In many people’s minds, a high net-worth is synonymous with big spending and an extravagant lifestyle.
There are many who prove this to at least be partially true. However, several of the world’s most wealthy are not only apt living humble lifestyles, many go to lengths of giving large portions of their fortune away to various charitable organizations.
Money is important. Enough of it can be life changing. There’s no arguing that point (not that many people will).
But how important is it really? Specifically, what does it tell us of the importance or function of money when some of the ultra-wealthy (I’d argue the more enlightened) use so little of it and give the lion’s share of their wealth away to those in need?
You could argue that, “Yeah, well, it’s easy for them. They have nothing to worry about.” That’s a valid point. Studies have shown that where money really makes us happy is when we go from stressing over a lack of to having enough to cover all our basic expenses (about $75,000 a year for most people living in the U.S. today). Anything more than that doesn’t make much difference in or well-being. In other words, it’s not about what we want (money) so much as it is about what we don’t want (the stress of not having it).
But the example that these humble billionaires set is in line with this idea of money we just spoke about. And it tells of something more: that once we have enough, we have what is arguably a responsibility to give to others so that they might also rise up from below the tide of hardship, whether economic or otherwise.
It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.– Saint Augustine
Whatever you believe about money, here are eight billionaires who are so humble they’ll make you completely rethink your priorities.
1. David Cheriton – Stanford professor
David Cheriton, one of the more unique billionaires on this list as he made his fortune almost entirely by investing in Google early on ($1.3 billion of it), hates the idea of living extravagantly.
“I’m actually quite offended by that sort of thing…These people who build houses with 13 bathrooms and so on, there’s something wrong with them,” Cheriton told the Edmonton Journal.
Cheriton’s most recent big-ticket purchase? A 2012 Honda Odyssey.
2. Tony Hsieh – Zappos CEO
Zappos’s Tony Hsieh is one of the most well-known CEOs alive today, even in the scope of the Silicon Valley tech age. However, what many don’t know is how modestly he lives.
After selling the advertising network LinkExchange he founded in 1996, instead of living it up he invested all of the money into a new project and continued working to turn Las Vegas, Nevada into a bustling new tech hub.
According to those close to him, Hsieh’s lifestyle hasn’t changed since his early days in business. Erik Moore, an early Zappos investor, said “Money just doesn’t matter to him. If he only had a million dollars left, he’d spend $999,999 to make Vegas work. He would be just as happy with a dollar in the bank and being around people he cares about and care about him.”
3. Christy Walton – Philanthropist
As the widow of Walmart heir John T. Walton, Christy Walton (formerly Tallant) inherited part of her husband’s fortune along with their son when he passed. Today, she’s said to have a net worth of roughly $7.3 billion. But it’s what she’s done with that fortune that has defined her legacy as an individual.
Over the past two decades, Walton has given several billion dollars to various charitable foundations one of which is the Walton’s own organization, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation and serves several foundations in various capacities including The Philanthropy Roundtable and San Diego Zoological Society.
When her son Lukas was born, it was her goal to give him a normal childhood, so they lived in the primarily blue-collar National City, California where he could receive exactly that. She now lives quietly in Jackson, Wyoming, still dedicating her efforts to charity.
4. Warren Buffett – CEO and Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway
Everyone knows Warren Buffett and has heard of his astronomical wealth. But what many don’t know is that he’s notoriously frugal to the point of being ritualistic, despite being worth nearly $50 billion.
Each morning, he drives himself to work in a gold cadillac. Before getting to the office, he picks up one of three different breakfast items at McDonalds, the most expensive of which amounts to a whopping $3.17.
In addition to this, he gives billions of dollars of his wealth to various charitable foundations, several of which were started by his children, who have each went on to devote themselves to causes which are close to their heart.
5. Carlos Slim Helú – Honorary chairman, América Móvil
With an estimated net worth of $67.1 billion as of 2018’s most recent numbers, former Telmex CEO Carlos Slim could do virtually anything he’d like. However, he chooses to live humbly.
Slim still lives in the same modest 6-bedroom house that he and his family lived in for the past 30 years and, like Buffett, he still drives himself to work each day.
And at work, where he manages billion-dollar companies, he doesn’t even have a computer in his office, choosing instead to manage his businesses with an old-fashioned paperwork system.
6. Amancio Ortega – Zara founder
Fashion retailer Zara has been on the rise even as other companies in the industry have fallen. But founder Amancio Ortega hasn’t let it get to his head.
Ortega, who has a net worth of nearly $61 billion (which has grown by over $25 billion in just the past seven years), lives in a small apartment in La Coruna, Spain and wears the same 3-piece suit virtually every single day.
In addition, each morning he visits the same local coffee shop and every afternoon he eats with fellow Zara employees at the company cafeteria.
7. Azim Premji – Chairman, Wipro Limited
As the “Czar of Indian tech” and chairman of tech-service giant, Wipro Limited, Azim Premji’s wealth ($20.5 billion) is positioned to increased to ever greater heights in the coming years.
But Premji isn’t living lavishly. In fact, he’s been described as making “Uncle Scrooge look like Santa Claus” by a Bangalore tech executive who worked for the chairman.
Premji drives a 1996 Ford and personally drives a three-wheel auto rickshaw (a 3 wheel hooded vehicle primarily seen in Asian countries) when arriving home from business trips. He even reportedly monitors the exact number of toilet paper rolls used in his Wipro corporate buildings to save money.
But perhaps most impressive is that Premji is listed fifth on the list of those who have given the greatest sums of money to charity in the world, his personal contribution at over $8 billion.
8. Chuck Feeney – Co-founder, DFS Group
Chuck Feeney may be the most incredible example of generosity and humility of billionaires alive today. But his net worth is reported to be just $2 million. So, why is he on the list?
By 2016, Feeney and wife Helga had given away roughly $8 billion, more than 99.99% of their fortune to a vast collection of charitable causes supporting things such as higher education, human rights, and scientific research.
The money was earned in large part by Feeney and his partner’s duty-free airport shops which sold items such as cigar and brandy to travelers as well as early investments in companies such as Facebook.
“Giving while living” was always Feeney’s goal, however, he didn’t do it for praise or recognition. In fact, Atlantic Philanthropies, a collection of private foundations he personally founded and funded, required that their donations remain anonymous.
He and his wife Helga now live in a modest apartment in San Francisco with their remaining $2 million savings, Feeney having accomplished his monumental goal exactly as he intended all along.