I inherited a half million from my parents in my early twenties, and then another $2 million from other relatives. I later received $7 million in settlements arising from my family’s losses as Jews in Nazi Germany.
From an early age I was troubled that some people had way more than they needed, while others did not have enough to stay alive. Early on I upset my family by announcing that I would give away all money that I would inherit.
After I inherited, I kept putting off giving money away, because I feared making “mistakes” in choosing recipients. Meanwhile, out of a combination of ethical and neurotic motivations, I supported myself on less than $10,000 a year for many years--I felt uncomfortable spending money on myself that could some day be donated to those in greater need. I am no longer as frugal, but still spend relatively little. I have given away over a third of the principal, and plan to give much more, though I no longer expect to give it all away. Parting with the money seems easy to me; worrying about allocating it just right seems hard.
For many years I have made donations to a donor-advised fund, but have stalled on making decisions on where to give the funds. There is currently about $6 million sitting there. I still get bogged down by feeling responsible for making sure the money is used as effectively as possible, but have finally gotten funds moving. It feels like a huge breakthrough. I am currently donating about 50% for anti-poverty and local empowerment work in the Third World. I am also supporting environmental protection (including sustainable agriculture), Israel/Palestine justice and reconciliation, less inhumane animal farm practices, civil liberties, drug policy and sentencing reform, and work to limit corporate power.
| 40 to 59 Years Old | $1-$10M | at least 50% | Inheritance |
| Environment | International | Social Justice | Fairness | Passion | Simplicity |