I just found out that I have some surprisingly valuable art hanging on the walls of my house. I am also in possession of a remarkably prized collection of rare, antique shoes. But more on those in a minute.

     I live a modest lifestyle, but you should know that many of America’s wealthiest people live fairly modest lifestyles as well. Investor Warren Buffett famously lives in a house in Omaha, NE, that he bought in 1958 for $31,500. Now it’s worth a little over $1 million, but that’s pocket change for someone worth more than $100 billion.

     I paid much more than $31,000 for my house. So I must be even wealthier than Warren Buffett, right? The fact that I drive an eight-year-old Subaru shouldn’t fool you into thinking that I can’t make a substantial charitable donation. And so today I am making a major announcement.

     I was inspired to make my pledge by the news last week that Jeff Bezos announced plans to give away most of his $124 billion fortune — all except a few billion or so. So now, like Bezos, I am “establishing a framework to determine how to donate my wealth.”

     Warren Buffett has founded an organization called The Giving Pledge. This is a campaign to encourage wealthy people to contribute a majority of their money to philanthropic causes. Bill Gates has signed onto this pledge. So have Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Carl Icahn and others. If they follow through, they will each be left with less than $50 billion. And some of the lesser lights, who aren’t even worth $10 billion, may have to scrape by with only $1 billion or so!

     So I am now personally and publicly making the promise:  like Jeff Bezos and the others, before I die I will donate every single cent that I own above the level of $1 billion.

One of our priceless paintings

     Of course, I did not found a major internet company. So my fortune is a little less than $124 billion. Also, part of the Bezos fortune is supported by armies of Amazon workers, making $15 to $18 an hour, who contribute mightily to the Bezos bank account. I do not employ any minimum-wage workers who can fatten up my fortune.

     Also, I can’t bolster my personal Fort Knox by firing thousands of employees in the name of “rightsizing,” the way Zuckerberg and Musk are doing. And unlike some billionaires, I actually do pay my taxes. Every month the government grabs 10% tax, as well as the charge for Medicare, even before my Social Security benefit lands in the bank account.

     However, I do save a lot of money compared to Jeff Bezos and the others. For example, however Bezos avoids income tax, he does have to pay real-estate tax, property insurance and general upkeep on his 27,000-square-foot home in Washington, DC, as well as his 15-bedroom apartment in New York City and his $165 million mansion in L.A. 

     Meanwhile, I just pay for a Buffett-level home on a standard suburban street. Also, think how much I save by not own my own private jet. And just this past summer I saved $28 million by not buying a ticket for a 15-minute Bezos Blue Origin trip into space.

     Already I’m saving $100 million, making me $100 million richer than I otherwise would be.

     Also, I did inherit a substantial amount of money. When I was a kid my Aunt Alice gave me $2 for my birthday . . . every year! The dollars were slipped into an envelope, and when I saw George Washington’s face peering out at me through the little hole, I felt like a million dollars . . . back when a million dollars meant something. If I had only held onto that money and invested it in Amazon stock when it went public in 1997, or Apple when it . . . no, no, we won’t go there.

At $218,000 per pair they add up

     I am not at liberty to reveal how large my fortune is. However, just last week I not only started “establishing a framework to determine how to donate my wealth,” but I began executing the plan. I sent one check to our local food bank for $25, and another for the school clothing drive. 

     Maybe that doesn’t sound like much. But, for me, it takes a bite out of my account. And there’s more to come, since it’s just the start of the giving season. Meanwhile, I wonder what causes you support.

     But back to that art. Just last week a Cezanne was auctioned for $138 million. A Seurat went for $149 million. Look at that painting. I’ve got lots just like it. Just think how much I’ll get for my collection!

     Also last week, one pair of Steve Jobs’ Birkenstock sandals sold for $218,000. Well, B has a closet full of old shoes . . . not to mention the boots and sneakers in the back of the garage. What’d’ya think we’ll get for them? The Giving Pledge . . . get ready. It’s all going to charity. Thank you very much!

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Tom Lashnits Writer, Blogger
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