George Soros is perhaps unique among his peers of the ultra-rich. Rather than starting out his career seeking to make a great deal of money, Soros always wanted to be a philosopher. As a young man, he had almost no use for money and no interest in becoming rich. He simply wanted to make enough money so that he could retire early, concentrating on philosophical pursuits.
But as time went on, the young Soros begin to see that one of the greatest ways to affect change in the real world is to generate large amounts of capital. As Soros became more successful in the markets, he began to see that he could affect real change by judiciously directing large amounts of capital to the areas in which it could have the greatest effect. Soros the philosopher slowly transformed into Soros the business man. Soros would go on to become one of the greatest investors in history, widely recognized as having some of the highest returns ever achieved in the capital markets.
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When Soros was young, he was exposed to the brutalities of the Nazi regime. Growing up in the Hungarian countryside, his family was subject to years of anti-Semitic pogroms, leaving many of his extended relatives languishing and Nazi death camps. Many of Soros is extended family was carted away to concentration camps throughout Europe, never to be seen or heard from again.
This experience had a profound effect on the young Soros’ intellectual development. He became intensely interested in the underlying reasons for which governments sometimes became fascistic and head towards totalitarianism and a curtailment of basic human rights. This led George Soros to pursue a degree in philosophy, which he had hoped would eventually lead to a sinecure in the academy.
After graduating from Oxford with a master’s degree in philosophy, Soros looked far and wide for suitable employment that would allow him to use his expertise in formal philosophy. However the job market was tight. After a period of about five years of working medial jobs throughout the English countryside, including door to door sales and clerical jobs, he decided, at the urging of a friend, to apply to a number of Wall Street trading firms. This serendipitous experience was the only reason the Soros ultimately ended up going into trading as a career.
By the age of 40, Soros was running his own hedge fund, Soros Fund Management. This fund would go on to return over 25 pecent per year over a four-year period, making it one of the most successful hedge funds in the history of the capital markets.
But Soros’ most lasting Legacy is, perhaps, the billions of dollars which he has given away through his philanthropic organizations. George Soros established the Open Society Foundations.