As the old adage goes, money can’t buy happiness. But Charles “Chuck” Feeney knows firsthand that it can be used to make the world a better place!
The 89-year-old is the cofounder of airport retailer Duty Free Shoppers, through which he amassed his $8 billion fortune. It didn’t take long for him to realize that spending it on himself never brought him the pure joy he found in giving it away.
Feeney champions the philosophy of “Giving While Living,” which encourages wealthy philanthropists to be charitable while they’re still alive rather than donate through a foundation after they’ve passed away.
“I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes today,” he said.
Over the past four decades, he’s led by example, living frugally while giving away as much as possible. His goal? To “go broke” before he died. This year, that dream finally came true!
After setting about $2 million aside for his and his wife Helga’s retirement, Feeney donated the rest of his fortune through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies.
The incredibly generous (and anonymous) gifts include $3.7 billion to education, over $870 million to human rights and social change campaigns, more than $700 million toward various health care institutions, and $350 million to his alma mater, Cornell University, for a technology campus in New York City.
This month, he and Helga signed the paperwork to close the foundation — because he has officially donated everything!
Along the way, he has inspired fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to create the Giving Pledge, a campaign that asks the world’s wealthiest people to “commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes, either during their lifetimes or in their wills.”
“Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” Buffett told Forbes. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.”
But the way Feeney sees it, he just did what makes him happy.
“I concluded that if you hung on to a piece of the action for yourself, you’d always be worrying about that piece,” he told Forbes in 2012. “People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I’m happy when what I’m doing is helping people and unhappy when what I’m doing isn’t helping people.”
What an amazing legacy! Thanks to Feeney’s philanthropy, countless lives are being changed for the better, and that’s worth so much more than any fortune!
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