10 Lessons From Warren Buffett

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Quirky, down to earth, and altogether unique, Warren Buffett has succeeded in ways that most only dream of. Ironically, the man carries a humble demeanor with a grandfatherly approach to explaining investing. Stemming from quotes, business moves, and a general value approach that has outperformed basically everyone, here are ten lessons that can be gleaned from the Oracle of Omaha.

1. Invest in yourself

Perhaps the greatest thing that could be gained from Warren Buffett’s life is to invest in yourself. He speaks about it often, but he knew when he was younger that he needed good speaking skills in order to convince investors to invest in his partnerships. To do that, he took classes on public speaking. Whether it be developing a new skill, getting exercise, or simply sleeping enough, taking care of yourself and self-improvement will always pay off.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY CEO WARREN BUFFETT AT HIS COMPANY’S ANNUAL SHAREHOLDER MEETING. IMAGE SOURCE: THE MOTLEY FOOL.

2. “Don’t watch the market closely.”

It might sound trivial, but the psychological effects of constantly checking your holdings can be dire. Rather than constantly looking to see whether you’re up or down a few percent, it is wiser to understand why you’ve made your investment, and then to trust the long-term process. Rather than constantly checking stock prices, it’s probably more helpful to be mindful of the company’s financial performance.

3. Learn from his frugality

Buffett is notorious for living conservatively despite his massive wealth. He lives in the same house he bought back in the 50s. He eats breakfast on the cheap as well, going to McDonald’s every morning with change his wife gives him. While that might sound extreme, the lesson is invaluable. If you live below your means, and put money away, you’ll be ready for that rainy day.

4. “It’s easier to stay out of trouble than it is to get out of trouble.”

It might sound trivial, but the simplicity of this is beautiful. I’ve heard Buffett speak many times about the idea that wise investors say no more often than they say yes. It speaks to the mindset that you should think things through before you act. It’s tough to come back from a 30% investment mistake. It’s tough to get out from under a house you couldn’t afford to buy. It’s easy having cash in the bank.

5. Keep it simple

Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A)(NYSE: BRK-B) invests in businesses that have solid financials, good management, and a strong competitive advantage. Overall, the company owns businesses with services that are always in need. When you look at the stocks that Buffett bought last year, he invested in banks, energy, and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN). Financials are inherently always in demand for credit markets, energy is indispensable to society, and e-commerce is the hottest game in town for retail.

6. Reputation is important

Buffett’s quote “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it” is something that is not often observed these days. In business or life in general, your integrity and reputation with others will determine how far you go, and what circles of influence you get into.

7. Only work with people you trust

Berkshire Hathaway takes a largely hands-off approach to managing its companies. But it does vet its business associates carefully, looking for good honest people with talent.

8. Don’t borrow money to buy stocks

On CNBC, Buffett pointed out, “It’s insane to risk what you have and need for something you don’t really need. … You will not be way happier if you double your net worth.” To borrow money and put it into assets that have so much risk is never a good move. Yes, a lot of investors do it. That doesn’t make it a good idea.

9. “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

It’s probably one of the most commonly quoted ideas ever, but these are biblical words for investing. Buffett does not overpay. His mistake with Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ: KHC) being a rare exception, Buffett prioritizes value above all else. A lot can be said of this today, where some of the leading names in the stock market are priced at very high multiples relative to earnings. You don’t see Berkshire Hathaway diving into Netflix or Tesla.

10. Make sure you’re happy

Buffett has said many times that he loves what he does. It’s what allows him to still wake up every day and go to work when he’s pushing 90 years old. He was quoted last year as saying: “I can’t buy time, I can’t buy love but I can do anything else with money, pretty much. And why do I get up every day and jump out of bed and I’m excited at 88? It’s because I love what I do and love the people I do it with.”

The lesson here is so important. There’s no point going through life unhappy. When you listen to Buffett speak, it’s not just about the money. He is completely in love with what he does. As nerdy as it may be, he loves investing. This lesson applies to more than just finance. In this fast-paced modern world, with so much emphasis on financial success, it’s easy to forget that it’s all for nothing if you’re miserable. Moreover, you’re probably going to be better at something if you enjoy doing it.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. David Butler has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), Netflix, and Tesla and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2021 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short January 2020 $220 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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