Financial experts usually recommend being careful how you allocate your money lest you run out. But for billionaire Bill Gates, the goal is to run out of money.
The Microsoft co-founder announced this week that he’s donating $20 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while reaffirming his pledge to “give away virtually my entire fortune to the foundation” and eventually being removed from the richest list people of the world to delete .
Gates announced his plans in a Twitter post on Wednesday. Write: “I am committed to giving back my resources to society in ways that have the greatest impact on reducing suffering and improving lives. And I hope that others in positions of great wealth and privilege will also stand up at this moment.”
Gates, along with his ex-wife Melinda French Gates, has donated more than $50 billion to the foundation since 1994. But for the fourth richest person in the world to achieve his goal, he’ll have to make a massive philanthropic effort. is giving away almost all of his fortune, which Bloomberg currently estimates at $113 billion.
Here’s how he pulls it off and what the implications might actually be.
The impact of the Gates Foundation so far – and an outlook
“It is now clear that the need in all areas in which we work is greater than ever. The great crises of our time require all of us to do more,” Gates wrote, citing recent “major global setbacks” ranging from the Covid-19 pandemic to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Established in 2000, the foundation is already one of the world’s largest non-profit organizations. The nonprofit organization funds a variety of causes, with a particular focus on finding solutions to global problems such as disease, poverty, climate change, and access to health care and education.
Looking ahead, Gates wrote that he would like his ever-increasing donations to fund research and development to prevent future pandemics, mitigate climate change, and halve the world’s child mortality from preventable diseases over the coming decades.
Critics of the foundation point to the potential dangers — and conflicts of interest — of such a large charity having disproportionate power over how tens of billions of dollars are spent, particularly on issues of major global concern. These critics have argued that private nonprofits should have more public oversight and accountability.
But the Gates Foundation has undeniably already changed the world for the better. In a 2008 study, researchers at Rice University found that the foundation helped spur greater funding from the National Institutes of Health for research into vaccines for malaria and tuberculosis and other global diseases like asthma and heart disease.
Similarly, the Gates Foundation played a key role in founding Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – a global health program founded in 2000 that provides vaccines to poor countries and has helped protect nearly 1.2 billion people against diseases such as Covid-19, vaccinate against polio and measles. The foundation contributed more than $4 billion to the program, including $750 million in seed funding, and helped persuade governments and global health organizations to contribute billions more.
The program says it has prevented more than 15 million deaths since launch.
Gates’ fortune could continue to grow before he gives it all away
That The vast majority of Gates’ wealth comes from private ownership and common stock, including a reported 1% stake in Microsoft that’s currently valued at around $19 billion. His net worth fluctuates with the market and is up about 25% over the past five years — despite prior donations to charity and a transfer of at least $6 billion to his ex-wife from their 2021 divorce.
If those assets continue to appreciate, Gates could even give away more than $113 billion.
In the past, Gates has donated Microsoft stock and other investments directly to charities like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which holds the majority of its nearly $70 billion endowment in stock. Going forward, he could continue to make donations in the form of stocks or decide to liquidate some of his holdings and donate their cash value.
That would almost certainly be the case when it comes to assets like real estate — including a 6,000-square-foot lakefront home in Medina, Washington that Wealth-X valued at $80 million in 2019 — and an art collection that Wealth-X X appraised at $130 million including works by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Either way, it’s sure to be a huge undertaking, but the billionaire says he’s looking forward to it. In his blog post, Gates wrote that he doesn’t consider giving his wealth away as a sacrifice.
“I feel privileged to be involved in addressing these great challenges, I enjoy the work, and I believe I have an obligation to give my resources back to society in ways that have the greatest impact on improving life,” he wrote.
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