Power Players

Bill Gates on spending his $110 billion: 'Where can you put your money?…How many hamburgers can you eat?'

Bill Gates
Gerard Miller | CNBC

The good thing about having a lot of money is that you can buy your own plane.

The challenging thing about having a lot of money is that you have to figure out how you are going to spend it all.

So says Bill Gates.

The 64-year-old co-founder of Microsoft has $110.5 billion, according to Forbes, making him one of the richest people in the world. (As of Friday, he trailed behind LVMH's Bernard Arnault and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.)

"Where can you put your money?" Gates asked in October at a centennial celebration of the high school he attended, Lakeside School.

"You can try to spend it on yourself," he said. "How many hamburgers can you eat?" (Hamburgers are Gates' favorite food, he said in the Netflix docu-series "Inside's Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates.")

"How many suits are you really going to wear? It's pretty finite," Gates said.

Gates also ruled out leaving it all to his children: Phoebe, 17; Rory, 20; and Jennifer, 23.

"It's not that good an idea for your kids to give them a whole ton of money," Gates said, citing a 1986 Fortune Magazine story, written by famed Warren Buffett biographer Carol Loomis, that details "the history of why over-endowing children" can be unproductive.

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By 1986, Buffett, then 56, was worth $1.5 billion and had already decided to only leave his kids "enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing," Buffett said in Loomis' story.

"I had been thinking along those lines but it was interesting to see a very explicit articulation of that point of view," Gates said. 

Having ruled out spending it on hamburgers and suits or giving it away to his children, Gates, along with his wife Melinda, landed on philanthropy.

"In a way, it's the only logical outcome," Gates said of spending his billions.

Running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was another question.

"The idea that we would build an organization and be very hands on and run it — that has to do with a desire to work everyday and think about very tough problems," Gates says. "Melinda and I love doing that."

The Gates started the Seattle-based foundation in 2000 and it has granted $50.1 billion through 2018 to help alleviate poverty, improve health and reduce hunger in impoverished countries around the globe, as well as improve education in the United States.

Gates' decision to give away the majority of his wealth does not mean he hasn't enjoyed himself. 

Gates bought a private jet, for example, "which is a real luxury, so you can spend some money," he said at Lakeside. But he also pointed out that flying private makes him more efficient and productive: "that's an indulgence that lets me do this work in a fairly intense way," he said. (Of course there's the matter of its carbon footprint.)

Gates also co-founded with Buffett The Giving Pledge, a public commitment for billionaires giving away the majority of their wealth.

See also:

Billionaire Marc Benioff: Capitalism has 'led to horrifying inequality' and must be fixed

Andrew Yang: You should get a check in the mail from Facebook, Amazon, Google for your data

Mark Zuckerberg on billionaires: The wealth is 'unreasonable' but 'may be optimal' for society

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett: This is what we need to do about income inequality