An only child, Broad was born in the Bronx to Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents. His father was a house painter, and his mother a dressmaker. His family moved to Detroit when he was six years old. In Detroit his father operated five-and-dime stores and his mother resumed work as a dressmaker. Broad attended Detroit Public Schools. In 1951, he graduated from Detroit Central High School. He attended Michigan State University, majoring in accounting with a minor in economics and graduating cum laude in 1954. That same year, the twenty-one year old Broad married eighteen year old Edythe “Edye” Lawson. Broad went on to earn the distinction of becoming the youngest Michigan resident to have attained the credentials of Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Prior to entering the home building business, Broad worked as an accountant.

A patron of the arts, sciences and education, Broad wants to give back more to society. In 2010, he was among the first to sign the Warren Buffett-Bill Gates Giving Pledge, to donate at least half his fortune. In September he weighed in on Buffett’s call for the government to raise taxes on the rich. “Those of us who have gained great success have an obligation to pay more taxes,” Broad told FORBES. “We’ve been coddled long enough and have tax breaks that 99.9% of the public don’t have, and it’s not fair.” Broad bought his first patch of land at age 20. He co-founded Kaufman & Broad with $25,000 borrowed from his in-laws and became one of the nation’s biggest home builders, supplying parents of baby boomers with affordable housing. In 1971 he bought Sun Life Insurance (later renamed SunAmerica) and sold it to AIG in 1998 for $18 billion in cash and stock. A contemporary art collector and regular face at Art Basel, Broad and Edythe created the Broad Art Foundation in 1984. Today they lend contemporary art to institutions around the world. Broad also supports education reform and scientific research in the fields of inflammatory bowel disease, human genomics and stem cells.