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7 Things I Learned from Lunch with Warren Buffett

Source | LinkedIn : By Jeffrey Towson

Last week I took twenty Peking University students to Omaha to spend a day at Berkshire Hathaway. The trip included 3 company visits, a 2.5 hour Q&A with Warren Buffett, and then a steak lunch with him. I’m writing up the whole experience and will post it shortly (including the Q&A).

But there were several things that really surprised me. And I am someone who has probably read over a hundred of Buffett’s interviews. I have studied his investments going back to the 1960’s. And yet in person, certain things still really surprised me. They are:

#1: He has not benefited financially from owning Berkshire Hathaway.

During lunch he mentioned to me that he had never sold a single share of Berkshire stock. That would mean he has not really benefited financially from building or owning a $400B company. .

I was shocked by this. If he never sold a share and there has never a dividend, that means he spent his life building a company and then gave it away. And none of that great wealth ever actually came to him personally.

Of course, I assume he has private investment accounts and has been compounding his personal money over the years. So he is probably still very wealthy. But still.

#2: He says his wealth has no real utility for him. But he thinks it can have great utility for others.

One of my Peking University students asked a great question about how he views wealth now versus when he started. And Buffett gave a fascinating answer. His main point was that his wealth has no “utility” in his life. He kept using that word utility. He said he has everything he wants and needs. He has a house, a car, healthcare, a nice television and so on. He doesn’t think owning more things will make him any more happy (“if you buy 10 houses, you have basically gone into the hotel business”). He mentioned the private jet as an exception to this.

It appears he has lived his entire life on under $100K per year (my guess). And above that the money just doesn’t seem to have any use for him.

However, he then said that his wealth could have great utility for others. It could impact other peoples’ lives, such as by sending people to school or by building wells for villages.

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