Axios Finish Line

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1 big thing: Astonishing generosity

Data: Forbes, Axios research. Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Forbes, Axios research. Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It goes without saying that none of us will be blessed with MacKenzie Scott's astonishing wealth. But all of us have the chance to copy her astonishing generosity.

Why it matters: Scott — who walked away from her marriage with Jeff Bezos with Amazon shares worth tens of billions — has given away a staggering $12 billion in just three years, and plans to keep giving until it's mostly gone.

  • She's quickly overtaking fellow billionaires.

Her actions offer 3 key lessons for us all:

  1. Be astonishingly generous: After her 2019 divorce from Bezos left her with about 4% of Amazon, Scott publicly pledged to donate her most of her fortune. All of us have chances to give our time and money with similar abandon. 
  2. Put your money — and time — where your heart is: Scott — who is in the minority as a woman billionaire — is directing her wealth toward specific causes she cares about, like providing health care and education for women and girls. Some 60% of the organizations she has given to most recently are women-led.
  3. Do good without fanfare: Scott is giving away money with no pomp and no strings attached. There's nothing better than a great deed done quietly. This can be as small as a kind compliment or anonymous gift. 
  • Consider this: The Chicago YWCA, which runs a rape crisis hotline and helps women find jobs, had been struggling when, one Monday night, someone from Scott's camp called and said she'd gift the organization $9 million. That was it, The New York Times' Nicholas Kulish writes.

Oh, and you don't need to be super-rich to be super generous.

  • As we told you in Finish Line, America was the world's most generous country this past decade. That cuts across class, race, gender and age.
  • And you didn't just give money. 72% of you helped strangers and 42% of you volunteered your time.

The bottom line, in Scott's words: "Helping any of us can help us all."

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⌛ Generosity through history

Illustration of colorful dollar bills falling from an outstretched hand, appearing to be confetti
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Here are four of the most generous people in America's history:

  • Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune through steel in the 19th century, gave away 85% of his money before he died. It was the equivalent of $77 billion today.
  • Warren Buffett has a net worth of $115 billion, and has pledged to give 99% of it away before he dies. So far he has donated $46 billion, much of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates plan to give away most of the Microsoft fortune. Their lifetime giving has already topped $50 billion. Even more notably, they've gotten other billionaires to commit to donating their wealth with the Giving Pledge.

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