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Philanthropists Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have asked 400 of the richest Americans to pledge half of their fortunes to their favorite causes either during their lifetimes or in their wills.

Both Gates and Buffett are worth about 50 billion dollars each, and both are large contributors to charity, including Buffett’s annual contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which Gates has invested over 30 billion dollars in.

At GivingPledge.org, the two call upon other rich people to make a conscious commitment now rather than putting it off, and to go public with their pledges to motivate others to do the same.

“People tend to wait,” says Gates. “They may not know all the neat things going on.”

Buffett started it all in 2006 with his own pledge: 99% of his wealth. He says he commits it “to benefit others who, through the luck of the draw, have received the short straws in life.”

There are currently just over 1000 billionaires worldwide. So far, four have stepped up to the pledge plate. If all make what Gates and Buffett are dubbing the “moral” commitment, 600 billion dollars could be generated for philanthropic causes.

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