What's Warren Buffet Really Like?

Warren Buffet has pledged to give more than 99 percent of his fortune to charity, which gives us a glimpse of the person behind the billions. Here’s a little more insight.
Greg Kelly
Published: September 21, 2017
A friend and neighbor of mine at the Jersey Shore, James J. Maguire, worked on Wall Street for over 60 years, during which time he had a close business association with Warren Buffett.

If you know anything at all about money matters — and even if you don’t — you’ve likely heard of Buffett, who is known as the Oracle of Omaha for his unmatched financial and business prowess. Jim Maguire, something of a Wall Street legend himself, died this past summer at age 86. He was worth knowing. A CNBC report on his death called him “one of the great titans of the New York Stock Exchange floor.”

The highlight of Jim’s illustrious career included a long professional and personal relationship with Buffett, who is considered “America’s Greatest Investor” and has a net worth of $76 billion.

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Maguire, a stock specialist, was the main trader for Buffett’s investment holding company, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett often referred to Maguire as the “World's Greatest Specialist” — even to my daughter Lauren, who got to meet the “Oracle” in “Omaha” as part of a Fordham University women’s group visit in 2015.

From a business association that began in 1988, Maguire said, “a lasting friendship was born” and the two men spoke monthly. Maguire explained that Buffett was a “very regular guy” and “was very witty, loyal, not at all pompous and is generally undemanding, although I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of a bargaining table with him.”

Since Buffett started Berkshire Hathaway (originally a Massachusetts textile firm) in 1965, it has had a compounded annual increase of about 20 percent. A $1,000 investment in Buffett’s company in 1965 would be worth about $10 million today. Buying in today is no small proposition, however; a single class “A” share of the stock sells for over $274,000; the class “B” shares are about $183. The company, valued today at about $409 billion, has large holdings in Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft-Heinz, IBM, Geico, Anheuser-Busch and American Express.

With his incredible track record of success, a veterinarian just might want to know Buffett’s investment advice to his own wife. Well, it’s just one paragraph. In his 2013 letter to shareholders, Buffett wrote: “My advice to the trustee [for my wife] could not be more simple: Put 10 percent of the money in short-term government bonds and 90 percent in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund.” And Buffett prefers “the low-cost Vanguard funds.”

And for veterinarians just starting out, Buffett’s 2015 book, "How to Start Your Very First Business", in which he notes that “practicing good habits over a lifetime can have huge beneficial consequences, not just for business, but for a person’s happiness and even how their families develop,” offers these five gems about life and money:
  • “Failure isn’t falling down, it’s staying down.”
  • “You can’t make a good deal with a bad person.”
  • “The more you learn, the more you earn.”
  • “There are an unlimited number of good things to be done in the world.”
  • “Don’t save what is left after spending, spend what is left after saving.”
 
Greg Kelly is a long-time health care writer and editor. He has written for the Physician’s Money DigestTMDentist’s Money DigestTM and Veterinarian’s Money DigestTM websites. He lives at the Jersey Shore and welcomes comments at gregkelly@monmouthbeachlife.com.

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