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What Do Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and You Have in Common?

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According to a recent New York Times article, philanthropy's newest hero is the everyday donor. While megamillionaire philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft (NYSE: MSFT  ) or Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A  ) contribute billions to charitable causes, nonprofits are now depending more than ever on average Janes and Joes.

These "everyday donors" will generally give $10, $15, or $20 to an organization -- a small amount that's nonetheless more powerful than you might think. As Wendy Smith, author of Give A Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform the World is quoted, "Small checks coming through the mail are the bread and butter for most organizations."

While the everyday donor may be the current focus in the philanthropy world, the Fool has always embraced this idea through its annual Foolanthropy campaign. Large corporations with generous philanthropic arms, like Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT  ) , ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) , and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , are certainly admirable, but the Fool to continues to rally individual donors through community-driven grassroots campaigns.

In the past 12 years, our Foolish community has helped Foolanthropy raise more than $3 million for a wide range of worthy causes. In 2007, we narrowed our focus to financial literacy. This year, we're focusing on volunteerism by "adopting" a local D.C. public charter school and pledging $0.10 to the school for every article comment, CAPS blog post or comment, and discussion board post our users make for the duration of the campaign. In addition, Fool employees will volunteer throughout the year and teach financial literacy workshops to students and parents. (If you're interested, you can learn more about the school or make a direct donation here.)

The campaign has caught on considerably in our CAPS community, generating a record number of comments on one single blog post. In that post, our co-founder Tom Gardner challenged the community to provide money or investing advice for a young person.

In the spirit of Tom Gardner's challenge, we're posing that same question to you: What's the one piece of money and/or investing advice you'd give to a child or teenager?

We'll aggregate these responses and pass them along to the students of Thurgood Marshall Academy, our "adopted" D.C. public charter school. The person who provides the best answer to our financial-literacy themed question in fewer than 250 words will win a one-year digital subscription to Rule Your Retirement (a $149 retail value).

The contest will end at 8:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 17. You can view full contest rules here. And remember, for every comment below, another $0.10 will go toward our adopted school.

Share your wisdom, help donate to a worthy cause with your comment, and enter to win a free year of great retirement advice!

Claire Stephanic does not own any of the stocks mentioned. Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Pfizer are Inside Value recommendations. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (35) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 7:25 PM, madmilker wrote:

    we all put our pants on....one leg at a time.

    and when it comes to advise to a young person...the words spend and save both start with the letter "s" but one will put you in debt while the other can lay your little @ss on the sand in the State of Yap.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 7:26 PM, ccmorrison1 wrote:

    My advise to my nephew as he began his freshman year in college ... "food stamps."

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 7:29 PM, WizardofMe wrote:

    I feel that I've done one better; I have already seen my advice some to life. As a high school math teacher, integrating investing and finance into my lessons is seamless. With the help of the Motley Fool, I have advised my students to:

    Start investing as soon as you can with whatever you can.

    So far this year I have had one student make the plunge; a freshman opened positions in PG and HAS. Hopefully he will look back as a multimillionaire in the future, and be thankful for what he learned in his rural high school math class his freshman year.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 8:49 PM, MAURIZIO400 wrote:

    we are all male.

    apart from that i have a slim chance to get as much money as they do but they don't have any to get my age again.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 9:08 PM, DaytonFlyers wrote:

    Before you purchase anything think about the opportunity costs

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 9:19 PM, buynholdisdead wrote:

    The most important thing for anyone starting to invest is to start early. When I started out I was 27 years old and I should have started at a much younger age. A friend I was working with explained to me the concept of compounding returns. He told me that by starting early, my money would grow, and I could retire early. So I started by putting 10% of my pay into my 401k and investing in mutual funds. This was a great way to invest because I didn’t have the time or inclination to manage my own money. I put a bigger percentage of my money in, as I went along, and realized I didn’t miss the money.

    Now that I have been investing for 20 years I understand better than ever the need to start early. Also anyone starting to invest should learn how to invest on their own. Leaving it in a 401k is acceptable but it’s better if you learn how to pick your own stocks.

    So in conclusion I would give this advice to anyone that is looking to invest. Read books on investing by the Masters. Start early so compounding can let your money grow. Invest your money into a 401k if your employer allows it, because of the tax implications. Invest into a Traditional Ira or Roth Ira depending on your needs, and the ability to trade your own stocks. And finally, always, always, save a percentage of your pay.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 9:21 PM, TexasChris wrote:

    The problem with depending on normal Janes and Jones is the growing unemployment and the stagnation of wages while premiums sky rocket and benefits get cut. Now volunteerism may rise, but depending on our pocketbooks, good luck.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 9:32 PM, hrse wrote:

    What's the one piece of money and/or investing advice you'd give to a child or teenager?

    I would and have advised my teenager to save a little bit of all the money she gets and to only take out a certain percent of her total balance once per year.

    It is not working, she rarely if ever deposits anything, but last year she successfully got me and my wife to each withdraw 10% of her balance on her birth month.

    Regardless I am going to keep repeating the advice. Maybe if I say it enough she will think of it later.

    Mark

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 10:14 PM, Nairb1971 wrote:

    Best advice for young people is save, give and no debt.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 10:33 PM, catoismymotor wrote:

    All three of us are wicked-awesome at bridge.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 10:45 PM, TheLudicFallacy wrote:

    What Do Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and You Have in Common?

    - not our bank account balance.

    - life long infatuation with investing

    - search for and exploit opportunities overlooked by others.

    - focus on long term results.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 10:49 PM, blesto wrote:

    To many people end up their whole life

    working for the money,

    and never learn the ways of

    making money work for you.

    Money is nothing but numbers and you need to learn the math, the understanding of how numbers work.. The first biggest step.

    Thats one of the reasons they say,

    knowledge is power.

    Don't be powerless.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 10:54 PM, kulkano wrote:

    Money comes, money goes. Dont let it rule your life, just have fun

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 11:27 PM, Fool wrote:

    pay yourself first every time you get paid.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 11:28 PM, RaviDesai wrote:

    All of us love what we do. The money follows naturally.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2009, at 11:44 PM, fredmReston wrote:

    What's the one piece of money and/or investing advice you'd give to a child or teenager?

    Keep score. You can't tell if your winning or losing if you don't keep score.

    The story that got me started with tracking my spending occurred when I was in college. The mother of my next door neighbor told of her life as a newlywed, married to a young officer.

    Money was tight and she managed the family finances. Newly arrived on base, she gave him his allowance for the month. About 10 days later, he said “I need more money.” He couldn’t concretely explain where the money was spent. “Beer, cigarettes, and burgers” was the best he could do. She gave him more money but this time he was required to write down all his spending.

    After a few weeks of this, what they discovered was enlightening. He would buy a pack of cigarettes twice a week. Not that he smoked them all. He gave them away to others who asked. At the Officers Club, he would pick up the tab. It all adds up.

    And that’s the point. You are the sum of your earnings and spending. To get ahead, to be able to financially cope with adversity, you need to spend less then you earn and earn more then you spend.

    During college, after a harsh realization about spending, I began to allow myself only one cash withdraw a week. When the money was gone, no more movies/beer/pizza/spending. A small lesson in planning.

    After college, starting my first job, I started tracking income and spending in earnest. Starting with a ledger at zero, my goal was to reach a positive $10000. Over the years, paper led to spreadsheet and spreadsheets gave way to Quicken. Being married now, I do a double entry with Quicken and Budget (snowmintcs.com). The spreadsheets transitioned to Quicken before I reached a positive $10000 but I have long since exceeded that initial goal.

    Tracking spending made some choices clear. I became aware of my surroundings -- what things cost. Not in some abstract way, it was more tangible. A ski trip in February would require less spending now and possibly after the trip. But I could make that choice freely instead of having a radical shift to pay a debt collector. I knew that I could afford a night out for dinner and a movie. I found less expensive alternatives to make my money last longer -- the matinee (half price), free books and tapes at the library, the coupon book.

    After 20 years, I still track my spending though more by habit then need.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 12:27 AM, Nickwrm wrote:

    Buffett, Gates have been important leaders of great teams of people who have contributed piece by piece to become something more powerful within the worlds of technology and investing. And through their collaboration, they have brought many benefits and opportunities to society. I share their vision.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 3:15 AM, smankle wrote:

    You are intelligent: well-read, write well, speak well, and think on your feet. Book learning has not been a great chore. You've been encouraged and told you're special your whole life.

    Now learn to be smart: in the presence of money, distrust yourself.

    Everyone wants more money. Everyone knows what he or she would do with more money. But what they really with the money is a matter of discipline.

    Live beneath your means. Do you really need to buy two or three different makes of gaming console? Probably not. Ask yourself: do I just want this, or do I really need it?

    If you merely want it, save up for it. Learn to delay gratification.

    Arrange to pay your bills on automatic bank draft. That way, you will acquire the discipline to adhere to a budget, or your bills won't get paid.

    Learn to cook, it saves money over eating out. Sign up for your supermarket's savings card, and pay attention to what's on sale. Play games with yourself: how much can I knock off a given grocery bill, consistent with healthy eating?

    If you must sign up for a credit card, NEVER charge more than you can pay off in a month. NEVER.

    If you're working, save as much as you can. As your savings grow, you'll want to spend less. Instead of buying more stuff, you'll start thinking, "how much can I stash?"

    When you get a Real Job, start a Roth IRA immediately. Contribute the most you can, without ruining your monthly budget, especially if your employer matches your contributions. Live off the rest.

    Save your change. It sounds silly, but your spare change can add up to a few hundred dollars or more a year. You can bank it, invest it, or even blow it on anything you like.

    In credit card trouble already? Talk with your company; they're probably more willing to negotiate than you think. Arrange to pay a set amount every month until you pay it off. Do not deviate from this plan. If you get a bonus at work, use most of it to knock the bill down that much. This may take years, but you cannot possibly imagine the relief you'll feel when you're done.

    Give. Buffett and Gates are giving billions away to better humanity. Even if you don't have billions, share your experience. Buffett's letters to his shareholders are famous for their wisdom. Share with others, what you've learned in school and life. Seeing the light of understanding click on in somebody's eyes is a wonderful thing.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 4:48 AM, wilbrrr455 wrote:

    SAVE EARLY

    SAVE CONSISTANTLY

    SAVE AN AMOUNT SUSTAINABLE FOR YOU :]

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 8:30 AM, TMFTortoise wrote:

    Which would you rather have when you turn age 65? $1 million or $650,000 ? Obviously the former.

    Now, how much do you have to invest to reach $1 million? $30,000 or $105,000?

    The correct answer is $30,000. You only have to invest $3,000 per year (that's just $250 per month) for 10 years and then not another dime. IF you start at age 20. Assuming a 9% annual return, you'll have $1,014,184 when you turn 65.

    BUT, if you wait until age 30 and invest that same $250 a month, for the next 35 years ($105,000 total), you'll end up with just $647,132.

    If you start investing that $250 per month when you're a sophomore in high school (age 15) and only go 10 years (until you're 25), you'll end up with over $1.5 million. Five extra years makes that big a difference.

    Time is your most important ally or your most fearsome enemy. Let it be the former and not the latter. START EARLY!

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 8:35 AM, stnley12364 wrote:

    the first thing to remember is money is not real it is just a concept of barter-remmeber monopoly?

    now make a job instead of relying on someone to give you a job-

    with the little amount of leverage you have no matter if you live in your car or under a bridge you have all the tools to be a success in all you do as long as you put forth the effort and not rely on someone else to help you out- especially when it comes to finnances

    if you invest invest educated- one penny at a time, this is true knowledge- the big stuff comes later with the actions you take, learn to give and the more you give the more you will receive- not religious but the law of attraction will always benefit all who use it

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 9:51 AM, devandev wrote:

    Do not put more on a credit card than you can pay off in full every month. Period. No exceptions. Need more money than that? Take out a proper loan.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 9:54 AM, devandev wrote:

    Do not charge more on a credit card than you can pay off in full every month. Period. No exceptions. Need more money than that? Take out a proper loan.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 10:53 AM, SweetMircha wrote:

    I beleive in charitable giving. My favorite charities are the Salvation Army, my local Food Bank. I've given to world disaster funds on occasion and, to help rebuild a local schoool that had burnt to the ground in my town.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 10:57 AM, Aargon wrote:

    The secret to financial success is simple. Spend only half of what you make. The goverment will get about 25% of what you saved and the other 25% can go into a simple savings account for the day you cant make.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 11:50 AM, caltex1nomad wrote:

    We Pee standing up.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 12:00 PM, caltex1nomad wrote:

    We Pee standing up.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 12:15 PM, blaueskobalt wrote:

    Don't buy actively traded mutual funds. Overperformance is fleeting; fees are assured.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 12:49 PM, XMFClarity wrote:

    FYI, Fool TMFStrongBad is keeping track of all website comments during the Foolanthropy campaign. We broke a record on CAPS last week with the highest number of comments ever on a single blog post. Apparently yesterday we had the highest number of article comments too! The total pledge to Thurgood Marshall is now $5,498.50.

    http://caps.fool.com/Blogs/ViewPost.aspx?bpid=313024&t=0...

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 2:12 PM, Fool wrote:

    Always put some money into savings as soon as you get your paycheck and don't touch it. Don't make impulse decisions when purchasing goods.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 6:44 PM, globalsailor wrote:

    I'd like to say that it is best to treat charity as a necessity rather than a luxury. If you treat it as a necessity and you guarantee that you'll give one half to ten percent every pay check, you'll never be disappointed in how much you gave.

    Don't use credit cards: If you don't have the cash don't buy it.

    Now for your portfolio:

    If you're going to be in the stock market, know how much you can lose and be ready to lose it. Try to beat up your pick before you buy the stock.

    Have a set allocation of things other than stocks, like fixed income and commodities. If you do this and maintain the ratios you can sell your stocks naturally as they go up, and then buy stocks naturally as they go down. It's a form of market-timing that requires little macroeconomic research.

    Example: 60% stocks, 40% other.

    Year one stocks go down: buy stock ratio maintained

    Year two stocks boom: sell stock ratio maintained

    etc.

    Stocks are either for saving or gambling: know which one you're doing.

    Know what you want to do with your money: it will make it easier to accumulate and save.

    Finally: don't use ETF's. Seriously, it is impossible to predict ETF's. If you can't pick normal stocks how can you pick a basket of fifty? All you will do is emotionally trade your money out of existence.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 6:45 PM, globalsailor wrote:

    I'd like to say that it is best to treat charity as a necessity rather than a luxury. If you treat it as a necessity and you guarantee that you'll give one half to ten percent every pay check, you'll never be disappointed in how much you gave.

    Don't use credit cards: If you don't have the cash don't buy it.

    Now for your portfolio:

    If you're going to be in the stock market, know how much you can lose and be ready to lose it. Try to beat up your pick before you buy the stock.

    Have a set allocation of things other than stocks, like fixed income and commodities. If you do this and maintain the ratios you can sell your stocks naturally as they go up, and then buy stocks naturally as they go down. It's a form of market-timing that requires little macroeconomic research.

    Example: 60% stocks, 40% other.

    Year one stocks go down: buy stock ratio maintained

    Year two stocks boom: sell stock ratio maintained

    etc.

    Stocks are either for saving or gambling: know which one you're doing.

    Know what you want to do with your money: it will make it easier to accumulate and save.

    Finally: don't use ETF's. Seriously, it is impossible to predict ETF's. If you can't pick normal stocks how can you pick a basket of fifty? All you will do is emotionally trade your money out of existence.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 11:02 PM, jerryguru69 wrote:

    Follow your dreams, and do not let anyone dissuade you. Gates didn't, Buffet didn't, and neither do I. Do not fear failure, because if you do, you will surely lose. The greatest successes in your life will come from doing what others thought was impossible.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 12:05 PM, thetucket wrote:

    I know this contest is over, but in the spirit of the holiday season, I'd like to diverge a bit from all the frugal penny pinchers and coin-counting scrooges out there who probably check their Mint.com accounts hourly, and I'd like to offer some of my own financial and investing advice: life is short, and fleeting, so have fun, invest not just in your "future" and your "retirement" but also in your PRESENT, your soul, your mind, your eyes, ears, mouth, hands--enrich yourself and have fun. Money is worthless if it's never going to be used to live a good life and experience the joys of existence. And of course, give some of it away so that others less fortunate than you can experience the same joys.

    The End.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 12:06 PM, thetucket wrote:

    I know this contest is over, but in the spirit of the holiday season, I'd like to diverge a bit from all the frugal penny pinchers and coin-counting scrooges out there who probably check their Mint.com accounts hourly, and I'd like to offer some of my own financial and investing advice: life is short, and fleeting, so have fun, invest not just in your "future" and your "retirement" but also in your PRESENT, your soul, your mind, your eyes, ears, mouth, hands--enrich yourself and have fun. Money is worthless if it's never going to be used to live a good life and experience the joys of existence. And of course, give some of it away so that others less fortunate than you can experience the same joys.

    The End.

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