Imagine your father is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the second-richest person in the world, with a net worth in the billions.
Before you take this reverie any further and start building your dream mansion and placing the order for a custom yacht, imagine that your inheritance is actually already pledged to charity.
Like his friend and mentor, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Gates has publicly stated that the majority of his wealth will be donated to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In fact, Gates holds the No. 2 spot on the Forbes list of wealthiest individuals, after Mexican Carlos Slim, because he's already given $28 billion of his fortune to the foundation, leaving him with $56 billion at last count.
While he won't specify what he's leaving his children -- only that it will be a "miniscule" portion of his total wealth -- $10 million each is the estimate that's been cited. In a rare interview, he also told Britain's Daily Mail that he'll pay for education and health issues, but his children are expected to find careers and support themselves while making a contribution to society.
Lest you think this viewpoint is harsh, there are the fates of so many "poor little rich kids" to remember. Lives ended by drug and alcohol abuse or wasted in the pursuit of lavish spending are enough to give most parents a reason to hold back the money.
Instead, many of the ultra-rich think of an inheritance in its broader sense, as more than financial assets transferred from one generation to the next. Bill Gates is leaving his children a legacy worth more than money. They're learning the value of what wealth can do to enrich the world. The key is to make sure the children understand their parents' intentions from the get-go. When the topic of money is taboo, it leaves too much room for interpretation, confusion and expectation. Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, says in his documentary "Born Rich" that he and his siblings found out his family was wealthy when it was published in a news magazine. That bombshell threw him into years of confusion about how to handle money.
Do you think Bill Gates is taking the right approach when it comes to leaving a legacy for his children?
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