Bill Gates, the world's richest man and founder of Microsoft, is determined not to shower his children with so much wealth they "do nothing" and intends to leave most of his fortune to charity.

In a rare discussion about his own family, Mr Gates and his wife Melinda said they decided before they even had children that they would not spoil them with money, the couple told a conference in Vancouver.

Mr Gates, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $76 billion (NZD$89b), is determined that the prosperity accruing from his company will not mean a life of leisure as so-called "trustafarians" for his three teenage children, Jennifer, Phoebe and Rory. "They need to have a sense that their own work is meaningful and important," he said.

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Mr and Mrs Gates were introduced as heading the world's richest family and asked about their approach to parenting.

"We want to strike a balance so they have the freedom to do anything, but not a lot of money showered on them so that they can go out and do nothing," said Mr Gates.

He was asked if he was going to make his children billionaires. "Nope, they won't have anything like that," he said.

He channels his fortune through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has already donated $28 billion, mainly towards improving health care and education and alleviating poverty in the developing world.

Jennifer and Melinda Gates. Photo / Getty Images

The couple have modelled themselves on one of Mr Gates's mentors, Warren Buffett, the investor, who has also emphasised leaving wealth to charity not children. "You've got to make sure they have a sense of their own ability and what they're going to do," Mr Gates said.