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A Letter from a Billionaire

Warren Buffett's halfway there.

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Warren Buffett (Photo credit: Fortune Live Media)
Warren Buffett—famous billionaire and cofounder of The Giving Pledge—released a new letter last week announcing that he is halfway to his promise of giving away 99% of his wealth before he dies. As is typically the case for him, Buffett used the moment to share his perspective on broader issues. While the entire letter is worth reading, I’ll highlight a few passages.

He emphasized how easy giving should be for the wealthy, a message he’ll undoubtedly promote for as long as he can.


The easiest deed in the world is to give away money that will never be of any real use to you or your family. The giving is painless and may well lead to a better life for both you and your children.

He also duly praised the stewards of our charitable contributions, along with every else who gives their more meager donations or more substantial time to help those around them. His humility here is apt. As rich as he is, if he gave all his wealth away at once it wouldn’t be more than a quarter of what Americans give altogether in a single year. All of our small donations add up.

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.

Last, I appreciate his optimism and how he recognizes the multiple institutions we need for a flourishing society.

I’m optimistic. Though naysayers abound – as they have throughout my life – 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.

Warren Buffett’s generosity will be rightly remembered as historic. And still, it won’t be enough. For as much good they’re positioned to do—a massive amount of good—the world’s billionaires can’t save us. Only we can do that.

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