I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my life. Not only have I had a long and successful career and been blessed with a beautiful family, but I’ve also had the opportunity to give back, which has been a reward beyond measure. And as I get older and begin to put my affairs in order, I want to reaffirm my commitment to advancing the causes I care so much about. Which is why, when I die, I plan to donate my fortune to charity, minus the $40 billion I will have buried with me.
Nothing would bring me more satisfaction than knowing that the 45 percent of my wealth that’s not interred alongside me will go on to do good in the world.
While I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished at Berkshire Hathaway, having grown a small textile business valued at a mere $11.50 per share into a conglomerate that’s now listed today at some $200,000 a share, I’m even more proud of using my wealth to support organizations doing critical work in education, women’s health, and animal rights—so giving away the money that won’t be sealed in a tomb next to my remains was an easy decision to make. To me it’s simple: Even after I’m dead in the ground along with roughly half my net worth, I want to continue making a difference in people’s lives.
And while I could easily be entombed with more than $40 billion—say $50 billion or even $60 billion—it’s just not necessary.
I have made careful arrangements to ensure that my wealth is distributed to the charitable organizations that matter most to me. From my $72 billion fortune, $8 billion will go to the Sherwood Foundation to promote equality through social justice, $6.5 billion will go toward empowering women and girls through the NoVo Foundation, $5 billion will go to the GAVI Alliance to expand childhood immunization, $7 billion will go to Heifer International and the World Food Programme to help small farmers, and $5.5 billion will go to Save the Children.
The rest will be stacked around my dead body in towers of $100 bills and gold bullion.
Some people may question my choice. After all, it’s my money, so why not go to the grave with all $72 billion? But extravagance for its own sake has never particularly appealed to me. I already have everything I need: friends, family, a roof over my head, and enough cash to fill my 5,600-square-foot, multi-room, high-strength steel crypt several times over.
And while I could easily be entombed with more than $40 billion—say $50 billion or even $60 billion—it’s just not necessary. That additional money could help so many people around the world who are struggling to meet their basic needs. In my mind, as long as there’s enough money set aside for me to live out the rest of my days comfortably and then later to surround my lifeless body in a 100-foot-thick cocoon of hard currency, I’m happy to give the rest away.
I challenge everyone with a net worth of over $1 billion to do the same. Michael Bloomberg, Carlos Slim, and other members of the 1 percent, I’m speaking to you directly. Yes, I understand the temptation of encircling your body with every cent of your fortune inside a laser-sealed bathysphere and being dropped into the Mariana Trench for a sea burial, or stuffing your corpse and all of your riches into a capsule and launching yourself spaceward to float on indefinitely beyond the edges of the solar system. But I encourage you to only do so with a portion of your wealth and to give the rest away.
I’m willing to set the example. If it requires someone of my stature to take the lead and have only a slight majority of his wealth buried with him under 20 layers of reinforced concrete in a mile-deep hole at an undisclosed location, then so be it.
I just want to be known in death as I’ve hopefully been known in life: a kind and selfless man.