The book Die With Zero: Getting All You Can From Your Money and Your Life by Bill Perkins has gotten a lot of play in the personal finance space. (Including from me.) The idea being you should shift your consumption to times during your life when you can best enjoy it. In short invest in building memories and not worry about going broke.
This week a billionaire did exactly that. He didn’t spend his money, instead he gave it away. Charles Feeney recently passed away. From the New York Times obituary:
In December 2016, with his donation of $7 million to his alma mater, Cornell University, for student community-service work, Mr. Feeney officially emptied the Atlantic Philanthropies’ accounts. It also fulfilled his pledge to give away virtually all of his wealth before he died, a rarity in the philanthropic world.
Feeney took the idea of frugality seriously as much as he did philanthropy. It took him some 20 years to donate more than $8 billion to charity. From InvestmentNews by Steve Randall:
In his autobiography, “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t” Feeney wrote: “I had one idea that never changed in my mind — that you should use your wealth to help people.” And he did so.
You can argue whether any one person should ever be that wealthy. But Feeney did his best to ensure his fortune found its way into worthy hands. From Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live—and How Their Wealth Harms Us All by Michael Mechanic:
In Feeney’s case, the international nature of the company allowed him and his partners to largely avoid US taxes altogether. But he did give it all back in the end, which really is something—the only Giving Pledger I know of who is even on track to match that feat is MacKenzie Scott, who has been thoughtfully shoveling her former husband Jeff Bezos’ fortune out the door as fast as she can.
I have written about MacKenzie Scott’s philanthropic efforts a few times (here, here, here). The great benefit of giving away money while you are still alive is that you can direct it how you see fit. After you pass the chances of your intentions being followed by future generations is slim, at best.
*For more on Feeney you can listen this edition of the Founders Podcast.