Mark Zukerberg announced he and his wife will donate 99% of their Facebook stock to charity over their lifetimes. The stock is now valued at $45 billion.
Warren Buffett has given away over $20 billion.
Even with the tax deductions, this is certainly generous and praiseworthy of them. But consider what they are keeping. Warren Buffett’s net worth is about $64 billion (vague because it depends on a changing stock value). That still leaves him with $44 billion, give or take a few.
A billion is a thousand million. Most of us would be happy with $1 million. $10 million would guarantee no money concerns for the rest of our lives. $100 million is inconceivable. But $1,000 million? Who could ever spend that much, no matter how extravagant their tastes? A $100 million will buy a pretty nice house—including utilities, furnishings, and a lifetime of maid service. $1 billion will buy 10 of them. Warren Buffet could buy 440 of them even after his charitable donations.
The problem with entrepreneurs and investors is they see their net worth statements as ends in themselves. They have gotten into the habit of watching them grow and want this to continue as a measure of their success, even when it no longer has any relevance to their well-being. We are all susceptible to the same illogic. We are devastated if the value of our home falls, even when we have no plans of selling.