You don’t get to be one of the richest people in the world without facing difficulties, then overcoming them. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, billionaire and one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, has stared down his fair share of financial adversities and lived to tell the tale.
According to Forbes’ Real Time Billionaires List, Gates is the ninth richest person on the world, with a net worth of $109.3 billion. The 67-year old Harvard dropout has certainly done well for himself, and is always willing to give advice when asked.
Here are 7 genius money and life tips from one of the world’s most famous billionaires and philanthropists, William Henry Gates III.
Last updated: October 15, 2023
Save Like a Pessimist, Invest Like an Optimist
Gates didn’t make his fortune by risking it all. In fact, as CNBC Make It reported, Gates kept a year’s worth of cash on hand when he started Microsoft to keep the business afloat when revenues were light.
“I was always worried because people who worked for me were older than me and had kids, and I always thought, ‘What if we don’t get paid? Will I be able to meet the payroll?'” he told Ellen DeGeneres in 2017.
Optimism and pessimism are two sides of the same coin, and Gates knows this better than anyone. Economic troubles — both in the U.S. and globally — are going to happen, so being cautious in the short-term and confident in the long run is an investment strategy that served him and many others very well.
“Optimism is often dismissed as false hope,” Gates said at a 2014 commencement address at Stanford University. “But there is also false hopelessness.” In that speech, Bill spoke at length about his faith in optimism and the important role this habit plays in solving problems.
Invest in Skills and Education
Wait, didn’t Gates drop out of Harvard? Yes, he did. But in a 2014 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread, someone asked, “What is your best personal financial advice for people who make under $100,000 a year?” His answer: “Invest in your education.”
At a Harvard commencement speech in 2007, Gates reflected on his stint at the school. “What I remember above all about Harvard was being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence. It could be exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging, but always challenging. It was an amazing privilege — and though I left early, I was transformed by my years at Harvard, the friendships I made, and the ideas I worked on.”
The Importance of Being Patient
In his 1995 book, The Road Ahead, Bill Gates wrote, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
Success usually comes after a lot of trial and error and a lot of failures. Successful individuals are those who have the patience to stick through all the frustrating moments along the way. When it comes to investing, you have to be able to resist changing things at the first sign of stalled stocks or underperforming assets and see the bigger picture down the road.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Successful people are quoted often, even if what they’re saying seems like common sense advice. But quotes inspire, and successes speak from experience. A popular Gates citation is “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Whether you’re a famous investor or an average American, failure is not something to be ashamed of, but an opportunity to grow and innovate.
“Listen to your customers and take their bad news as an opportunity to turn your failures into the concrete improvements they want,” he wrote in his 1999 book, “Business @ the Speed of Thought.” “You should examine customer complaints more often than company financials,” he noted.
Measure Progress and Goals
Every personal finance or business goal needs to be measurable. Without tracking progress with set criteria along the way, end goals become obscure.
Gates has long sung the praises of William Rosen’s book, “The Most Powerful Idea in the World,” and what he has learned by reading it. While it covers the marvel of steam engine engineering as the driving force behind the Industrial Revolution, Gates was struck with the invention’s influence in democratizing “the nature of invention” and the power of measurement to advance work.
“In the past year I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition,” he said in an annual Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation letter in 2013. “You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal.”
It’s in You To Give
Gates is now known as much for his philanthropy as for his business dealings. That’s quite a feat when you’re the co-founder of one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Last summer, Gates repeated his goal to give away virtually all of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“I have an obligation to return my resources to society in ways that have the greatest impact for reducing suffering and improving lives,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “And I hope others in positions of great wealth and privilege will step up in this moment too.”
Make a Global Impact
For all the advances Gates has engineered for society as a whole, he believes in leaving the world a better place than when he entered it. And that might be his best money, or life, tip of them all.
On the Gates Foundation website, Gates speaks to the goal of creating “a world where everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life.” This thinking was born from eight words asked by Gates to his father, Bill Sr., after the ceaseless poverty he and his ex-wife Melinda were reading about every day: “Dad, maybe we can do something about this.”
“You inherit a world that has already proven that progress is possible — a world that has rebuilt after war, vanquished smallpox, fed a growing population, and enabled more than a billion people to climb out of extreme poverty.
“That progress didn’t happen by accident or fate. It was the result of people just like you who made a commitment that whatever else they did with their lives and careers, they would contribute to this shared mission of propelling us all forward.”
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