But where Buffett chose to keep most of his money (until his wife passed) and try and grow it to as large a sum as possible before giving it away, Gates has decided (at a relatively young age) to get his hands dirty helping the world.
Below is an article with an interview with Gates on his second career:
William Henry “Bill” Gates is a rich man. His estimated wealth, some 65 billion measured in US dollars, equals the annual GDP of Ecuador, and maybe a bit more than that of Croatia. By this rather crude criterion, the founder of Microsoft is worth two Kenyas, three Trinidads and a dozen or so Montenegros. Not bad for a university dropout.
Gates is also mortal, although some of his admirers may find that hard to believe, and as they say, there are no pockets in shrouds. So he is now engaged in the process of ridding himself of all that money in the hope of extending the lives of others less fortunate than himself.
“I’m certainly well taken care of in terms of food and clothes,” he says, redundantly. “Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organisation and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.”
That “certain point” is set a little higher than for the rest of us – Gates owns a lakeside estate in Washington State worth about $150 million (£94 million) and boasting a swimming pool equipped with an underwater music system – but one gets the point. Being rich, even on the cosmic scale attained by Bill Gates, is no guarantee of an enduring place in history. The projection of the personal computer into daily life should do the trick for him, but even at the age of 57 he is a restless man and wants something more. The “more” is the eradication of a disease that has blighted untold numbers of lives: polio.
Later this month, Gates will deliver the BBC’s Dimbleby Lecture, taking as his theme the value of the young human being. Every child, he will say, has the right to a healthy and productive life, and he will explain how technology and innovation can help towards the attainment of that still-distant goal. Gates has put his money where his mouth is. He and his wife Melinda have so far given away $28 billion via their charitable foundation, more than $8 billion of it to improve global health.
“My wife and I had a long dialogue about how we were going to take the wealth that we’re lucky enough to have and give it back in a way that’s most impactful to the world,” he says. “Both of us worked at Microsoft and saw that if you take innovation and smart people, the ability to measure what’s working, that you can pull together some pretty dramatic things.
“We’re focused on the help of the poorest in the world, which really drives you into vaccination. You can actually take a disease and get rid of it altogether, like we are doing with polio.”
This has been done only once before in humans, with the eradication of smallpox in the 1970s.
“Polio’s pretty special because once you get an eradication you no longer have to spend money on it; it’s just there as a gift for the rest of time.”
One can see why that appeals to Gates. He has always sought neat, definitive solutions to things, but as he knows from Microsoft, bugs are resilient things. The disease is still endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and killing it off altogether has been likened to squeezing jelly to death. There is another, sinister obstacle: the propagation by Islamist groups of the belief that polio vaccination is a front for covert sterilisation and other western evils. Health workers in Pakistan have paid with their lives for involvement in the programme.
“It’s not going to stop us succeeding,” says Gates. “It does force us to sit down with the Pakistan government to renew their commitments, see what they’re going to do in security and make changes to protect the women who are doing God’s work and getting out to these children and delivering the vaccine.”
Gates does not usually speak in religious terms, and has traditionally danced around the issue of God. His wife, a Roman Catholic, is less defensive on that topic but ploughs her own furrow, encouraging contraception when necessary, in contradiction to teaching from Rome.
“Melinda and I had been talking about this even before we were married,” he says. “When I was in my 40s Microsoft was my primary activity. The big switch for me was when I decided to make the foundation my primary purpose. It was a big change, although there are more in common with the two things than you might think – meeting with scientists, taking on tough challenges, people being sceptical that you can get things done.”
Gates is still chairman of Microsoft but without his day-to-day attention it has taken on the appearance of a weary giant, trailing Apple and Google in innovation. Some have called for Gates’s return to the company full-time to inject some verve but he isn’t coming back.
“My full-time work for the rest of my life will be at the foundation,” he says. “I still work part-time for Microsoft. I’ve had two careers and I’m lucky that both of them have been quite amazing.
Read the full article here.