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Billionaires giving their fortunes away

If you were worth $50 billion dollars would you keep it all for yourself? Of the three richest men in the world, two of them are now competing, not for the top spot, but, to give sizable chunks of their fortunes away, in their lifetimes.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who came in number two ($53 billion) on the Forbes Rich List this year, and Warren Buffet, number three ($47 billion), have given away $28 billion and $8 billion dollars respectively. As a result, this year the world’s richest man is Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu ($53.5 billion). Bill Gates would have been the clear winner if he and his wife, Melinda, had not been so generous.

In fact, Bill and Melinda Gates are so passionate about their philanthropic cause that they have created a register for billionaires that encourages them to make a pledge to give away most of their fortunes either in their lifetimes or upon their deaths. Fifty nine mega-wealthy people have now added their names to the register, including Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), George Lucas (Star Wars et al), David Rockerfeller and Warren Buffet.

The idea is that the richest people in the world lead by example. It includes a letter from each contributor explaining their position and motivation to be involved.

In his letter, David Rockfeller says: “Our family continues to be united in the belief that those who have benefited the most from our nation’s economic system have a special responsibility to give back to our society in meaningful ways… I hope that our efforts to expand the scope of philanthropy as individuals, in collaboration with others, and in ways that include not only financial resources but innovative ideas and patience, will be part of the gift we all bequeath to the future.”

Duncan and Nancy Macmillan, science and technology leaders, have this to say: “We are honored to be included within the group making this ‘Giving Pledge’ and grateful not only because of its call to responsibility as members of society but also for its inspiring an attitude of generosity and hope – hope in the idea that we collectively have the resources among us to transform, buildup, and renew our society.”

Film-maker George Lucas is planning to give away his fortune to support education, his passion: “…as long as I have the resources at my disposal, I will seek to raise the bar for future generations of students of all ages. I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race.”

Curious? Need some extra motivation? You may find reading some of the letters at www.givingpledge.org inspires you to take your business to the next level.

Elayn James

Elayn James

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