MSN money |Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | 7:15 PM
This kind of story gives you faith in humankind, or makes you feel you’ve entered the Twilight Zone: An Austrian multimillionaire is giving away all his money to charity in pursuit of a simple, happy life. Rabeder, now 47 and divorced, lives in a two-room apartment in Innsbruck, and gets by on just $1,260 a month. “The worst that can happen to me is that I have to take a small job to get by,” he told the Daily Mail. ”My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Money is counterproductive — it prevents happiness.” Really? We’re not so sure about that. And, believe it or not, Rabeder has critics.
- Anglican priest and Telegraph religion editor George Pitcher commented, in part: “If you use it for the benefit of others, employing your time and skill as well as just dispensing the dosh, then you’re probably of more benefit to the world than a former rich bloke in a hovel halfway up a mountain.”
- ArabianMoney.net in Dubai asked, “Is he mad or just eccentric?”
We wondered why he isn’t keeping enough money to live more comfortably. Lots of wealthy people give away huge portions of their fortunes but don’t live in two-room flats. Pitcher mentioned Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Happiness and self-realization eluded Karl Rabeder as he indulged in a supremely materialistic lifestyle — a $2.2 million, 3,455-square-foot lakeside villa in the Alps, a farmhouse on 42 acres in Provence, six gliders, an Audi A8. His entire fortune was estimated at $4.7 million. On the other hand, happiness is a very personal thing, which Rabeder realizes. He said, ”I do not have the right to give any other person advice. I was just listening to the voice of my heart and soul.” His soul began telling him years ago that he was unhappy living the posh life. He mentioned being affected by the poverty in Africa during a visit there. “The tipping point came during a three-week holiday with his wife in Hawaii,” The Sydney Morning Herald said. “It was the biggest shock in my life when I realised how horrible, soulless and without feeling the five-star lifestyle is,” Rabeder said.
Rabeder sold his home accessories and furnishings business in 2004 — the same year as the Hawaii trip — and began supporting orphanages in South America. The gliders and fancy car are now gone. He’s raffling off the house in the Alps and has put the farmhouse in France on the market. The money is going to a microcredit charity he created to provide small loans and business-development help to self-employed people in six Central and South American countries.
In fact, in a study of members of the Forbes 400 “richest” list, the world’s wealthiest individuals rated their satisfaction at exactly the same level as did the Inuit people of northern Greenland and the Masai of Kenya, who have no electricity or running water.