Buffett: One Problem with Rich People, They’re Old

Money magazine printed the interview in which Warren Buffett announced his intention to give away all of his billions starting…now.

“Okay, now what does that mean for Berkshire?

I’d say virtually nothing. Anybody who knows me also knows how I feel about making Berkshire as good as it can be, and that goal is still going to be there. I won’t do anything differently, because I’m not capable of doing things differently. The name on the stock certificates will change, but nothing else will.

I’ve always made it clear to Berkshire’s shareholders that my wealth from the company would go to philanthropy, so the fact that I’m starting the process is basically a nonevent for them. And, you know, though this may surprise some people, it’s a nonevent for me too in some ways.

Ted Turner, whose philanthropic activities I admire enormously, once told me that his hands shook when he signed a $1 billion pledge. Well, I have zero of that. To me, there’s just no emotional downside to this at all.

And frankly, I have some small hopes that what I’m doing might encourage other very rich people thinking about philanthropy to decide they didn’t necessarily have to set up their own foundations but could look around for the best of those that were up and running and available to handle their money.

People do that all the time with their investments. They put their money with people they think are going to do a better job than they could. There’s some real merit to extending that thought to your wealth, rather than setting up something to be run after your death by a bunch of old business cronies or a staff that eventually comes to dictate the agenda.

Some version of this plan I’ve got is not a crazy thing for some of the next 20 people who are going to die with $1 billion or more to adopt themselves. One problem most rich people have is that they’re old, with contemporaries who are not at their peak years and who don’t have much time ahead of them. I’m lucky in that respect in that I can turn to younger people.

Does it occur to you that it’s somewhat ironic for the second-richest man in the world to be giving untold billions to the first-richest man?

When you put it that way, it sounds pretty funny. But in truth, I’m giving it through him – and, importantly, Melinda as well – not to him.