It probably comes as no surprise, but the personal life of Bill Gates is a bit different than the billionaire tycoons who rival his wealth, or the millionaire actors who rival his name recognition. In-fact, if you ignore the minor detail that the guy is worth a jaw-dropping $80 billion, you’ll find that Bill has more in common with the ordinary man than he does with the average billionaire. With a few notable exceptions, the entrepreneur famous for founding Microsoft spends his money and his time more like the rest of us.
Bill’s working life is pretty well known, being that his name is synonymous with a computer giant, but it’s worth mentioning since even the richest of us spend most of their waking hours working. Bill co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975, and the rest they say is history. Bill has remained involved with the business operations to this day, but his role as the formal leader (Chair) of the company ended in 2014, though he now serves as Microsoft’s Chief Technology Advisor. Since changing roles, Bill focuses most of his time on his philanthropic efforts and his family.
From the facts we know about his lifestyle, Bill seems to be the same old quirky kid who demonstrated his ability to jump over a chair in a network tv interview, or who programmed his private school’s schedule to place him in classes with the best looking girls. In Bill’s own words, his only real “splurges” would be his mansion which he lovingly calls Xanadu 2.0 and a personal plane. Although owning the largest private island in Belize is also worthy of being called a splurge, even for a billionaire. Xanadu 2.0 was named for the estate of the protagonist of Citizen Kane, and is a sprawling 66,000 square foot Washington mansion valued at over 145 million dollars, as of 2009. As one might expect, the mansion of a computer tycoon is a little different than the homes of the other 1%.
The mansion itself is composed of several interconnected buildings which are managed electronically through a central server and hundreds of micro-computers. Guests and residents control everything from the lighting to the temperature through small pins which they wear. And these custom settings follow the user as they move through the house. Bill has truly created a “smart-house” by giving attention to the tiniest of details. Occupants listening to music will find that speakers hidden behind the walls will let their tunes follow them through the house.
With a net worth of over 70 Billion dollars when Bill Gates says that he splurged on something, he really means it. His private jet, a Bombadier BD-700 Global Express is a far cry from the small Cessnas or Gulfstreams which are the staples of the private flying world. Estimated at a price-tag north of 40 million dollars, the Bombadier can fly non-stop for 4200 miles, and reach a top speed of Mach 1. Bill makes good use of these capabilities in his frequent trips to Africa as part of his work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and for his family vacations.
Besides spending some serious cash on Xanadu 2.0 and his island in Belize, Bill also has an impressive collection of cars to fill it with. When it comes to cars, Bill is clearly a Porsche fan. He’s been sighted driving in a 911 Carerra, and owns a handful of rare models like the 1988 959 Coupe and the 930 Turbo. The 959 Coupe is especially rare, with just 337 models ever produced. Rumor has it that Gates and Microsoft colleague Paul Allen were influential in getting Congress to pass a law making the 959 street legal in the US.
Between his private jet, his fleet of rare Porsches, and a 5 million dollar vacation on a rented yaght in 2014, it’s clear that Bill is willing to pay top-dollar when it comes to all things travel and transport. As part of his philanthropic work Bill has a regular excuse to travel the world, but he’s not beyond spoiling his wife and kids with trips to Rome, Belize, Croatia, Antarctica, and other exotic locales.
Bill has long identified himself as preferring a printed book over a pdf or an ebook, and Xanadu 2.0 boasts a private library with a few items which would make most librarians drool. In 1994 Bill bought the Codex Leicester, a collection of original writings from Leonardo Da Vinci, at auction for a cool 30.8 million. His private collection also includes writings from Abraham Lincoln and other influential minds.
Any discussion about where Bill spends his money isn’t complete without talking about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is worth over 27 Billion dollars. In a January 2014 Ask Me Anything thread on reddit.com, Gates explained that he feels it’s important to focus on specific areas with philanthropy. For the foundation, the global focus is on health inequality while the domestic (US) focus is on education inequality.
The work done by the Gates foundation is the best evidence that even now Bill has the same audacity to dream big as when Microsoft was first starting out. Both Bill and the Foundation have publicly committed to eliminating Polio from the earth, let that sink in for a moment. Less ambitious but equally impactful goals include researching and distributing new vaccines, revolutionizing condoms and other birth control methods, and providing access to safe sources of water. The Foundation is funded by contributions by Bill and Melinda Gates, and their close friend Warren Buffet.
Like Bill, Buffet is also something of an oddity among the world’s richest. Buffet lives in a modest 6,000 square foot Omaha home, and until 2007 did his driving in a 2001 Lincoln Town Car. For the most part, Buffet is Gates without the big-ticket “splurges”. The two met for the first time in 95′ in what both of them assumed would be a short and dull encounter. Buffet recalls asking former Washington Post writer Meg Greenfield, who also attended the historic encounter, just how long he would have to stay to remain polite. Much to their mutual surprise, the two became close. Close enough for Buffet to donate and pledge approximately 4 Billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the last decade.
To this day, Gates remains a dreamer and by all accounts an eccentric. Accordingly, the only item left on his bucket list is “don’t die”, and his biggest regret thus far in life is not knowing another language. While Gates counts himself among those who hope for an eventual path to immortality to emerge, he does feel that it would be “egocentric” for ” for rich people to fund things so they can live longer” while Malaria and TB continue to plague the rest of the world. At least for the time being, it appears that Bill isn’t going to be the one to bring us the time required to rewatch Lost another 50 times.
Beyond his continued work at Microsoft, or his charitable work with his foundation Bill prefers to spend his time playing tennis, reading, and touring “interesting” locations with his children… like garbage dumps, power plants, missile silos, and scientific sites like the Large Hadron Collider.
While touring an exotic garbage dump may not rank high on the list of perks you would expect to get for being a child of one of the world’s richest, it turns out that the perks are actually pretty limited. Bill and Melinda have made it clear that they agree with the inheritance philosophy of Buffet, and the vast majority of their wealth will go to charitable efforts, rather than their children.
Bill and his wife are well-known as the billionaires who started the Giving Pledge alongside Buffet in 2010. Those who participate pledge at least half of their wealth to go to charity. So far, 81 billionaires have signed on. This might make one wonder how much his children will be left with in the end. In contrast to cases like Paris Hilton, the Gates children will have “the freedom to do anything, but not sort of a lot of money showered on them so that they can go out and do nothing.” Okay, so the Gates children won’t be billionaires, but at least they’ll have the worlds best gadgets since their father is one of the fathers of computing right? Wrong. In a 2013 interview, Gates elaborated on his parenting and family life, and it turns out that the Gates youngsters have a pretty ordinary upbringing. They do household chores for a modest allowance, attend church on Sundays, go on trips with their parents, and they wait till they’re 13 before they can have a cell phone. Much to the discontent of their youngest (Phoebe) Bill and Melinda have decided that 13 is the “appropriate age” for a phone, the same age that a young Bill Gates was first learning to program in BASIC.
All in all, Bill leads a life which at times can be pretty lavish, and he’s got some serious toys that the rest of us could barely dream of, but he spends most of his money on others. Whether it’s through donating to charity, funding his foundation, or taking the family on a lavish vacation, most of his serious expenditures all involve other people. Bill may be wealthier then the populations of a few countries, but he still enjoys simple pleasures like the rest of us.