The billionaire next door: The wisdom of Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is one of my heroes. He’s the second-richest man in the world, yet he lives more frugally than I do. CNBC recently broadcast an interview with Buffett. Naturally, it’s been posted to YouTube. Here’s the show in its entirety (with notes and excerpts I made while watching). [Update March 7, 2018: The show is no longer available online]

As a kid, Buffett would go door-to-door selling chewing gum and Coke. He’d buy six bottles for a quarter, and then sell them for a nickel each. He bought his first stock at the age of eleven. He bought a 40-acre farm at the age of fourteen using money he had saved from a paper route.

Some of his fundamental tenets for investing are:

  • Patience pays: buy ’em and hold ’em.
  • Invest in businesses you understand.
  • Look for businesses with “durable competitive advantage”.
  • Look for honest, able management.
  • Buy at a reasonable price.

Buffett notes that students today have a better standard of living than John D. Rockefeller once did. “Really getting to do what you love to do everyday — that’s really the ultimate luxury… Your standard of living is not equal to your cost of living.

Buffett is happy if he can have a big-screen television, a bucket of popcorn, and sit in his sweats watching Nebraska football games. “The second-richest man on the planet lives the way he invests: simply and without much fuss.” He eats burgers, fries, and cherry cokes. His doctor gave him a choice: eat better or exercise. He chose to exercise.

CNBC: “You’re not one to accumulate a lot of things.”
Buffett: “No. Most toys are a pain in the neck.

Aswath Damodaran, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business says: “I think what Warren Buffet embodies is the importance of thinking for yourself, not letting other advisors, other experts, tell you what the right stock to invest in, because they’re coming from a very different place than you are.” In other words: do what works for you!

Buffett hasn’t made a penny off all the products that are pitched using his name. His favorite book about himself is by Lawrence Cunningham, The Essays of Warren Buffet: Lessons for Corporate America. (The same author wrote How to Think Like Benjamin Graham and Invest Like Warren Buffett, which also looks interesting.)

CNBC: “What is the one thing that young people should be doing about money?”
Buffett: “I tell them two things, generally. One is stay away from credit cards… The second thing I tell them is to invest in themselves.”

CNBC: “What’s the number one thing you’ve learned from doing business with Warren Buffett?”
Business Owner: “Ethics.”

CNBC: “What is the Warren Buffett secret to success?”
Buffett: “If people get to my age and they have the people love them that they want to have love them, they’re successful. It doesn’t make any difference if they’ve got a thousand dollars in the bank or a billion dollars in the bank… Success is really doing what you love and doing it well. It’s as simple as that. I’ve never met anyone doing that who doesn’t feel like a success. And I’ve met plenty of people who have not achieved that and whose lives are miserable.”

You can find more information on Warren Buffett at The Warren Buffett fan center.

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