WARREN BUFFET- A MODEL FOR HIS BILLIONAIRE PEERS

By Moksha Grover

Warren Edward Buffett is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He is currently the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.  Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1930, Buffet is 91 years old. He is one of the most successful investors of all time and a model for his ultra-rich peers. Buffet also runs Berkshire Hathaway, which owns above 60 companies, including insurer Geico, battery maker Duracell and restaurant chain Dairy Queen.  He has a net worth of over $104.4 billion as of August 2021, making him the world’s ninth-wealthiest person[1].  “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die” is a famous quote said by Warren Edward Buffet.

EARLY LIFE AND CAREER

Warren Buffet displayed his interest in business and investing at a very young age. At age seven, he was inspired for investing in the book “One Thousand Ways to make $1000”. Much of buffets childhood was filled with business ventures. He sold chewing gum, Coca-Cola bottles, and weekly magazines door to door. When in high school, he made money delivering newspapers, selling golf balls and stamps etc. As a sophomore, with one of his friends, he established a large paper route and invested in pinball machines. They are stationed in barber shops and split their profits with the shop owners. They started their business with just $25 and sold their business later for $1200. Buffet also bought 40 acres of Nebraska farmland, by age 15 with the proceeds from earlier business ventures[2].

After completing his graduate degree from Columbia University, Buffett worked for the investment legend Benjamin Graham, in New York City. He considered Benjamin Graham as his mentor and was inspired by him a lot. After Graham retired from his business, buffett went back to his hometown and started running a series of successful hedge funds, known as the Buffett Partnerships.

In late1960s, Buffet closed down his original investment business and took over Berkshire Hathaway, a struggling textile maker. He decided to close his business when he saw the stock market being overvalued and made Berkshire Hathaway his primary business activity. Over the decades, with the help of buffet, Berkshire Hathaway turned into a conglomerate with annual sales of $245 billion[3]. It has a market capitalization of $654 billion and employs roughly 360,000 people through its many subsidiaries[4]. With the rise in the value of Berkshire’s stock, many people became rich. Buffet declared employee Greg Abel as his successor, keeping in mind his age-related health risks and long-term, interests. Although buffet has not retired or declared his intention to retire from Berkshire Hathaway. Its shares gained about 25% in the first eight months of 2021[5].

Image source: IndiaStudyChannel.com

LIVING LIFE ON HIS OWN TERMS

Buffet got much of his philosophy from his father, Howard Buffet, who was an American businessman, investor, and politician. He describes this philosophy as trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”. This means that he enjoys living up his life on his own terms and doesn’t care about what others think of him.

Talking about buffet’s personal life, Although, Buffet is a Democrat, he has still voted and donated to both democrats and republicans. He has also described himself as an ‘agnostic ‘person. His late wife and the foundation named after her that he has funded, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, were and are substantial supporters of reproductive rights organisations that favour access to legal abortions. Warren Buffet married Susan in 1952, who spent her later years in San Francisco. He spent more than 20 years considering himself to be happily married to Susan. After his first wife’s 2004 death, Buffett married another woman named Astrid Menks, who lived in Omaha, at the same time in a small and informal ceremony.

WARREN BUFFET’S CHARITY

Warren Buffet became the founder of ‘The Giving Pledge along with Bill and Melinda French Gates. The Giving Pledge is a campaign to encourage extremely wealthy people to contribute a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Buffet also pledged that more than 99% of his wealth will go to philanthropy, either during his lifetime or at his death[6]. He could have started his own charitable foundation but has contributed his money to five foundations run by others.  Until 2021, he served Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a trustee and poured most of his charitable money into the foundation.

Buffet says that he has given very little money to his three children Howard Graham Buffett, Peter Buffett and Susan Alice Buffett, who themselves are millionaires and own hundreds of millions of dollars for the foundations they each run. For example, he’s one of corporate America’s strongest proponents of women in business. He mentored Tracy Britt Cool for more than a decade as she rose from a financial assistant to CEO of Pampered Chef, a Berkshire subsidiary. Later, she started her own private equity firm, modelled after Berkshire, with Buffett’s support.

Buffet also shared his knowledge of the financial markets and the economy in 1977 and conducted annual shareholder meetings.[7] His annual shareholder meetings, known as “Woodstock for capitalists” is akin to a Disney vacation for thousands of families each year. Buffett also voluntarily met with scores of college students for decades about eight times a year for a Q&A session and tour of his businesses[8]. Buffet has given more than $4.1 billion to charity[9].

BUFFET’S RULE

Buffet recently admitted that he pays tax less than his secretary. The reason behind this, he told is a system from which he has benefitted a lot. This system lets billionaires pay very low tax bills, partly because it taxes income instead of wealth. For years he advocated for the so-called “Buffett Rule,” a minimum 30% tax on those making more than $1 million a year to remedy the problem[10]. Rich pay less tax when they deduct it from what they have donated to charities is a fact, also recognized by the buffet.

 For his rules on business, Buffet is a very sensible investor. He only invests in those companies which he has thoroughly researched and understands. Buffett personally lost about $23 billion in the financial crisis of 2008, and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, lost its revered AAA rating[11]. The most important quality, as defined by buffet for an investor is temperament, not intellect. For a successful investor, being with or against the crowd is not the centre of attraction.

Buffet was inspired a lot by the book “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham as it inspired and convinced him to invest in stocks. With the help of this book, he got to know that investing in stocks is equal to owning a piece of the business. So, when Buffet searches for stock to invest in, he always prefers the business that exhibits favourable long-term prospects. Buffet never buys anything unless he can write a particular reason to pay a particular price for that shares of the company and advises all the investors to do the same.

“Leave the children enough so that they can do anything but not enough that they can do nothing” is a famous quote said by buffet to wealthy families for charitable purposes.


[1] John M.Longo, ‘Why Warren Buffett Is a Model for His Billionaire Peers’, The Wire (August 30,2021) < https://thewire.in/business/why-warren-buffett-is-a-model-for-his-billionaire-peers> accessed 30th August 2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Stephanie Loiacono,’ Rules That Warren Buffett Lives By’, Investopedia (Jan 12,2021) < https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0210/rules-that-warren-buffett-lives-by.aspx> accessed 30th August,2021.