Philanthropist Wants to Be Rid of His Last $1.5 Billion (NYT, Jim Dwyer)
How The Poor, The Middle Class, and The Rich Spend Their Money (NPR, Jacob Goldstein, Lam Vo) – An interesting infographic showing that the 99% and the 1% are not all that different
No, not the one from “Boy Meets World,” (though he is pretty awesome in his own right).
The Mr. Feeney that I speak of is an 81-year-old multi-billionaire philanthropist, who is trying to give away all his wealth before he passes on. For years he has kept his charity work a secret, but has recently come forward about his generosity. Mr. Feeney is pretty much the complete opposite of a rich person stereotype. Although many rich people give generously to various organizations that help the less fortunate or fund humanitarian projects, Mr. Feeney stands out because he lives an extremely modest life, rarely, if ever, showing any signs of his overflowing wealth.
He admits that he is a “shabby dresser,” often buying clothes off the rack (Dwyer). His TV set is almost as old as I am (never bothered to keep up with technology), and he prefers to mingle with commoners by flying coach and choosing to settled in Midtown Manhattan (though he could have easily afforded an Upper East Side apartment near others of his economic class).
His is a true rags-to-riches story – raised in a working-class family, joined the Air Force, attended Cornell through G.I. bill, worked as a merchant, started his own business, founded his own philanthropic foundation (Dwyer). In class we talked about social mobility and how it takes 5-6 generations on average to move up/down the socioeconomic. Mr. Feeney is one of the exceptions to the trend, but his story is interesting still — even though he became fairly rich (economically), he didn’t change that much in his lifestyle (socially). At the end of the article, Dwyer writes that Mr. Feeney’s five children will receive an inheritance, but it won’t be enough to continue a legacy of “old money.” His daughters and son could have had the all privileges of the upper class, but instead they have all experienced working through college as waiters, maids, and cashiers.
This story was incredibly inspiring and I wish there were more Mr. Feeneys in the world.