Would you give all your money away? If so, where? This is the extraordinary story of Chuck Feeney, who finally achieves his 34 year mission of going from $8 billion to broke this year.
2016 is the year his Foundation gives the last of his money away. In the process, he has become the hero of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who said “Chuck has set an example not only for people of my age but also younger generations. He will be an example 100 years from now or 200 years from now.”
“He is my hero. He is Bill Gates’ hero. He should be everybody’s hero.”
Here’s Chuck’s 3 steps to making, and giving away $8 billion.
START BY DECIDING TO GIVE IT AWAY BEFORE YOU MAKE IT
Chuck was born into a poor, Irish family during the Great Depression in 1931. He shovelled snow and sold Christmas cards door-to-door as a kid to make money to take home. While young and in poverty, he read Andrew Carnegie’s classic essay, “The Gospel of Wealth”.
Andrew Carnegie’s essay was a revolutionary call for those who create wealth to live modestly, and to give all their excess wealth to support others while still alive: “Giving while living.”
The words touched him so deeply, Chuck decided at that moment that he would dedicate his life to create wealth to give away, saying “I want the last cheque I write to bounce.”
THEN TRAVEL THE WORLD
As a teenager, Chuck joined the US airforce during the Korean War. He got to see first hand the difficulty servicemen had in getting the products they wanted from home. So he set up a business to import and sell them the goods they wanted. He found a way to sell them without duty, by setting up stores on the air-side of airports and his company, Duty Free Shoppers took off.
Ever bought anything from a DFS shop at an airport? That’s Chuck’s company.
But from the early days, Chuck had already set up his company so that all the proceeds went into his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, so the money the company made could be given away each year. The money has gone into causes around the world in health, education and human rights.
When Chuck sold DFS in 1996, his Foundation took all the money from the sale, and committed to spend everything within 20 years – by 2016. By the time it gives the last of his money away, it will have given away $8 billion.
AND CHUCK IT ALL THE WAY
What about Chuck? Surely he has kept enough aside to live in luxury? Today, at 85 years old, Chuck does not own a home or a car. He still famously wears a watch he bought for $15, and he carries his papers in a plastic bag.
Chuck says “I always tried to live my life as though nothing changed. People would say, ‘You can have a Rolls-Royce’. I’d say to that, ‘What do I want with a Rolls-Royce when I can have a bike?’”
Instead of measuring his success by his level of money in the bank, he measures it by his level of happiness: “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.”
2016 marks the end of Chuck’s giving, but just the beginning of his legacy. His story inspired Bill Gates to also give all his money away, and to launch the Giving Pledge, which now has 142 of the World’s Billionaires pledging to give the majority of their wealth away while alive – including Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Tim Cook, Warren Buffett and many more.
Bill Gates credits Chuck for the new age of giving, saying “Chuck Feeney is a remarkable role model, and the ultimate example of giving while living.”
As you begin another week, how would things change if you were to know everything you make will be given away to a cause far bigger than yourself?
Where would you contribute the money you are yet to make?
How would it change your sense of purpose and determination?
Make that decision now so you can focus at money flowing through you, not to you.
“There’s a limit to what you can get. There’s no limit to what you can give.”