called, "The Millionaire Next Door" which transformed my life completely. It redefined to me what being a millionaire actually meant. Sometime after that, I was completely transformed again by reading "Bogleheads Guide to Investing". I have lived the life defined by both books since and my local charities are the recipients of my good fortune. What I donate now would have been inconceivable to the me 20 years ago. Bezos may scoff at the amounts, but then as far as I know, he hasn't contributed a dime to my local charities.

Tabor said...

i just am happy that I never wanted to invest in bitcoin or cybercoin or whatever that ponzi scheme called itself.

Olga said...

I look at all of Don's stuff nd think "Junk." He looks at it and thinks, "I can sell this for cash." He did make about 500 bucks selling old jeans recently. I look at my own stuff and think, Junk I should donate to Goodwill," so I will never be rich. Fun post, Tom.

Wisewebwoman said...

Such wealth in the hands of these billionaires (all not very nice people when one thinks about it) is capitalisms run amok and you can be sure very little tax is paid on it. Tax dodging experts not paying their fair share. Of them all I think Gates is the only one with a smidgin of a conscience.
I might have mentioned this before, but in my former life as a tax accountant it was the poorest of my clients who donated the most as a percentage of gross income. Hoarding money is an addiction too.

Anvilcloud said...

Very cleverly done! 👍
As for us, we still have a foster child in El Salvador, and we contribute to the local cat lady who is not publicly funded. She runs a kitten rescue, and all cats get the necessary veterinary treatment. She is quite remarkable. 😺

Anonymous said...

Tongue in cheek...This post had me smiling the whole way through!

I am wealthy by anyone's standards who matter. I have a wealth of family and friends, food in my belly and a cozy place I call home. What else really matters?

It takes a while for some of us to realize what's really important in our lives. I love to support locally: local food pantry, and some folks who barely make it financially on their social security. Warms the heart to know we can make a difference in others' lives.

Thanks for a great post Tom.


RetirementCoffeeShop said...

Funny post! My son and I had a discussion the other day about the owner of Hobby Lobby giving away his fortune. I can't imagine any of them giving away every dime. I'm sure most will still reserve a billion or two or even 100's of millions in a family trust somewhere. None of them will be on the streets.

Bob Lowry said...

What a fun read, Tom. I was rushing to get through each paragraph just to see what twist you'd introduce. And, to think you passed up the space trip and the jet, just to make our world a better place!

Have a great Thanksgiving and keep us smiling. That is priceless.

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