8 min read

Bill Gates’ Billions (… and how much other stars are worth)

How much is Bill Gates actually worth?

Bill Gates speaking.

Bill Gates is the richest person in the world. Topping Forbes’ list of billionaires with a net worth of £59.7 billion1.  He has, in fact, dominated this list for the majority of the 21st Century. Topping it between 1995 and 2007, then again in 2009, and from 2014 to the present day.

With such a large amount of money, is difficult to get your head around what this really means. We know we definitely struggled to imagine such a huge sum. To add some perspective, Bill Gates’ worth is almost four times bigger than the estimated GDP for the entire United States in 20162 . And he earned more than £75 per second in 20153.

The amount Bill Gates earns in a year tends to fluctuate. Especially as Microsoft grows and develops over time. He doesn’t have an annual salary like the rest of us. And his net worth actually doubled in only five years between 2009 and 2014.

Choosing not to pass down the family fortune

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda announced in 2014 that they didn’t intend to pass down their fortune to their children. We previously reported on how Bill Gates’ kids won’t inherit his wealth. Spending the kids’ inheritance is something that’s actually on the rise. For Gates, it’s not a selfish act – he just wishes for his children to lead a normal life, get a job they enjoy and make their own way in the world.

Nevertheless, it’s still almost impossible for Gates to spend his entire fortune before he dies. But if he doesn’t intend to pass it all down, what is going to happen to that £59.7 billion?

Gates’ contribution to charity

You might not realise it, but Bill Gates is actually the most charitable person in the world4.  So far he’s already donated over £20.3 billion to charity, and he’s declared that almost all of his fortune is to be donated once he dies.

Gates believes he and his family have “been blessed with good fortune beyond our wildest expectations.” He states that “we are profoundly grateful. But just as these gifts are great, so we feel a great responsibility to use them well.” This statement was taken from his letter as he signed up to the Giving Pledge. A joint commitment by some of the world’s wealthiest people who promise to donate the majority of their wealth to charity. He and his wife are great advocates of helping the less fortunate, and even though the majority of his wealth will be donated after his death, Gates has already affected many lives with his charitable donations.

His charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, works to tackle issues across the globe. Including everything from fighting disease to improving worldwide education. Every grant ever given can be found on the charity’s database. Gates is particularly focused on global health and development. Significant donations have been granted towards eradicating polio and malaria, and not to mention the £37.6 million that was recently donated to help with the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

Putting it all into perspective

Like Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chairman of Facebook, has also taken the Giving Pledge in November 2015. Zuckerberg was at the forefront of the social media revolution. At 32 he’s the youngest billionaire in Forbes’ top 10. Currently worth £41.2 billion, and with Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus VR as subsidiaries, he seems to be a major competitor for Gates’ title5.

As we’ve discussed the richest man in the world, it’s only right that we mention Lilane Bettencourt. The wealthiest woman with a net worth of £29.7 billion6 . She ranks at number 11 on Forbes’ billionaires list. She and her children own over 33% of the cosmetics industry7.  They carry on the L’Oreal empire her father built in 1907.

At age 93, her affairs are mostly managed by her daughter and grandchildren, but she owns all the brands under the L’Oreal umbrella such as Urban Decay, YSL, Kiehl’s, Maybelline and Garnier.

It might be surprising to hear that nobody from the entertainment industry features in the Forbes’ billionaires top 100. When you think of wealthy figures, the likes of Beyoncé or Ed Sheeran might instantly pop into your head rather than Bill Gates. With a net worth of £40.7 million8  and £25.2 million respectively these famous musicians don’t even come close to making the top 1009.

As far as celebrities and the entertainment industry goes, some of the wealthiest include Steven Spielberg, who’s currently worth £2.8 billion10, and Oprah at £2.1 billion11. In comparison Taylor Swift is worth £128 million12, and the rocket man that is Elton John is valued at £31.6 million13.

What’s next for Bill Gates fortune?

Earning money faster than he can spend it, Bill Gates holds incredible power as the richest person in the world. Alongside this title, it’s great to see his name featured as one of the most generous people in the world too. We’re certain he probably has more than one incredible car, a great wardrobe and we have no doubt his £113 million lakeside Washington estate is to be envied. However, it’s his dedication to philanthropy and helping this less fortunate that is to be admired.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.






1 Forbes Billionaires – Bill Gates. Data correct as of 12/9/16

2 International Monetary Fund – World Economic Outlook Database, April 2016

3 Based on increased earnings in 2015 reported by Daily Mail

4 Independent – The 20 most generous people in the world

5 Forbes Billionaires – Mark Zuckerberg. Data correct as of 12/9/16

6 Forbes Billionaires – Lilane Bettencourt & family. Data correct as of 12/9/16

7 Forbes Billionaires List. Data correct as of 12/9/16

8 Forbes Beyoncé. Data correct as of 12/9/16

9 Forbes Ed Sheeran. Data correct as of 12/9/16

10 Forbes Steven Spielberg. Data correct as of 12/9/16

11 Forbes Oprah Winfrey. Data correct as of 12/9/16

12 Forbes Taylor Swift. Data correct as of 12/9/16

13 Forbes Elton John. Data correct as of 12/9/16