Melinda Gates urges billionaires to donate their wealth: ‘You can give away half of it and not change your life’

Melinda French Gates recently had a sit-down interview with Gayle King to discuss her divorce, her excitement for the future, and her stance on philanthropy.

In the nearly 10-minute interview that aired on CBS Mornings, Melinda, 57, urged fellow billionaires to give away the majority of their wealth.

“Giving away money your family will never need is not an especially noble act,” Melinda wrote in her latest letter for the Giving Pledge, which she founded with ex-husband Bill Gates and business magnate Warren Buffett in 2010.

Melinda French Gates being interviewed by Gayle King for CBS Mornings

“I believe the only responsible thing to do with a fortune this size is give it away — as thoughtfully and impactfully as possible. The ultimate goal of any philanthropist should be to render the need for philanthropy obsolete.”

The Giving Pledge requires signees to commit to giving away at least half of their wealth during their lifetime or shortly after their death. Billionaires who have signed it include Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Mackenzie Scott.

Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, and Warren Buffett

In the original letter, Melinda and Bill had committed to giving most of the former’s fortune to the Gates Foundation. But according to a Wall Street Journal report, Melinda now plans to spread her fortune among several philanthropic organizations.

Melinda said that “if you are lucky enough to be a billionaire, believe me, you can give away half of it and not change your life.”

“And we should. We should have a society where if for whatever reason wealth is in your hands, you put it back in society so that you change and you lift up others,” she added.

Following their split, Melinda became a billionaire in her own right, with her net worth currently at $11.5 billion.

Melinda French Gates signing her book, The Moment of Lift

Melinda, a global advocate for girls and women, said that she personally likes to “see” and “feel” her philanthropy in action.

“We have to listen to people. They have their own solutions in their community,” she explained. “And if we listen sometimes it’s just a matter of saying, ‘Oh my gosh, they’ve got the way to keep the water clean, let’s just fund what we know will work.’”

Among Melinda’s areas of focus are Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company she created in 2015 to advance social progress and help women and families in the country. Issues tackled by the company include paid-leave policies and getting more females in technology to run for public office.

Melinda French Gates with Malala

Even after her widely-publicized divorce from Bill last year, Melinda said she remains committed to her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization focusing on combating poverty and disease. Since 1994, it has donated over $60 billion to various causes.

“We founded this institution back in 2000. Both of us. It has both of our names on the building. I believe in that institution. I believe in what we do. My values are baked into that institution,” she shared.

Melinda admitted the process hasn’t always been easy but said she maintains a “productive working relationship“ with her former spouse.

“I think the thing that people don’t realize is that even during the difficult times, the last 18 months, while we were going through this process behind the scenes we were able to show up and work effectively together. I’m not saying it was easy, but we did,” she said. “I still rose to my higher self. I think we can continue to do that.”

Melinda French Gates
Giving Pledge

Bill made a similar statement to CBS News. He said that he also remained “dedicated to my work at the Gates Foundation in partnership with Melinda, where our focus is to help reduce global inequities, giving every person the chance to live a healthy and productive life.”

As for the future, Melinda said she is looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store.

“I’m really excited about my life and the work ahead,” she said.

Watch Melinda’s insightful interview with Gayle King in the video below.

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