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What will happen with Warren Buffett’s billions when he dies? Some of it might go to every kid on the planet.
So reports the Wall Street Journal in a recent investigation of the future of Buffett’s fortune, which is worth $96.8 billion at the time of this article's publication. In 2006, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO pledged to give away 85% of his stock in the company to charity, designating the majority of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Four years later, he vowed to redistribute 99% of his wealth to philanthropy during or after his lifetime.
Of Buffett's $90 billion Berkshire stake, $56 billion will go to the Gates Foundation and $17.4 billion to four family charities, leaving an uncommitted $18.7 billion—all numbers the Journal says could climb if Berkshire shares continue to perform the way they have been. He reportedly wants his billions spent within 10 years of his death.
Gates Foundation staffers have been banking on receiving the full amount of both Buffett’s pledged shares and remaining unpledged shares, the Journal reported, having spent years figuring out where to put the money since some Gates Foundation grant recipients were already maxed out.
One proposed solution was to create a world children's savings bank. The exact amount allocated to each child wasn’t disclosed, but a former Gates Foundation employee told the Journal that each child would receive thousands of dollars that “sit on a shelf, like a battle plan” for baby beneficiaries.
But Buffett, who turns 92 this year, hasn’t yet disclosed the nitty-gritty of how his wealth will be split after his death; estate planning experts told the Journal his pledge letter was a bit ambiguous. The investigation found that Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, a family charity that supports abortion rights, has been hiring staff and planning for a “massive influx of money” as high as $100 billion—meaning it may inherit some of the windfall the Gates Foundation has been anticipating.
Officials from the Gates Foundation and the Buffett Foundation didn’t respond to Fortune’s requests for comment, and Buffett told the Journal there were inaccuracies in its reporting. But, if the Gates Foundation does receive enough money to distribute a cut to every child, it would help even the world’s socioeconomic playing field and possibly provide parents with the financial safety net they need to have kids in today's economy.
As the cost of living soars, paying for one’s own expenses is becoming more and more unaffordable, let alone those for another human being. Finances are partly why the percentage of U.S. non-parents ages 18 to 49 who say it’s not likely or not at all likely that they will have kids has increased by 7% since 2018 to 44% in 2022, per the Pew Research Center. The cost of raising a child in the U.S. sets parents back more than $280,000 on average.
It’s contributing to the birth rate decline in the US that has been ongoing for over a decade, as more debt-saddled and recession-afflicted millennials delay having kids until they get their finances in order. The drop in births is a worldwide trend among more developed nations; in China, for example, the birth rate fell for the fifth year in a row in 2021.
As wealth inequality and the pay gap widened during the pandemic, a growing number of billionaires have been thinking of more inventive ways to allocate their assets. That includes the idea of a more equitable distribution of money, beginning with kids. It's even reaching the Senate—the Democrat-backed American Opportunity Accounts Act, a proposal that addresses the racial wealth divide by introducing $1,000 baby bonds for all newborns in the U.S.
If Gates staffers carry through with such plans for a worldwide children’s bank, Buffett’s billions could have the same effect across the globe.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com