Jeff Bezos' Ex-Wife Mackenzie Scott Had An 'Excruciating' Job Making And Selling Sandwiches To Pay Rent — Now She Gives Away Billions

MacKenzie Scott is one of the wealthiest women in the world today. People know the story of her ex-husband Jeff Bezos founding Inc. from their garage, but few realize the struggles Scott went through in the years before that world-changing company launched.

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Drawing on extensive research, including interviews with friends, teachers and colleagues as well as unpublished letters and public records, The New York Times in 2022 provided a detailed look into Scott’s formative years and her philosophical outlook on life, shaped by experiences of hardship and resilience.

After graduating from Princeton University, Scott moved to New York City to chase her novelist dreams. But reality hit hard. To stay afloat, she took a waitressing job, an experience she vented about in letters to her mentor author Toni Morrison. 

“I guess the only way I’ll know what doesn’t work for me is by trying it,” she wrote in September 1992, worn down by the “excruciating monotony of making and selling sandwiches” and consumed with anxiety over whether her measly tips could cover the rent.

Scott’s experiences during these early years laid the groundwork for her eventual success and her views on life’s unpredictable nature. In a 2013 interview with talk show host Charlie Rose, she recounted a Chinese folk tale known as “The Lost Horse,” which she likened to her philosophy on life. 

“You never know where it's going to end up. Good luck, bad luck, it's not the way that we really need to look at things,” Scott told Rose. She emphasized that the hardships we endure are often what we’re most grateful for in hindsight, as “they take us where we need to go.”

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Her journey took a significant turn when she met Bezos while working at the financial firm D.E. Shaw. The couple moved to Seattle, where they embarked on the ambitious project of building Amazon. This venture, which began in their garage, would transform not only their lives but also the landscape of global retail.

However, it’s Scott’s life post-divorce that has captured public attention. Following her separation from Bezos in 2019, without a prenuptial agreement, Scott received a substantial portion of Amazon shares. This settlement propelled her into the ranks of the world’s wealthiest people. But rather than simply enjoying her wealth, Scott embarked on a mission of philanthropy. She joined the Giving Pledge, committing to donate the majority of her wealth during her lifetime.

In less than five years, Scott has donated over $17 billion to various causes, reflecting her dedication to effecting positive change. Through her contributions, Scott has supported a wide range of initiatives, from educational institutions and health organizations to poverty alleviation and racial equality efforts. Her approach to philanthropy — direct, no-strings-attached contributions to organizations — has been both praised for its impact and seen as a call to action for other wealthy individuals.

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