Considering my environment as an African where most of the rich in our society think more about themselves and immediate members of their family, I tumble on the story of humblest billionaire whose humility is stranger than fiction and so his generosity to worthy causes. This is not a billionaire in Naira and Kobo. He is a billionaire in hard currency, US Dollar. He is not a billionaire whose investments are through borrowed funds. In fact he is reputed to have recently donated $30 billion to charity to fight disease, extreme poverty and conflict across the globe. While most local rich men believe in the intimidation of their workers and people in the communities with their greediness and avarice through excessive accumulation of earthly and flamboyant personal effects, Warren Buffet an American investor and businessman is a lesson on humility and philanthropy. In spite of his huge wealth, Buffett is renowned for his unpretentious and frugal lifestyle.
After a recent interview he granted CNBC, Warren Buffet, the third richest man on earth as at September 2007 (behind Carlos Slim and Bill Gates) becomes a topic of discussions on various online fora on his bizarre though emulative lifestyles.
He still exudes humility and simplicity even as a billionaire in dollar’s term. Unlike typical new money bags, popular referred to in some neighborhood’s parlance as money-misses-road; he doesn’t show off with flashy cars and intimidating mansions all over the place. According to a report, he lives in the same small 3-bedroom house in mid-town Omaha, which he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house.
Amazingly, it is reported that he drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him. Because of his genuine love and tremendous financial and moral supports he offers to the needy and humanity around the world, he doesn’t fear danger as his house does not have a wall or a fence. The report adds that “he does not socialize with the high society crowd. His past time after he gets home is to make himself some pop corn and watch Television”
If that is incredibly unbelievable, then take this: “Warren Buffet does not carry a cell phone, nor has a computer on his desk and never travels by private jet, although he owns the world’s largest private jet company.” Yet with an estimated current net worth over US$50 billion, his 2006 annual salary of about $100,000 is infinitesimal by all standards compare to remuneration of other CEOs in similar and relatively smaller companies.
There is also a report that Bill Gates, the world’s richest man met him for the first time only 5 years ago. Bill Gates did not think he had anything in common with Warren Buffet. So he had scheduled his meeting only for half hour. But when Gates met him, the meeting lasted for ten hours and Bill Gates became a devotee of Warren Buffet.
Another report states that Buffet bought his first share at age 11 and he now regrets that he started too late! At age 14 he bought a small farm with savings from delivering newspapers. Today his company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 63 companies. He writes only one letter each year to the CEOs of these companies, giving them goals for the year. He never holds meetings or calls them on a regular basis. He has given his CEO’s only two rules. Rule number 1: do not lose any of your share holder’s money. Rule number 2: Do not forget rule number 1.
His popular advice to young people, which is variously quoted is that: “Stay away from credit cards and invest in yourself and Remember: Money doesn’t create man but it is the man who created money; live your life as simple as you are; don’t do what others say, just listen to them, but do what you feel is good; don’t go on brand name; just wear those things in which you feel is comfortable; don’t waste your money on unnecessary things, just spend on what you really need . After all it’s your life then why give chance to others to rule your life.”
Warren Edward Buffett, popularly called “Sage of Omaha” was born on August 30, 1930 at Omaha, Nebraska). His life has a humble beginning but which is instructive to those interested in making it big in the business world without losing their sense of decency and integrity. At tender age he was known as a bookworm who read to satisfy his passion in seeking for knowledge and was good at doing complex mathematical computations in his head. He began working at his father’s brokerage at the age of 11, the year made his first stock purchase. At the age of 14, he began installing pinball machines in barber shops and spent his take to buy acres of farmland which he then rented to tenant farmers. He graduated near the top 20 in his class at the age of 16. He attended Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania before he transferred to the University of Nebraska. He obtained a Master’s degree in economics from Columbia University.
Last year he made a commitment to give away his fortune to charity, with 83% of it going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, instead of creating a foundation on his own name. The donation amounts to approximately $30 billion. The foundation’s mission is to enhance healthcare, reduce extreme poverty, and expand educational opportunities and access to information technology, especially in developing countries including Nigeria.
There is a lesson to learn from this devoted family man who believes in the equality of men and service to humanity. If a very wealthy, from all indices, still lives a simple life and works assiduously to support others why are other the less mortals derive joy in oppressing and harassing the poor and the less privileged citizens in the society? The world is a transit. Therefore let us work towards living behind legacies of love, care, compassion and sacrifice for others. That is what differentiates the wealthy man from a richman.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in New Nigerian December 14, Weekly Trust December 22, Daily Sun December 25, 2007 and Daily Independent January 18, 2008