Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders will be published around 7:45 a.m. ET on Saturday.
The document draws huge interest in the financial world, even among those who don’t have a stake in Berkshire Hathaway or its investments. Business Insider will cover it, and you can check back on Saturday for updates.
Typically, readers pays close attention to Buffett’s thoughts on the economy and signals of where he might consider investing.
That’s no surprise considering Buffett’s history of wealth creation and lifetime of accomplishments.
Following are interesting things we’ve gleaned from the billionaire’s eventful, 87-year-long life.
The “Oracle of Omaha” was born in 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, to Howard and Leila Buffett. His father was four-term US congressman from Nebraska and a stockbroker.
While most kids were playing stickball out in the street, Buffett was rubbing elbows with Wall Street’s most powerful players.
At age 10, Buffett had his “road to Damascus” moment, on Wall Street.
During a visit to New York City, Buffett and his father joined At Mol, a Dutchman who was a member of the New York Stock Exchange, for lunch.
“After lunch, a guy came along with a tray that had all these different kinds of tobacco leaves on it,” Buffett recalled. “He made a cigar for Mr. Mol, who picked out the leaves he wanted. And I thought, this is it. It can’t get any better than this. A custom-made cigar.”
It was at that moment Buffett realised he would dedicate his life to making money.
Source: Business Insider
Buffett caught the investing bug early. When he was 11 years old he purchased his first stock.
He bought three shares of Cities Services Preferred at $US38 per share. The young Buffett held on to them despite a quick price drop, to $US27 per share, but sold them as soon as they reached $US40.
Buffett’s small profit could have been tremendous if he had waited it out a little longer, as the price of Cities Services Preferred’s stock ultimately soared to nearly $US200 per share.
The experience imparted an important financial lesson, which has informed his investment decisions to this day: Buy and hold.
Buffett’s hustle game was strong as a youth. While he was a high-school student he and a friend operated a lucrative pinball business.
When Buffett was in high school he pitched the following business scheme to his friend Don Danley after he purchased a $US25 used pinball machine:
“I bought this old pinball machine for 25 bucks, and we can have a partnership. Your part of the deal is to fix it up. And lookit, we’ll tell Frank Erico, the barber, ‘We represent Wilson’s Coin-Operated Machine Company, and we have a proposition from Mr. Wilson. It’s at no risk to you. Let’s put this nickel machine in the back, Mr. Erico, and your customers can play while they wait. And we’ll split the money.”
The duo struck a deal with Erico and the machine was an immediate hit, raking in $US4 bucks on the first night.
Rather than spending their earnings, the young partners reinvested it in more machines.
In a couple of months, Buffett was a pinball kingpin with several machines operating at barbershops across his town. Buffett sold the business for over $US1,000 after a year.
In addition to the pinball business, Buffett undertook a number of odd business ventures during his childhood such as delivering newspapers, selling gum and soda, and washing cars.
Source: Business Insider
Through his various business endeavours, Buffett amassed a small fortune of $US53,000 (in today’s money) by the time he was 16.
He accumulated so much money as a teenager that he didn’t see the point in accepting his offer of admission from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
But he ultimately gave into the will of his father and went off to college, only to return to Nebraska two years later, at which point he attended the University of Nebraska.
Source: New Republic
After completing his undergraduate studies, Buffett moved to New York to attend Columbia’s School of Business.
The catalyst for Buffett’s decision to move to the Big Apple was a well-known Wall Street book titled, “The Intelligent Investor.” Buffett, an avid reader, said he first picked up the book when he was 19, and its philosophy of “value investing” changed his life.
He enrolled at Columbia after he learned that the book’s author, Ben Graham, was a professor there. Despite the fact that Buffett was the sole student to earn an A+ in one of Graham’s classes, Graham refused to hire Buffett at his firm. He even advised Buffett to completely avoid a career on Wall Street.
As such, after he earned his master’s degree in 1951, Buffett moved back and sold securities for Buffett-Falk & Co., his father’s brokerage firm in Omaha, for three years.
Source: Biography.com, CNBC
Buffett got hitched in 1952.
In 1952, while he was working for his father’s company, Buffett married Susan “Susie” Thompson. The couple had three children: Susan, Howard, and Peter.
Things were not easy for the young couple right after their nuptials. They lived extremely modestly in a small three-room apartment, which they rented for $US65 a month.
In 1957, Buffett purchased a five-bedroom home in Omaha for $US31,500. He still lives there.
Warren and Susie had a complicated relationship, to say the least. Although they remained married until Susan’s death in 2004, they didn’t live together for more than half of their marriage.
Mrs. Buffett left her husband when she was 45. She remained married, to Warren, but lived in San Francisco. The two remained close and spoke frequently on the phone and even went on vacations together. Ultimately it was Susie who set Warren up with Astrid Menks, a waitress who moved in with Buffett and then married him after Susie died.
Buffett moved back to the Big Apple.
Ultimately, Graham had a change of heart and in 1954 he offered Buffett a job in New York. So the family packed their bags and moved to the Big Apple.
Buffett worked for his mentor for two years as an analyst at Graham-Newman Corp., where he made the modern-day equivalent of $US105,000 a year.
When Benjamin Graham closed his partnership in 1956, Buffett started his own company back in his beloved Omaha: Buffett Partnership Ltd.
He was a millionaire by age 32.
By the end of the 1950s, Warren had opened seven partnerships. He became a millionaire in 1962 as a result of his earnings from those partnerships.
Buffett merged all his partnerships into one and invested in a textile-manufacturing firm, Berkshire Hathaway.
In 1962, Buffett decided to merge all of his partnerships into one and invested in a textile-manufacturing firm called Berkshire Hathaway. He started buying up shares of Berkshire Hathaway during the early 1960s and ultimately took complete control of the firm.
Today, the company has the highest stock price. As of February 2, 2017, it stood at a whopping $US245,600 a share.
In the late 1960s, Buffett shifted Berkshire Hathaway from textiles to insurance.
For Buffett, the ’80s were roaring.
While some were flaunting mullets, legwarmers, and neon attire, Buffett was making money. In 1982, Buffett’s net worth stood at $US376 million. It increased to $US620 million in 1983.
And in 1986, at 56, Buffett became a billionaire, despite his humble $US50,000 salary from Berkshire Hathaway.
Buffett owned about 7% of Coca-Cola Co. by 1988. It ended up being one of his best investments.
“Buffett’s [$US1 billion investment] in Coca-Cola grew nearly 16 times over the ensuing 27 years when accounting for dividends. This is an annualized gain of 11%, approximately.”
In 2008, Buffett became the richest person in the world.
“He became the richest person in the world in 2008 with a total net worth estimated at $US62 billion by Forbes, overtaking Bill Gates who had been the No.1 on Forbes list for the past 13 years. The very next year, Gates regained the first position and Buffett moved to second place.”
In 2010, Buffett and Bill Gates created the Giving Pledge.
Buffett’s frugality is a trademark of his “brand.” The 89-year old doesn’t own a mobile phone and prefers to travel on public transportation. This does not mean Buffett is a stingy miser.
In 2016, he beat his own personal philanthropic record by donating $US2.86 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock to numerous charities, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That donation brought his lifetime givings to more than $US28.5 billion.
In addition, Buffett and fellow billionaire Bill Gates agreed to donate at least half of their fortunes to charity when they created and signed the Giving Pledge.
Since 2010, over 150 people have made the pledge, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Buffett was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011.
The question is now: When will Buffett retire?
In January, Buffett promoted two senior executives – Greg Abel and Ajit Jain – to Berkshire’s board of directors.
Abel was appointed as Berkshire’s vice chairman for non-insurance business operations, and Jain as vice chairman, insurance operations. Buffett described the appointments as “part of a movement toward succession,” providing the clearest hint of the pool of candidates he’s considering to replace himself.
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