What is Bill Gates' net worth?

Bill Gates is more than the man behind Microsoft. What is Bill Gates' net worth and how did he make his money?

Philanthropist and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates speaks in a panel discussion at the Global Solutions Summit on May 07, 2024 in Berlin, Germany.
(Image credit: Sean Gallup / Staff)

When it comes to technology and innovation, Bill Gates is a genius. But what is Bill Gates' net worth and how did it all begin? 

Today, Gates is one of the richest people in the world, primarily thanks to his stake in Microsoft, which was, at one point, the most influential tech firm on Earth. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft Corporation in 1975 with Paul Allen, at a key point in technology revolution.

However, Gates himself stepped back from the day-to-day running of the company some time ago. Today he is known for his philanthropic efforts through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/mw70aro6gl1676370748.jpg

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, Bill Gates has a total net worth of $157 billion, making him the fifth richest person in the world – but he often drops in and out of the top five. Taking the reins above him are Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and Mark Zuckerberg

Here we look at how Bill Gates managed to build his fortune and the factors that contribute to his net wealth today.

The story of Bill Gates and Microsoft

Bill Gates is widely regarded as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in modern history. Under his stewardship, Microsoft became a technology empire that revolutionised the way people use computers. Its software and hardware products have transformed the technology industry, streamlining processes, connecting people around the world, and enhancing the productivity of businesses and individuals.

Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1955. He showed an early interest in technology and computers, even though the industry was still in its early stages.

By the age of 13, he taught himself how to program his first computer and went on to attend Harvard University. Despite making it into the prestigious university, Gates dropped out after two years to pursue his passion – computers and technology.

The official founding year of Microsoft is 1975. Gates co-founded the business with his childhood friend, Paul Allen, and initially focused on producing software for personal computers.

Their big breakthrough came in 1980. That year, Microsoft signed a deal with IBM to provide the operating system for its new line of personal computers, MS-DOS – a game-changer for Microsoft. It cemented the firm’s position as a major player in the emerging computer industry.

Over the next five years, with the cash from IBM flowing in, Microsoft continued to innovate and expand its product offerings.

The first version of Windows, which would become its flagship operating system for personal computers (PCs) was put on sale in 1985.

In the years that followed, Microsoft released a series of highly successful products, including Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and the Xbox gaming console.

From the early days of MS-DOS and Windows to more recent successes like the Xbox and Azure, Microsoft has always been willing to push the boundaries and try new things.

The story behind Bill Gates’ net worth

As the majority shareholder of Microsoft, Gates' fortune rose with the company’s success.

In fact, he was the world's richest person for several years in a row during the 1990s and early 2000s.

One of the key factors that contributed to Gates' success was his ability to see the future of technology and anticipate the needs of consumers. He could see the potential of personal computers when other companies were only just getting to grips with large mainframe servers for businesses. His vision helped him create products that would appeal to a broad range of users.

But with success came criticism. Microsoft was accused of engaging in anti-competitive practices, and the company was the subject of a high-profile antitrust lawsuit in the late 1990s.

The lawsuit alleged that Microsoft used its dominant market position to stifle competition and maintain a monopoly in the computer industry. While Microsoft ultimately settled the case, the controversy surrounding the company and its founder lingered for some time.

Gates made his money through his visionary leadership and innovative approach to the technology industry. He co-founded Microsoft and built it into a global technology empire that has changed the world. While his success was not without controversy, there is no denying that Gates' legacy will continue to inspire and shape the technology industry's future for years to come, both with Microsoft and his charitable foundation.

What does Bill Gates do with his wealth 

Gates is known for his selfless personality, which is the underlying reason for his desire to give away most of his wealth. He and his ex-wife own the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a charity to help fight against poverty, inequity and disease around the world. 

According to Forbes, Gates has donated at least $35.8 billion of his Microsoft stake to his foundation. In 2010, Gates launched the Giving Pledge, which he and other wealthy individuals have signed up to with the aim of distributing a majority of their wealth to good causes. 

Other billionaires have also donated to the Gates Foundation, including Warren Buffett who has donated more than $36 billion since 2006. 

Gates also spends his time travelling and learning about new innovations in different countries. He visited India in March for Anant Ambani’s pre-wedding bash (the son of billionaire Mukesh Ambani). On his almost week-long stay, Gates met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some other members of the cabinet. Gates told The Times of India that he discussed with the PM how his foundation can carry on supporting India’s technology and innovation. 

The entrepreneur has also announced that he will be publishing a memoir in 2025, which will give readers an insight into his life before he was in the public eye, and as a young entrepreneur in his twenties. 

Jacob Wolinsky

Jacob is an entrepreneur, hedge-fund expert and the founder and CEO of ValueWalk. 

What started as a hobby in 2011 morphed into a well-known financial media empire focusing in particular on simplifying the opaque world of the hedge fund. 

Before devoting all his time to ValueWalk, Jacob worked as an equity analyst specialising in mid- and small-cap stocks. Jacob also worked in business development for hedge funds. 

He lives with his wife and five children in New Jersey. 

Jacob only invests in broad-based ETFs and mutual funds to avoid any conflict of interest that could arise from buying individual stocks.

With contributions from