Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Giving Pledge

The local newspaper picked up an article that was originally printed in Forbes magazine. The headline read, 67 people equal the wealth of 3.2 million. It grabbed my attention. I read further: 67 of the world's richest people's wealth matches the poorest half of the world, or 3.2 million people. It took a few minutes for that to sink in. 67 people. That's a few more than attend my small church in a month. I saw a few of them on 60 Minutes this month. The Gates are the richest people in the world at 76 billion or equal to 156 million of the poorest people in the world. Warren Buffett was there and the founder of AOL. They were at a gathering of the Rich to discuss The Giving Pledge which amounts to a promise to give away half or more of their wealth. 8 people have signed The Giving Pledge so far. That could free up 150 billion to help 300 million people. Most of the people made their money the old fashioned way. They earned it by being innovative entrepreneurs. No harm, no foul and no one is forcing them to give anything away. Buffett says he will give away 99.9% of his wealth. He won't leave much to his family because he believes large inheritances are unhealthy.

The United States with half of the world's wealth is a leader in foreign aid giving and as a nation charitable giving is high. Still the gap between rich and poor is growing and the little most people in world try to get by on is stunning. The average Indonesian laborer makes 39 cents an hour. It's difficult to get our minds around that gap when we live in a place that continually reminds us of what we could have if we spent more on ourselves. The website tells us that if we have any money saved, a hobby, a few changes of clothes, 2 cars of any age, and we live in our own home, we are among the top 5% of the richest in the world. If we earn 50,000 a year it puts us in the top 1%.

It's easy to live in the United States and feel poor or at least not rich. We are reminded that wages are not increasing as fast as expenses, and that we are not saving enough. We can get a seven year loan on a new truck so we can have more than we can afford, at least. We watch Downton Abbey and identify with the servants. It is a good thing to keep the Rich - Poor gap in mind when we are feeling like we really need a new something, or a night out at a nice restaurant, or an indulgent trip to somewhere else! There are websites that will tell you exactly where your wealth ranks you in the world. That is sobering too since I usually rank myself somewhere way below Oprah, or the latest mega contract of a professional athlete. Poor Me! Not so, Rich me and Bill and Melinda Gates are not the only people who need a Giving Pledge.

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