Happy Birthday, Warren

This is from today’s edition of The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Warren Buffett, born in Omaha, Nebraska (1930). In February 2008, he was ranked by Forbes as the richest person in the world, worth about $62 billion. Despite his massive wealth, he lives relatively frugally, still residing in the home he bought in 1958 for $31,500, driving his own car, and allotting himself an annual salary from his investment company of about $100,000.

In 1988, he said: “I don’t have a problem with guilt about money. The way I see it is that my money represents an enormous number of claim checks on society. It’s like I have these little pieces of paper that I can turn into consumption. If I wanted to, I could hire 10,000 people to do nothing but paint my picture every day for the rest of my life. And the GNP would go up. But the utility of the product would be zilch, and I would be keeping those 10,000 people from doing AIDS research, or teaching, or nursing. I don’t do that though. I don’t use very many of those claim checks. There’s nothing material I want very much. And I’m going to give virtually all of those claim checks to charity when my wife and I die.” In 2006, he announced his plans to give 83 percent of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and he began transferring stocks from his company to their foundation.

He also said, “If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.”

Happy Birthday, Warren. While I’ll never understand or even want to embrace the expertise that brought you your fortune, I certainly believe that you’ve got things well in hand, and your head and heart in the right place. Best wishes for many healthy years ahead.

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