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Wealth Conversation -2
At 81 and one of the world’s three richest, Warren Buffet’s lifestyle belies his humongous wealth. Known as the “oracle of Omaha”, he has lived in the same house for over 30 years, drives a common American Chevrolet SUV and cherishes an occasional cheese hamburger. Yet he is worth over $60billion (about twice the amount in Nigeria’s foreign reserves)! Why does he want all that wealth if all he needed was a life of frugality? Why not buy an island or a small country and simply name it after himself? What does he know that we need to? Here’s the text of an interview he had with Truett Cathy in the book Wealth; Is it Worth It? Enjoy.
Q: Warren, how do you define wealth?
A: Wealth is having enough. That means to some people, no matter how much they have, they can’t really be wealthy because they want more than they’ve got. Somebody once said that success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get. Once you can take care of yourself and your family and everything you need, beyond that is a bunch of claim cheques. If you think about money, it’s a claim cheque on other people’s products and services. When you’ve got enough to take care of yourself, more claim cheques don’t do you any good. But they can do a lot of good for all kinds of other people. When you’ve got enough you ought to start seeing that OTHER PEOPLE HAVE ENOUGH.
Q: You are in the process of giving away billions of dollars. What is your motivation?
A: Giving to others has been a philosophy that my wife and I agreed on back in our twenties. I felt then that I would compound money at a high rate. Therefore, if I focussed on accumulating it for a significant period of time, there would be a huge amount of money to be used later, as opposed to giving away the money earlier. She wanted it done earlier on. When she died in 2004, I had to put a plan into motion to make sure it was given away. I have arranged that all the money – and it will be more than 99% of what I earned – will be distributed by, at the latest, ten years after my estate is settled. Not fifty or 100 years. Who knows what people would be doing with money then? I have people I’m confident in who are distributing it now. The money doesn’t do me any good. It’s just a bunch of stock certificates that have been there for about forty years. I’ve never given away anything I need. I’ve got everything I want and everything my family needed. I’ve been blessed in a million ways. Beyond that, those stock certificates can do all kinds of things for other people. They can vaccinate millions of children. They can’t do anything for me other than make me feel like I have more money than somebody else. But so what? I’ve never given up a movie, a dinner or a vacation trip to give away money. I happen to have a lot more than my family and I need, and other people can use it very well.
Q: What about your children?
A: I don’t believe in family dynasties. America was built on the idea of equality of opportunity. The idea of dynasties goes directly against that. I can build a pyramid to myself. That’s what people did in Egypt. They made all kinds of people work to build them a pyramid so that a couple of thousand years later, people would look at it. I don’t have any inclination in that way at all. I want my kids to live well, and they do. They are productive citizens who participate in philanthropy in a big way. Each one of the three of them spends all day working at that.
Q: I know that you are encouraging other wealthy people to share their wealth. How is that going?
A: Bill and Melinda Gates and myself have this campaign and we’ve gotten 59 people in the Forbes 400 to pledge to give away more than half of their wealth. Most of these people were going to do it anyway, but they are more committed. The commitment will increase the percentage that some people will give away. I talked to one fellow – I had sent some material to him – and he sent the material to his children. So his two boys called him up and said; “Dad, do it. It makes more sense for you to give away than pouring money unto us”
Q: What do you tell young people who have not yet become wealthy?
A: I have college students visit me six times a year – and I get a lot of questions on philanthropy. I tell them that love is the one thing you can’t give too much of. The more you try to give away, the more you get back. There is no way you can deplete your store of love. But if you don’t give it out, love disappears. You can’t hold on to it. Or it goes away.
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!Share