Millionaires are often known as some of the most frugal people in the world. Part of the reason they generate such a fortune is because of responsible spending habits. But in many cases, there have been millionaires that didn’t hold onto their fortune for one reason or another. Sometimes, they squandered their money, leaving them with nothing (refer to the plot of the Richard Pryor movie Brewster’s Millions), while others chose to give their money away for the good of humanity. Philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie left a huge chunk of his estate after his death for the purpose of charitable giving and that fund still does a lot of good even today!
But in some instances, there have been millionaires that have chosen to live a simple and meager life, giving their money away to those less fortunate, or in greater need. Many wealthy people give away a substantial amount of money, but still leave a fortune for themselves. These 15 people are some of the most extraordinary examples of people that have given away just about all of their money in one way or another. Some were noble and others were simply foolish, but the common thread among them all is that they let go of their money in absolutely spectacular fashion!
15. Billionaire Gives $8 Billion Over Lifetime
Chuck Feeney is a name that most people do not really know. The truth is that Billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates consider Feeney to be their personal hero. The reason is because Feeney has given virtually his entire fortune away over the course of his life! He made his money in the duty free retail industry and silently (he did it under anonymity for years) gave his fortune away to a wide variety of charities. All told, he has given right around $8 billion away in his 85 years of living. These days, he lives with his wife in a rented apartment and doesn’t own a car. Life is simple and has been for a number of years for Feeney, who believes wholeheartedly in the spirit of giving.
14. Hollywood Director Moves in Mobile Home
Tom Shadyac is a critically acclaimed director of movies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar, Liar and The Nutty Professor, among others. Shadyac was worth upwards of $50 million with a massive mansion that is more home than anyone could ever need. But after a bicycle accident in 2007, his whole perspective on life and money completely changed. He stated that after suffering from a concussion that plagued him for half a year, he realized that he had to do something drastically different. So he sold his mansion, gave away his money and moved into a mobile home. This return to a simplistic life helped him find a type of peace with himself. He’s continued to work and teaches film these days, but dropping everything and moving into a mobile home was a pretty drastic leap!
13. Teenage Lottery Winner
In the United Kingdom, you can do a great many things at younger ages than in the United States. In the case of Callie Rogers, a 16 year old lottery winner in 2003, you can probably guess how the story goes. Winning over $2.8 million could probably be about the worst thing for most teenagers. In her case, she started out with noble intentions, but quickly backslid and blew a lot of the money on partying and cocaine. Today, she claims to be a much happier, but much poorer person. She has three kids and is studying to become a nurse. Almost all her money is gone, but she says that she’s a lot better off now than she was as a millionaire. You can’t buy happiness…lesson learned.
12. Millionaire Gives Fortune Plus a Kidney
There are many people that donate organs to loved ones. There are far more that donate their organs once they have passed away. Zell Kravinsky is the exceedingly rare person that gave away a kidney to a complete stranger! This massively profound act of kindness came after he gave away virtually his entire fortune. Despite pleas from family and friends, Zell became obsessed with the notion of giving. Since his sister’s death in the mid-1980s due to lung cancer, public health has been a major interest for Zell. He has made headlines the world over because of his overwhelming charity, but it is not for fame or publicity that he has done all of this. Zell simply wants to be a better person. The world owes a debt of gratitude to wonderful people like Zell.
11. NFL Concussion Victim
Mike Webster was a hall of fame member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a legend in the National Football League. He was plagued by increasing complications from the beatings he took and the trauma to his brain suffered during his professional football career. In the last years of his life, he divorced his wife, saw all of his assets dwindle to virtually nothing and could not even take care of himself. He often slept in his truck and would use a taser on himself just to go to sleep to avoid the pain he felt in his head, coupled with other side effects. Mike had been a living legend, but died at the age of 50 as a completely broken man, not realizing the true extent of his injuries and condition.
10. Gives Away Fortune After Wife Develops Breast Cancer
Millionaire Brian Burnie made his fortune as the head of a recruiting firm. He had a beautiful mansion and more money than he needed. When his wife developed breast cancer, he pledged to give it to a charity he started to fight the disease. He saw nothing more important than that cause and rededicated his life. They sold the house and rented a small house. Amazingly, Mrs. Burnie made a full recovery! But when his giving continued to spiral out of control, she realized that their financial security was in question. She divorced him after nearly 30 years of marriage! He still believes completely in his charitable giving and dedicates all his time and efforts to that mission. Today, he lives in a rented flat and is as happy as ever.
9. Lottery Winner Dies on Food Stamps
William “Bud” Post was known for winning over $16 million from the Pennsylvania lottery. Unfortunately, winning that kind of money can be very dangerous! He had a very shady past and an estranged brother that ordered a hit on him to gain an inheritance! In addition, Bud wasted a lot of his money and got entangled in a lot of legal battles (including a lawsuit where he was ordered to pay a third of the lottery winnings). He died at the age of 66 owing more than a million dollars in debt. He survived at the end of his life on food stamps and a few hundred dollars a month stipend. Because of lots of legal trouble, a sense of entitlement and countless bad decisions, Bud wound up giving it all away saying in the end that he was happier when he was poor.
8. Millionaire Gives Away Money and Moves to a Mud Hut
United Kingdom millionaire Jon Pedley lived a life of excess and wasn’t at all unhappy with the decision. When he was in a car accident that nearly killed him in 2002 (as a result of his driving under the influence of alcohol), he was in a coma lasting nearly six weeks! When he got a second chance at life, Pedley decided not to waste the opportunity. He found God and seeks to live a life that is more charitable. So with this in mind, he sold everything and established a charity for children in Uganda. His new home is a mud hut in Uganda where he oversees the charity. This selfless realization that there is more to life than material possessions has given him so much more clarity and focus in his life that is very admirable to the world!
7. Broadcasting Heiress Quietly Gives
Many children that are raised in affluent backgrounds have a harder time understanding financial struggle. While Priscilla Bullitt Collins (known as ‘Patsy’) never struggled financially, she found herself living a life primarily focused on giving charitably with quiet dignity. She was the daughter of the founders of the King Broadcasting Company and Patsy herself was the chair of the company until it sold in the early 1990s. With her inheritance, she gave (largely anonymously) over 100 million dollars to charitable organizations. Even in her death, she gave the remaining $71.5 million to three organizations that she valued deeply. She lived a life of simplicity, driving a modest car and living in a small two bedroom condo. People like Patsy were very respected because of their giving spirit and immense wisdom.
6. Former NBA Player Becomes Homeless
While many professional athletes have financial difficulty after they retire from sports, very few go so far as to become homeless. In the case of “Sugar Ray” Williams, bad financial decisions and irresponsibility led him to bankruptcy in 1994 and homelessness by 2010. He was once seen for his amazing skills on the basketball court, but after basketball, things quickly began to unravel. Just because a fortune exists for a moment, does not mean that it will always be there. Thankfully, former teammates of Williams recognized how bad things had gotten for him and helped him find work and get back on his feet. Williams died in 2013 spending the last few years of his life not wealthy, but with his head above water and a purpose for living again.
5. 5 Hour Energy Inventor Gives Away Fortune
Bhargava is the inventor of 5 Hour Energy. It was in this role that his life completely changed. This energy shot has generated an insane fortune for Bhargava almost overnight. But it was not the money that has made him motivated, but the opportunity to do more for humanity. He is part of the Giving Pledge pioneered by fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and as of 2015, pledged to give 99% of his wealth away through charitable causes. 99 cents of every dollar will be given to charity, with Bhargava keeping just one cent! That’s almost all of his money, given to make the world a better place. Certainly everyone has to eat and continue to live, so no one can blame him for keeping the one percent!
4. Sly and the Family Stone Leader
As the frontman for the famous funk group Sly and the Family Stone, Sly Stone has been seen as a pioneer of funk and a legend among musicians. He was on top of the world and one of the most successful acts of the 1970s. Unfortunately, the tale of Sly’s downfall involves a whole lot of drugs and lots of bad financial decisions, largely due to the drugs. Sly signed over the rights to his music and future royalties for loans over the course of several years. In addition to this, Sly was also failing to pay his taxes, which eventually caught-up with him. After many years of legal battles, and too much heartache to mention, Sly is today worth practically nothing. While he still performs and is remembered for his amazing talents, the battle back from financial ruin has been slow and very difficult!
3. Marvin Gaye’s Life Cut Short
Marvin Gaye is still seen as one of the greatest soul/rhythm-and-blues singers that has ever lived! In the 1970s, Gaye was an unstoppable force in the music world. He provided the world with some of the best baby making music ever recorded! But in 1976, Gaye was forced into bankruptcy after divorcing his wife. He faced financial ruin and even had to give royalties from his next album to his ex-wife. He was headed toward a comeback, but was shot and killed by his own father in 1984 while trying to intervene in an argument between his parents. Gaye was just one day from his 45th birthday and ripped from the world far too early. While he and his music live on in legendary fashion, he did not get to leave the world in financial security or success.
2. Wife of Bernie Madoff After The Scandal
Bernie Madoff is known the world over for masterminding the largest ponzi scheme in the history of the financial world. In this case, we know that Bernie himself has gone off to prison, but what about his wife Ruth Madoff? We have the odd situation where money was not wasted or given charitably, but rather ripped away. Ruth was used to living the high life they had become accustomed to over decades with more money than they would ever need. Today, Ruth lives in a rented one bedroom apartment. With one son dead from suicide and another from cancer, it’s hard not to pity this woman. She even has to report frequently any and all expenses she makes to verify that there isn’t any hidden money. It’s a sad way to spend the remainder of your life for sure.
1. Homeless Man Leaves a Fortune
Richard Leroy Walters was known by most folks as a nice and harmless homeless guy. But upon further investigation, it seems that Walters had been in his prime years, a very successful and well educated engineer! When he retired, he said goodbye to virtually all the comforts we take for granted, including a home or even a car. He befriended a nurse that watched out for him and even handled his estate in his death, which shockingly amounted to $4 million! He gave $400,000 to National Public Radio (a radio was one of the only things he did own) and several other charities. In his life, he never had children and never married, but was able to walk away from what we all think of as normal without a care in the world.