Jannie Mouton. Picture: HETTY ZANTMAN
Jannie Mouton. Picture: HETTY ZANTMAN

How much is enough? If you've not asked yourself this question and acted on it long before your 45th birthday, odds are you have a mountain to climb if you are going to have anything resembling a dignified retirement.

But no matter your age, there is no time like the present to really think about your finances.

It's especially important if you're rich.

A growing number of the world's wealthy are coming to terms with the fact that they cannot take it with them when they die, and, rather than leave estates worth billions to future generations who history shows are seldom up to the task of managing them in perpetuity, they choose to start giving it away while they are alive.

After all, you can only wear one set of clothes and sleep under one roof at a time, so figuring out how much future generations will need to keep them from starvation but also not condemning them to a life of wealth-induced lethargy becomes an important goal for many.

South African entrepreneurs have traditionally not made a fuss of their donations to charity, but a growing number, seeing the work done by luminaries such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are realising the benefit of public giving.

The trend is to create foundations and direct how best to spend some of their considerable wealth for the public good.

Patrice Motsepe, who has set aside half his family's wealth for philanthropic work, and Allan Gray, the Bermuda-based scion of the asset management company that bears his name, have elected to do precisely that: create legacies for future generations to do good on their behalf.

More than a century after his death, the extraordinary wealth of Cecil John Rhodes continues to fund education at Oxford University, and, with assets of over R3-billion, the legacy is likely to persist way beyond the 8000 or so young people who have benefited so far.

This week, PSG founder Jannie Mouton announced that, inspired by Buffett, he was establishing what will be a R2-billion foundation through a donation of shares in the company he founded less than 20 years ago, to focus on projects the Stellenbosch family deem worthwhile.

It should be able to give away around R80-million a year to worthy causes and remain sustainable.

Could he not have used the money perhaps to create the next Curro or Capitec, which have added considerable value to the South African economy through making education and banking more affordable and accessible?

The reality is that philanthropy reaches parts of society that business and the government simply cannot. Done smartly, it can also be tax efficient.

Many capable individuals, frustrated with the misallocation of capital of which most governments in the world are variously guilty, can specifically target their spending to causes that satisfy them and meet particular goals.

So why allow your wealth to create a generation of trust-fund kids with no perspective on the value of money?

Need convincing? Google "Paris Hilton" and "kennel". You don't want your grandchildren getting up to that kind of nonsense.

• Whitfield is a public speaker on the political economy and an award-winning financial journalist and broadcaster

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