Melinda French Gates Says Billionaires Can Afford to Give Up Half Their Wealth — and 'We Should'

"If you are lucky enough to be a billionaire, believe me, you can give away half of it and not change your life," Melinda French Gates remarked

Melinda French Gates is committed to using her wealth to help others.

In a wide-ranging interview that aired on CBS Mornings Thursday, Melinda, 57, spoke about her divorce, her excitement about the future as well as her personal views about philanthropy.

One topic of discussion was a comment she made in her latest letter for the Giving Pledge, which calls on billionaires to commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

"Giving away money your family will never need is not an especially noble act," Melinda, who founded the Giving Pledge with ex-husband Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010, wrote in the letter. "I believe the only responsible thing to do with a fortune this size is give it away — as thoughtfully and impactfully as possible.'

Speaking with Gayle King during Thursday's interview, Melinda shared that "if you are lucky enough to be a billionaire, believe me, you can give away half of it and not change your life."

"And we should," she added. "We should have a society where if for whatever reason wealth is in your hands, you put it back in society so that you change and you lift up others."

melinda gates
Melinda French Gates. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

When it comes to her own work, the global advocate for women and girls shared that she personally likes to "see" and "feel" her philanthropy in action.

"We have to listen to people. They have their own solutions in their community," Melinda explained. "And if we listen sometimes it's just a matter of saying, 'Oh my gosh, they've got the way to keep the water clean, let's just fund what we know will work.' "

One major area of focus for Melinda is Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company she created in 2015 that is focused on advancing social progress and helping women and families in the U.S.

She also remains committed to her work as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation even after her divorce from Bill last year.

"We founded this institution back in 2000. Both of us. It has both of our names on the building. I believe in that institution. I believe in what we do. My values are baked into that institution," she told King in Thursday's interview.

melinda gates
Melinda French Gates. Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Although the process has not always been easy, Melinda said she has a "productive working relationship" with her ex-husband.

"I think the thing that people don't realize is that even during the difficult times, the last 18 months, while we were going through this process behind the scenes we were able to show up and work effectively together. I'm not saying it was easy, but we did," she shared. "I still rose to my higher self. I think we can continue to do that."

In a statement to CBS News that aired with Thursday's interview, Bill said he too remained "dedicated to my work at the Gates Foundation in partnership with Melinda, where our focus is to help reduce global inequities, giving every person the chance to live a healthy and productive life."

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As for her future, Melinda said she's looking forward to seeing what 2022 has in store.

"I'm really excited about my life and the work ahead," she told King.

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