Over 900 pages about a man who loves money so much that he has no interest in religion, the arts, literature, science, travel, partisan politics, his surroundings or fine living. Before the global recession (which reduced his fortune by around $16.5 billion), Warren Buffett was said to be the richest man on earth, with an estimated net worth of $62.3 billion in March 2008. But he lives in a house in Omaha, Nebraska, which he bought in 1958 for $31,500, subsists on a diet of hamburgers, cherry Cola and potato chips and spends his days in a repetitive routine which most people would find mortifyingly banal.Of course we all want Buffett’s wealth but I doubt many would enjoy the miserable existence that he calls a life. On cost benefit grounds even if I could mimic his financial genius I couldn’t bring myself to live what to me would be an extremely tedious and narrow obsession with the almighty buck.
Essentially the flaw in the Buffett view of the world is mercantilist. His object in life is to accumulate piles of silver not to spend it or even to leave it to his kids. The world’s richest man provides a living contradiction to the basic idea of economics that it is consumption not income that should matter.
Did I learn anything about investing from this book? I think so. Common sense ideas about trying to understand a business and taking advantage of the ‘madness of crowds’ were appealing. Buffett’s idea of a ‘safety margin’ and his obvious disdain for tricky financial engineering were refreshing.
Buffett is interested in accumulating wealth not in spending it. His recent stated intended philanthropy via the Gates Foundation is partly just a manifestation of this – Buffett just wants to control the distribution of his wealth beyond the grave. I guess too that GF’s ethical view that all human lives have equal worth would be supported by Buffett – he strongly believes that kids should not receive a meal ticket for life because they win a genetic lottery. That’s sensible.
*On a positive note he is honest and values hard work.