At this point, billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are probably as well known for giving away their money than for the ways they got rich in the first place. But Gates isn't finished enumerating and clarifying his reasons for his efforts to eventually give away the bulk of his $90 billion fortune. His latest explanation came recently in the annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it basically comes down to two basic reasons: It's the right thing to do, and it's fun. Here's Gates on the first part:
"Even before we got married, we talked about how we would eventually spend a lot of time on philanthropy. We think that's a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money. Once you've taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society."
On the other point, Gates explains that his work with the foundation is enlightening and educational as well as a moral obligation:
"At Microsoft, I got deep into computer science. At the foundation, it's computer science plus biology, chemistry, agronomy, and more. I'll spend hours talking to a crop researcher or an HIV expert, and then I'll go home, dying to tell Melinda what I've learned."
Then, as if to put a big bow on the whole concept, he actually uses the F-word to describe his work with the foundation:
"It's rare to have a job where you get to have both a big impact and a lot of fun. I had it with Microsoft, and I have it with the foundation. I can't imagine a better way to spend the bulk of my time."
That goes for the bulk of he and Melinda's fortune as well. Melinda shared letter writing duties, and for her part she credits her Catholic upbringing and Bill's parents for their current passion for philanthropy:
"We both come from families that believed in leaving the world better than you found it. My parents made sure my siblings and I took the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church to heart. Bill's mom was known, and his dad still is known, for showing up to advocate for a dizzying number of important causes and support more local organizations than you can count."