As was already reported here, Warren Buffett was recently eclipsed by Spanish fashion businessman Amancio Ortega as the 2nd richest human being on Earth. That happened thanks to some lucky breaks for Ortega, but there was another contributing factor that has more to do with Buffett's financial behavior over the last several years than Ortega's. A recent study has determined that were it not for Buffett's huge philanthropic efforts, today the businessman would have a net worth of $102 billion.
To put that in perspective somewhat, when Ortega became the second richest person in the world it was as a result of his net worth having spiked to just $71.5 billion. Meanwhile, the current richest man in the world, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has a net worth hovering just under the $80 billion mark, so if Buffett had canceled those charity checks he'd be at the top of the heap by an extremely significant margin. Of course, it's also worth pointing out that both Bill Gates and Amancio Ortega are two of the billionaire signers of Buffett's "Giving Pledge," so the calculations of wealth if Buffett wasn't interested in giving most of his money away are actually a little bit trickier than just adding Buffett's donations to his current net worth. But it boils down to a simple fact that Buffett would likely be the only hundred-billionaire in the world if he got back all the money he's given away.
That money has included donations to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is devoted to causes including healthcare and education. It's those donations that make of the bulk of the $102 billion figure, as his pledge of ten million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares to the foundation is considered by many to be the largest philanthropic donation ever given, valued as they were at about $30.7 billion. There's also Buffett's own charitable organization, the Buffett Foundation, which is devoted to convincing other billionaires to give their money away like he's promised to. Smaller ("smaller" being a relative term, of course) donations made by Buffett in the recent past include a $50 million donation to Washington's Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization formed by Ted Turner in 2001 to reduce the risk of nuclear and biochemical warfare all over the world. That donation was in 2002, but when you're worth more than $70 billion a $50 million donation doesn't really make a dent in your net worth.
It's unlikely that Buffett is lamenting his potential wealth. First of all, he's still richer than God and can afford to buy anything he might want a million times over. The whole point of the Giving Pledge is for billionaires to give away at least half of their wealth to a charitable cause, so if he's true to his word, Buffett is actually hoping for the numerical gap between his actual net worth and what his net worth could be to be a lot higher. Who knows, maybe if he really works hard and if things go his way, Warren Buffett could die a millionaire.