- Among the top four richest billionaires, Jeff Bezos is the only one who hasn’t established a charitable foundation.
- Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all have committed to giving their children relatively modest inheritances and to giving almost all of their wealth to charitable causes.
In the race to become the world’s first minted trillionaire, Jeff Bezos has a solid lead over runner-up Bill Gates. As for the third and fourth spots, the net worths of Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are practically neck-and-neck, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. For people keeping score, four out of the top five world’s richest people are Americans, Zuckerberg’s wealth now tops Buffett’s and the majority of these wealthy people have gained their wealth via technology companies.
Among the world’s top billionaires, there’s a competition secondary to amassing the world’s wealth: Giving it all away. A common thread among the self-made billionaires — aside from their massive fortunes — is generosity and commitment to philanthropy.
Take Gates, for example. Last year, he donated $4.6 billion worth of Microsoft shares, nearly 5 percent of his $94.9 billion fortune. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been Gates’ primary focus since he left his day job at Microsoft in 2008 and stepped down as chairman of the board in 2014. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, the foundation has granted $41.3 billion in charitable donations since its establishment in 2000.
Furthering their commitment to philanthropy, The Gates created the Giving Pledge alongside their friend and fellow billionaire-philanthropist Warren Buffett in 2010. Buffett has long maintained that he will give away more than 99 percent of his wealth, which is currently $82.1 billion. He routinely makes charitable gifts to his foundations and the foundations for each of his three children.
At 34, Facebook’s CEO is the youngest of the super-rich, and Zuckerberg also seems to be following the playbook of the super-rich. Buffett, Gates and Zuckerberg have all committed to giving their children modest inheritances relative to their massive fortunes. Zuckerberg’s money will largely go to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which he founded with his wife, Priscilla Chan. The LLC is committed to “supporting science through basic biomedical research and education through personalized learning,” and the couple pledged 99 percent of their Facebook shares — worth about $45 billion when their daughter was born in 2015, or a little more than half his current net worth of $82.1 billion.
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Jeff Bezos’ attitude toward charitable giving is the most elusive among the billionaires’ club. The Amazon CEO bucks the trend among his fellow billionaires and has never publicly said what he plans to do with his money. You won’t find his name on the Giving Pledge and he has yet to establish a personal foundation for his philanthropic contributions. In January, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, donated $33 million to TheDream.us, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. In contrast, Bezos’ net worth is $144 billion.
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It’s likely a few zeros are separating you from the mega-rich, but you can still donate your money to qualified organizations — and get rewarded with an IRS tax deduction.
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All net worths are according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.