What is your biggest fear in life? Maybe the fear of failure? Some people are afraid of dying. And others are afraid of things like spiders, heights, and enclosed spaces. Do you want to know what my biggest fear is? Unrealized Potential. Not only do I think about this for myself, but also for others. I believe that if we are fortunate enough to have certain skills, opportunities, and abilities that others don’t have, we are obligated to use them. This goes for money too!
Some people are gifted with the ability to understand how money works and capitalize on opportunities to grow their wealth. Others of us maybe weren’t born with that skill, but with hard work and dedication, can learn how to create and multiply money. So here is the question. If a person has the ability and intelligence to learn how to create money, and they don’t, is that selfish? Maybe even irresponsible? At the very least, I think it’s disappointing and a waste of potential. What do you think?
There are people in the world (me included) that believe if we are able, it is our duty to create as much wealth as possible. It is a disservice and a slap in the face to those that don’t have the ability, if we squander the opportunity. Now there still seems to be a common belief out there that the accumulation of wealth is the selfish act, but I challenge you to look at it differently. What if the reason you accumulated wealth was to ultimately give it away to those less fortunate? Those that don’t have the ability to create opportunity for themselves. Would you change your opinion then? Would creating wealth then be viewed as a more noble cause, because of where the money is going?
"If you're in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%." – Warren Buffett
Many of today’s ultra-wealthy are doing just that. Perhaps you have heard of the Giving Pledge. In 2010, the pledge was started by the trio of Bill & Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett. It is basically a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back. Currently in 2020, there are 210 individuals or families from 23 countries that have signed the pledge. The most impressive part is that the total net worth of these people is $1.2 trillion! For comparison sake, if these 210 signatories were their own country, they would rank 15th in world GDP, right between Spain and Mexico! That is some serious commitment to charity. While the Giving Pledge is extremely impressive, it is not the first example of smart business people creating enormous wealth, for the purpose of making the world a better place.
Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland in 1835 and migrated to the U.S. in 1848. While working an entry level job as a telegrapher, Carnegie became interested in investing. He invested his earnings into railroads, oil, and later steel, which enabled him to build a massively success business. The “steel tycoon” found he not only had a knack for identifying business opportunities, he could also produce large amounts of profit and wealth.
From an early age, Carnegie had strong beliefs about money and the responsibilities that came with it. He is famous for saying the following, “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of his community.” So when Carnegie sold his steel company to JP Morgan in 1901 for the sum of $480 million, his belief was really put to the test. Carnegie became the richest person in the world! And if you’re wondering what his net worth is equivalent to in today’s terms, he was worth the same as Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, 2 Oprah Winfreys, and 2 Mark Cubans COMBINED!! That’s a lot of responsibility!
"If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped." – Melinda Gates
I can only imagine that he referred back to his own words from a famous article he wrote 12 years earlier, called The Gospel of Wealth. It describes the responsibility of philanthropy by the self-made rich, using their money for the greater good of society. Carnegie also had very specific ways he felt his money should help the world. He did not believe in charity for the sake of charity, he wanted to provide opportunities to those who were willing to work hard. Here is a quote from The Gospel of Wealth. “In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves; to provide part of the means by which those who desire to improve may do so; to give those who desire to use the aids by which they may rise; to assist, but rarely or never to do all. Neither the individual nor the race is improved by alms-giving." WOW, here is a man who knew exactly how he wanted to help. And help he did!
Carnegie’s hundreds of millions of dollars were directed to focus on education, theaters, parks, music halls, scientific research, and other things that provided opportunities for people in the community. His money is responsible for the creation of 2,509 libraries throughout the world.
At the time of his death in 1919, Andrew Carnegie had given away over 90% of his fortune! And because of it, his legacy lives on through the people who continue to benefit from his philanthropy today.
“The man who dies rich dies in disgrace.” – Andrew Carnegie
While most of us will never be able to amass the fortune of a Buffett or a Carnegie, we all have the responsibility to use our skills to create the most wealth possible. It’s good for you, your family, and for society as a whole.
Good luck and thank you for your philanthropy!