Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Words of Wisdom

     Warren Buffett is chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, a hugely successful conglomerate of businesses and corporate interests based in Omaha, Neb. In preparation for the annual meeting of the company, to be held in May, Buffett last week published his annual letter to shareholders (here are highlights if you don't want to see the whole thing), which has become a kind of bible for long-term stock investors.

My favorite Berkshire product: See's candy
     Warren Buffett has made millions and billions for himself and his fellow investors. But even he is not perfect. For example, he admitted recently that he drinks five Cokes a day. He owns a lot of shares of Coca-Cola, and so he is essentially buying from himself, but the average health expert would be aghast if you told her you drink five Cokes a day. Yet there's nothing average about Warren Buffett -- he's 83 years old and still going strong, despite the overdose of high fructose corn syrup he pours down his throat every day.

     So maybe you don't want to take health advice from the so-called Oracle of Omaha. But you know he's doing something right, certainly in business and probably in life as well. Here are a few samples of the wit and wisdom of Warren Buffett:

     On the stock market:  "The market, like the Lord, helps those who help themselves. But, unlike the Lord, the market does not forgive those who know not what they do."

     On his company's bare-bones bureaucracy:  "A compact organization lets all of us spend our time managing the business rather than managing each other."

     On trust but verify:  "All managements say they're acting in the shareholders' interests. What you'd like to do as an investor is hook them up to a machine and run a polygraph to see whether it's true."

     On administrative bloat:  "Managers who want to expand their domain at the expense of owners might better consider a career in government."

     On government regulation:  "There are significant limits to what regulation can accomplish. People continue to do foolish things no matter what the regulation is, and they always will."

     On investor thinking:  "Man's natural inclination is to cling to his beliefs, particularly if they are reinforced by recent experience -- a flaw in our makeup that bears on what happens during bull markets and extended periods of stagnation."

     On opportunity:  "A true investor welcomes volatility because a wildly fluctuating market means that irrationally low prices will periodically be attached to solid businesses."
A collection of Buffett articles

     On emotions:  "Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies ... If they insist on trying to time their participation in equities they should be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful."

     On expectations:  "You and I can sell each other stocks at higher and higher prices. You personally might outsmart the next fellow ... but bear in mind that investors as a whole cannot get anything out of their businesses except what the businesses earn."

     On bad businesses:  "When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact."

     On inheritance:  "The perfect amount to leave children is enough money so they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing."

     On philanthropy:  "In my own case, 99%-plus of my wealth will go back to society, because I've been treated extraordinarily well by society."

   

26 comments:

DJan said...

I have always admired Warren Buffett. I had no idea he downed five Cokes a day! Surely he hasn't been doing that all his life... has he? Nice quotes, Tom. Thanks for the peek into his thinking processes. :-)

Linda Myers said...

We went to the shareholders meeting in Omaha three years ago. What a fascinating day that was!

Anonymous said...

I greatly admire Warren Buffet and not because he is such an extraordinary businessman, it is because of his philanthropic work and the way he humbly lives. I will not take any dietary inspiration from him though. Not only does he drink all that soda, but he eats McDonalds every day. I guess we're not all perfect - and thank goodness!

Stephen Hayes said...

Whatever it is he's eating and drinking seems to be serving him quite well.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

He must have great genes. I would be dead if I consumed five cokes per day....Still looking for the candy.

Dick Klade said...

What a good guy. Wonder how many health food companies he promotes as good investments?

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

He's very wise, especially with regard to the inheritance he plans to leave his children -- even so that they can do anything but not enough that they can do nothing. I didn't know that See's candy is owned by Berkshire. OMG! That's my favorite brand of candy -- mostly available in the West, I think. He must have great genes to eat what he does and drink five Cokes a day. I don't think most of us could get away with that health-wise!

Kirk said...

I own some shares in Berkshire through a managed account. I might think about going to Omaha one of these years.

Anonymous said...

I love Warren Buffet, he lives in the same home he bought many years ago, drives an older car, his suits have seen many years. He lives in Omaha his birth town, he gives generously to all the schools and business with no thought of thanks whatsoever, what a guy, if I had invested in Berkshire Hathaway years ago I would be retired in style no money to invest, but I think him a true visionary and a loyal American with a big heart!

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