Secret millionaire leaves $187.6m to charity


Bill Gates

To his Seattle neighbours, Jack MacDonald was a quiet and frugal man. He was a dedicated bargain-hunter who wore his clothes out before buying new ones, and always took the bus. So they were stunned when he died at the age of 98 - and left a $187.6 million fortune to charity.

He's one of a rare few who share their good fortune on an incredible scale.


The Seattle Times reported that only a small number of family and friends knew about MacDonald's fortune during his lifetime. Details emerged to everyone else after he passed away and left 40% of it to the Seattle Children's Research Institute, and the rest shared between the University of Washington School of Law and the Salvation Army.

He chose the children's charity because his mother had been a long-term supporter. He selected the Salvation Army because his father had worked closely with many people who had been grateful to the organisation, and he chose the university, because that's where he gained his law degree.

The former lawyer had amassed his fortune by living cheaply, and investing his income wisely. He also inherited money from his parent's meat business and invested that too. Even while living in a retirement home he subscribed to investment journals and newspapers, and visited his stockbroker every day.

ABC News reported his stepdaughter as saying McDonald felt he was looking after the money on behalf of his parents and was proud of being able to give so much to the charities. She added that the family was also delighted.

It's an amazing story, which reinforces your faith in human nature - especially when you consider the scale of some charitable gifts.

Most generous

Forbes publishes an annual list of the most generous people in the US based on what they have given away in the past year - and the figures involved are staggering.

1. Bill and Melinda Gates (Bill is pictured)

The couple gave away $1.9 billion in 2012 (largely to their foundation) - bringing their lifetime's charitable donations to $28 billion. They are still worth $74 billion - so shouldn't feel the loss of the cash too keenly - but it's an amazing amount of money to give away.

2. Warren Buffet

The veteran investor famously lives frugally, despite his $58.7 billion fortune. In 2012 he gave away $1.87 billion - bringing the total donated over his lifetime to $25 billion.

3. George Soros

The trader is perhaps best remembered in the UK for making £1 billion out of the run on the pound on Black Wednesday in 1992. However, he is also an incredible philanthropist. He gave away $763 million last year - bringing the total over his lifetime to $10 billion. He is currently worth $20 billion.

4. Mark Zuckerberg

The Facebook founder gave away an impressive $519 million last year - a good year for Zuckerberg. This is the first year of impressive charitable donations from the entrepreneur, and hopefully not the last, given his personal fortune of $23.4 billion.

5. The Walton Family

The family behind the Walmart chain is worth an astounding $144.4 billion. They gave $432 million to charity last year - bringing their lifetime total philanthropy to $4.6 billion.

The 10 richest people on the planet

The 10 richest people on the planet

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