If you had $1 billion or more, how would you spend it? How would you change your world or the world at large? Look at Elon Musk, he's got his red Tesla Roadster – a $200,000 car – zooming through space strapped to a rocket. That's quite a folly on his part. Somewhere along the way of planning the Falcon Heavy launch, he must have gotten Elton John's "Rocket Man" or David Bowie's "Starman" stuck in his head and decided to run with it just because he could.
Billionaires across the world are growing in numbers. Last year, 145 people became brand new billionaires. In 2017 the 500 richest people in the world became $1 trillion richer. The three richest Americans – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett – have a combined net worth that is larger than the whole bottom earning half of the U.S. population. There are 2,043 billionaires in the world today. New ones are emerging on the average of every two days. The 2,043 billionaires have enough wealth today to end the world's extreme poverty seven times over.
Elon Musk has a new plan in the works. Building a city on Mars. Space travel to Mars will be offered but it will cost a pretty penny that is likely in the neighborhood of $200,000. Peter Thiel is funding the building of a floating city off the coast of French Polynesia. Google's Larry Page is heading up a division of the company that is figuring out how to build a city from the ground up. Chuck Feeney used his billions philanthropically in his bid to die broke. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are two more billionaires with a passion for outer space.
But what if you or I were billionaires? What passion project would you invest your money in just because you could? I'd likely buy my dream house, or houses, in Los Angeles, Paris, Hawaii and more. I'd set up an animal rescue foundation. I'd fund campaigns against politicians I cannot stand or support like billionaire Tom Styer is currently doing. I'd throw tens of thousands of dollars or more at the fight for sensible gun regulations. I'd find a team of researchers that would invent a way to make our nation's schools safe from armed assailants. But what about folly?
I've always wanted to be a television writer or screenwriter. With a billion dollar or more fortune I could be like Oprah and found my own television or cable network featuring my shows and other things I'm interested in. What silly or out there dream would you fund if you were a billionaire?
Instead of sending a car into space or building a floating city, I'd erect statues to my heroes—just for fun. Every town square in the U.S. would get a feminist icon, inventor, or writer whose lives would encourage people to dig deeper and be better. Maybe, just for fun, every once in awhile those statues would be of a regular non-famous person like my 5th grade teacher.
Timothy Headington is an oil and gas mogul who is reshaping downtown Dallas as if he was redecorating his living room. He has opened restaurants and hotels. He put a giant sculpture of a bloodshot eyeball right in the city center. If that's not a ridiculous move of a billionaire, I don't know what is.
All silliness aside, billionaires also do a lot of good. T. Denny Sanford funds hospitals and health care and sends struggling young people to college. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife donate their money to causes that benefit children and education. Bill and Melinda Gates are big on public health. I'd probably fight to save and fund art and music education in schools and fight for clean drinking water across the world. I'd wage a war against poachers like Howard Buffett.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett founded The Giving Pledge in 2010. Those who join pledge to give most of their wealth away to charity and causes during their lifetime. So far 173 people have joined including Musk, Zuckerberg, and Spanx founded Sara Blakeley—a woman who made her billion dollar net worth looking for an alternative to control top pantyhose. Sometimes the silliest of dreams or hobbies turn into billion dollar ideas.
Those that join the Giving Pledge are the ones who are building our future through the millions and billions that they put back into fixing what's broken, rebuilding what's been torn down, and curing what ails us. But let's get real, just because you are not yet a billionaire doesn't mean you can't give to charity or support the causes and dreams you have. Scale of donations and time given doesn't matter, putting your heart into it does.