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In 2008 he was ranked by Forbes as the richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of approximately US$62 billion. In 2009, after donating billions of dollars to charity, Buffett was ranked as the second richest man in the United States with a net worth of US$37 billion with only Bill Gates ranked higher than Buffett. His net worth had risen to $58.5 billion as of September 2013.
Buffett has written several times of his belief that, in a market economy, the rich earn outsized rewards for their talents. His children will not inherit a significant proportion of his wealth. He once commented, “I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing”.
Buffett had long stated his intention to give away his fortune to charity, and in June 2006, he announced a new plan to give 83% of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He pledged about the equivalent of 10 million Berkshire HathawayClass B shares to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (worth approximately US$30.7 billion as of June 23, 2006), making it the largest charitable donation in history, and Buffett one of the leaders of philanthrocapitalism. The foundation will receive 5% of the total each July, beginning in 2006. (The pledge is conditional upon the foundation’s giving away each year, beginning in 2009, an amount that is at least equal to the value of the entire previous year’s gift from Buffett, in addition to 5% of the foundation’s net assets.) Buffett joined the Gates Foundation’s board, but did not plan to be actively involved in the foundation’s investments.
This represented a significant shift from Buffett’s previous statements, to the effect that most of his fortune would pass to his Buffett Foundation. The bulk of the estate of his wife, valued at $2.6 billion, went there when she died in 2004. He also pledged $50 million to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, in Washington, where he began serving as an adviser in 2002.
In 2006, he auctioned his 2001 Lincoln Town Car on eBay to raise money for Girls, Inc. In 2007, he auctioned a luncheon with himself that raised a final bid of $650,100 for the Glide Foundation. Later auctions raised $2,110,100,$1.68 million and $3,456,789. The winners traditionally dine with Buffett at New York’s Smith and Wollensky steak house. The restaurant donates at least $10,000 to Glide each year to host the meal.
On December 9, 2010, Buffett, Bill Gates, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed a promise they called the “Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge”, in which they promise to donate to charity at least half of their wealth, and invite other wealthy people to follow suit.