Although many of us would welcome the opportunity to accumulate wealth and the lifestyle that it would bring, there is no doubt that some of the world’s richest people are notable for their frugality and Spartan lifestyle, as opposed to a conspicuous display of riches. Are they just modest – or does this prudence serve another purpose? Is a reputation for careful expenditure just another way of deflecting accusations of being ‘cheap’? Here are the five wealthiest people of recent times, who also happen to be the most frugal.
The world’s most successful investor, Warren Buffett’s books on business have been read by millions. With a personal worth of $47 billion, this qualifies him as one of the world’s richest men, yet Warren Buffett still lives in the modest home in Omaha, Nebraska that he purchased more than 50 years ago. He still eats at the local diner and enjoys a modest meal of burger and fries. He reportedly does not use a mobile phone, and drives his own car to work.
Although this Swedish billionaire’s name does not readily come to mind, the brand that bears his initials – furniture warehouse Ikea – is a worldwide phenomenon. Like the simple, economical nature of the products he sells, Kamprad rejects flashy shows of wealth and drives to work in a 15-year old Volvo, flies to meetings in economy class and uses the bus whenever possible. His home in Sweden is, unsurprisingly, furnished with IKEA products.
Frederik Meijer (1919-2011)
US billionaire Meijer owned a chain of grocery stores that bear his name; his net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be around $5 billion, and despite handing over control of his company to his sons in 1990 continued to work as chairman of the board. He was famous for buying economical cars and driving them until they fell apart, staying in motels, and contributing large sums to charity.
Carlos Slim Helú
Mexican Carlos Slim Helú has recently been named as the richest person in the world, at $53 billion, through his acquisition of telecommunications companies in Latin America. This ranks him higher than Bill Gates in the rich list. He has not yet indulged in a private plane, and has lived in the same house for the past 40 years. He still drives himself to work every day despite the threat of kidnapping, and only recently upgraded from the plastic watch he wore for most of the 1990s.
Duty-free shopping magnate Feeney made his fortune offering goods to long-haul travellers from Asia to the US, and donates much of his fortune to many deserving causes. He does not own his own home or car, and wears a plastic watch. He only owns one pair of shoes at a time, and flies economy class. Feeney’s upbringing during the Great Depression has certainly contributed to his frugality – but his generosity has seen huge donations being made to medical and education charities, and he spends very little on himself.