- Warren Buffett gifted $4.1 billion to philanthropic groups on Wednesday.
- The investor has now given away 50% of his Berkshire Hathaway “A” shares.
- Buffett discussed his wealth, his approach to philanthropy, and his taxes.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Warren Buffett donated $4.1 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock to good causes on Wednesday, he said in a statement. The famed investor has now given away 50% of his Berkshire “A” shares, which account for more than 99% of his net worth.
The Berkshire CEO still owns close to 239,000 “A” shares, down from nearly 475,000 in 2006, when he pledged to donate virtually all of his money to charity and began distributing stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four other foundations each year. His remaining shares are worth about $100 billion.
Buffett reflected on his wealth amd his philanthropy in the statement marking his giving milestone. He also revealed he was resigning as a trustee of the Gates Foundation, weeks after its founders, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, announced they were divorcing.
The investor said that giving away excess money is the “easiest deed in the world,” but argued that distributing billions of dollars is trickier, especially when the goal is tackling complex problems such as cyberterrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
Buffett also framed his massive fortune as a product of his passion for investing, and said he doesn’t need the money.
“Over many decades I have accumulated an almost incomprehensible sum simply by doing what I love to do,” he said. “I’ve made no sacrifice nor has my family. Compound interest, a long runway, wonderful associates and our incredible country have simply worked their magic. Society has a use for my money; I don’t.”
The 90-year-old hastily added that “these remarks are no swan song” and he’s not quitting Berkshire yet. “I still relish being on the field and carrying the ball,” he said. “But I’m clearly playing in a game that, for me, has moved past the fourth quarter into overtime.”
Buffett tipped his hat to people who donate their time and effort to helping others with minimal recognition, describing them as “heroes of philanthropy” and their work as “much more admirable” than giving money.
He gave the example of his late sister, Doris, who took charge of fielding the thousands of letters seeking help from Buffett each year. He labeled her efforts at the Letters Foundation as “retail” philanthropy, in contrast to his “wholesale” approach of trusting others to deploy his money.
The Berkshire chief also touched on his taxes, days after ProPublica reported that he and other billionaires pay minimal federal income tax relative to their wealth. Buffett emphasized that he’s only enjoyed about 40 cents of tax savings for every $1,000 he’s given to charity, and explained why he pays very little income tax and how his fortune is being put to work.
“I have relatively little income,” he said. “My wealth remains almost entirely deployed in tax-paying businesses that I own through my Berkshire stock-holdings, and Berkshire regularly reinvests earnings to further grow its output, employment and earnings.”
Buffett also expressed support for Congress adjusting tax policy for charitable contributions, especially for donors who get “imaginative” with their deductions.
Moreover, the Berkshire chief explained why he waited so long to give his money away. He was “charmed by the results of compounding” and had “the desire to retain unassailable control of Berkshire,” he said.
Finally, the investor offered a piece of advice to super-wealthy people on how much money to give the next generation: “Leave the children enough so that they can do anything, but not enough that they can do nothing.”
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