In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.
I think that both parties should declare the debt limit as a political weapon of mass destruction which can't be used. I mean, it is silly to have a country that has 237 years building up its reputation and then have people threaten to tear it down because they're not getting some other matter.
I would say the most satisfying thing actually is watching my three children each pick up on their own interests and work many more hours per week than most people that have jobs at trying to intelligently give away that money in fields that they particularly care about.
If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end - people like myself - should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it.
You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing.
I am quite serious when I say that I do not believe there are, on the whole earth besides, so many intensified bores as in these United States. No man can form an adequate idea of the real meaning of the word, without coming here.
We only want to link up with people whom we like, admire, and trust. ... We do not wish to join with managers who lack admirable qualities, no matter how attractive the prospects of their business. We've never succeeded in making a good deal with a bad person.
The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.
Who would think of buying or selling a private business because of someone's guess on the stock market? The availability of a quotation for your business interest (stock) should always be an asset to be utilized if desired. If it gets silly enough in either direction, you take advantage of it. Its availability should never be turned into a livability whereby its periodic aberrations in turn formulate your judgements.
What motivates most gold purchasers is their belief that the ranks of the fearful will grow. During the past decade that belief has proved correct. Beyond that, the rising price has on its own generated additional buying enthusiasm, attracting purchasers who see the rise as validating an investment thesis. As 'bandwagon' investors join any party, they create their own truth - for a while.
Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel. These once unthinkable dosages will almost certainly bring on unwelcome after-effects. Their precise nature is anyone's guess, though one likely consequence is an onslaught of inflation.
Investors should be skeptical of history-based models. Constructed by a nerdy-sounding priesthood using esoteric terms such as beta, gamma, sigma and the like, these models tend to look impressive. Too often, though, investors forget to examine the assumptions behind the models. Beware of geeks bearing formulas.
No formula in finance tells you that the moat is 28 feet wide and 16 feet deep. That's what drives the academics crazy. They can compute standard deviations and betas, but they can't understand moats.
I may have more money than you, but money doesn't make the difference. If there is any difference between you and me, it may simply be that I get up and have a chance to do what I love to do, every day. If you learn anything from me, this is the best advice I can give you.
... but the important thing is that when you do find one where you really do know what you are doing, you must buy in quantity.... Charlie and I have made a dozen or so very big decisions relative to net worth, although not as big as they should have been. And in each of those, we've known that we were almost certain to be right going in.
I've seen more people fail because of liquor and leverage -- leverage being borrowed money. You really don't need leverage in this world much. If you're smart, you're going to make a lot of money without borrowing.
Investors, of course, can, by their own behavior make stock ownership highly risky. And many do. Active trading, attempts to "time" market movements, inadequate diversification, the payment of high and unnecessary fees to managers and advisors, and the use of borrowed money can destroy the decent returns that a life-long owner of equities would otherwise enjoy. Indeed, borrowed money has no place in the investor's tool kit.
I have no use whatsoever for projections or forecasts. They create an illusion of apparent precision. The more meticulous they are, the more concerned you should be. We never look at projections, but we care very much about, and look very deeply at, track records. If a company has a lousy track record, but a very bright future, we will miss the opportunity...
My rather puritanical view is that any investment manager, whether operating as broker, investment counselor of a trust department, investment company, etc., should be willing to state unequivocally what he is going to attempt to accomplish and how he proposes to measure the extent to which he gets the job done.
We've used up a lot of bullets. And we talk about stimulus. But the truth is, we're running a federal deficit that's 9 percent of GDP. That is stimulative as all get out. It's more stimulative than any policy we've followed since World War II.
The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.
Our approach is very much profiting from lack of change rather than from change. With Wrigley chewing gum, it's the lack of change that appeals to me. I don't think it is going to be hurt by the Internet. That's the kind of business I like.
I look for businesses in which I think I can predict what they're going to look like in ten to fifteen years time. Take Wrigley's chewing gum. I don't think the internet is going to change how people chew gum.
The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage.
As I have mentioned before, we cannot make the same sort of money out of permanent ownership of controlled businesses that can be made from buying and reselling such businesses, or from skilled investment in marketable securities. Nevertheless, they offer a pleasant long term form of activity (when conducted in conjunction with high grade, able people) at satisfactory rates of return.
It is unquestionably true that the investment companies have their money more conventionally invested than we do. To many people conventionality is indistinguishable from conservatism. In my view, this represents erroneous thinking. Neither a conventional nor an unconventional approach, per se, is conservative.
The value of market esoterica to the consumer of investment advice is a different story. In my opinion, investment success will not be produced by arcane formulae, computer programs or signals flashed by the price behavior of stocks and markets. Rather an investor will succeed by coupling good business judgment with an ability to insulate his thoughts and behavior from the super-contagious emotions that swirl about the marketplace.
There is no question that an important service is provided to investors by investment companies, investment advisors, trust departments, etc. This service revolves around the attainment of adequate diversification, the preservation of a long-term outlook, the ease of handling investment decisions and mechanics, and most importantly, the avoidance of the patently inferior investment techniques which seem to entice some individuals.
A market downturn, doesn't bother us. For us and our long term investors, it is an opportunity to increase our ownership of great companies with great management at good prices. Only for short term investors and market timers is a correction not an opportunity.
I bought a company in the mid-'90s called Dexter Shoe and paid $400 million for it. And it went to zero. And I gave about $400 million worth of Berkshire stock, which is probably now worth $400 billion. But I've made lots of dumb decisions. That's part of the game.
The line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball.
Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. The person sitting in the shade now should be grateful for the person who planted and tended that tree. That includes all those benefactors of humanity throughout history that created, invented, financed, produced, maintained and improved all that we enjoy today.
Lethargy bordering on sloth remains the cornerstone of our investment style. The exception was Wells Fargo, a superbly-managed, high-return banking operation in which we increased our ownership to just under 10%, the most we can own without the approval of the Federal Reserve Board.
Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies. And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.
In the financial markets I find it easy to predict what will happen and very difficult to predict when it will happen. I think that things were clear during the bubble as to what would happen eventually.
...I will give you two pieces of advice. Invest as much in yourself as you can; you are your own best asset by far. Then follow your passion; you want to be really excited to get out of bed every morning.
On his Giving Pledge philanthropy: The way I got the message out was to get a copy of FORBES, look down that 400 list and start making phone calls! Bill and Melinda [Gates] did the same thing. So keep publishing the list so I can milk it.
We've long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune tellers look good. Even now, Charlie and I continue to believe that short-term market forecasts are poison and should be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also from grown-ups who behave in the market like children.
I just think that - when a country needs more income and we do, we're only taking in 15 percent of GDP, I mean, that - that - when a country needs more income, they should get it from the people that have it.
If you gave me the choice of being CEO of General Electric or IBM or General Motors, you name it, or delivering papers, I would deliver papers. I would. I enjoyed doing that. I can think about what I want to think. I don't have to do anything I don't want to do.
Well, I think the biggest mistake is not learning the habits of saving properly early. Because saving is a habit. And then, trying to get rich quick. It's pretty easy to get well-to-do slowly. But it's not easy to get rich quick.
I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the finanical system to let me do what I love doing-and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that.
Would your reply possibly be this? Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you're saying we're going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent. Only in Grover Norquist's imagination does such a response exist.
[Gold] gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.
Ben's Mr. Market allegory may seem out-of-date in today's investment world, in which most professionals and academicians talk of efficient markets, dynamic hedging and betas. Their interest in such matters is understandable, since techniques shrouded in mystery clearly have value to the purveyor of investment advice. After all, what witch doctor has ever achieved fame and fortune by simply advising 'Take two aspirins'?
The most important investment you can make is in yourself. Very few people get anything like their potential horsepower translated into the actual horsepower of their output in life. Potential exceeds realization for many people...The best asset is your own self. You can become to an enormous degree the person you want to be.
I do not like debt and do not like to invest in companies that have too much debt, particularly long-term debt. With long-term debt, increases in interest rates can drastically affect company profits and make future cash flows less predictable.
People who watch their weight, golf scores, and fuel bills seem to shun quantitative evaluation of their investment management skills although it involves the most important client in the world-themselves.
In my opinion, the entire field of investment management, involving hundreds of billions of dollars, would be more satisfactorily conducted if everyone had a good yardstick for measurement of ability and sensibly applied it.
A pin lies in wait for every bubble. And when the two eventually meet, a new wave of investors learns some very old lessons: First, many in Wall Street (a community in which quality control is not prized) will sell investors anything they will buy. Second, speculation is most dangerous when it looks easiest
In our view, though, investment students need only two well-taught courses-How to Value a Business, and How to Think about Market Prices. Your goal as an investor should simply be to purchase, at a rational price, a part interest in an easily-understandable business who's earnings are virtually certain to be materially higher five, ten and twenty years from now.
It's quite clear that stocks are cheaper than bonds. I can't imagine anybody having bonds in their portfolio when they can own equities, a diversified group of equities. But people do because they, the lack of confidence. But that's what makes for the attractive prices. If they had their confidence back, they wouldn't be selling at these prices. And believe me, it will come back over time.
One of the ironies of the stock market is the emphasis on activity. Brokers, using terms such as 'marketability' and 'liquidity,' sing the praises of companies with high share turnover... but investors should understand that what is good for the croupier is not good for the customer. A hyperactive stock market is the pick pocket of enterprise.
Our leaders have asked for 'shared sacrifice.' But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
I don't have my diploma from the University of Nebraska hanging on my office wall, and I don't have my diploma from Columbia up there either-but I do have my Dale Carnegie graduation certificate proudly displayed.
The optimum portfolio depends on the various expectations of choices available and the degree of variance in performance which is tolerable. The greater the number of selections, the less will be the average year-to-year variation in actual versus expected results. Also, the lower will be the expected results, assuming different choices have different expectations of performance.
In a bull market, one must avoid the error of the preening duck that quacks boastfully after a torrential rainstorm, thinking that its paddling skills have caused it to rise in the world. A right-thinking duck would instead compare its position after the downpour to that of the other ducks on the pond.
Getting fired can produce a particularly bountiful payday for a CEO. Indeed, he can 'earn' more in that single day, while cleaning out his desk, than an American worker earns in a lifetime of cleaning toilets. Forget the old maxim about nothing succeeding like success: Today, in the executive suite, the all-too-prevalent rule is that nothing succeeds like failure.
Mr. Market is kind of a drunken psycho. Some days he gets very enthused, some days he gets very depressed. And when he get really enthused you sell to him, and if he gets depressed, you buy from him. There's no moral taint attached to that.
I have pledged - to you, the rating agencies and myself - to always run Berkshire with more than ample cash. We never want to count on the kindness of strangers in order to meet tomorrow's obligations. When forced to choose, I will not trade even a night's sleep for the chance of extra profits.
I have never been able to understand why the tax comes as such a body blow to many people since the rate on long-term capital gain is lower than on most likes of endeavor (tax policy indicated digging ditches is regarded as socially less desirable than shuffling stock certificates).
Making money isn't the backbone of our guiding purpose; making money is the by-product of our guiding purpose. If you're doing something you love, you're more likely to put your all into it, and that generally equates to making money
Many stock options in the corporate world have worked in exactly that fashion: they have gained in value simply because management retained earnings, not because it did well with the capital in its hands.
So smile when you read a headline that says "Investors lose as market falls." Edit it in your mind to "Disinvestors lose as market falls-but investors gain." Though writers often forget this truism, there is a buyer for every seller and what hurts one necessarily helps the other. (As they say in golf matches: "Every putt makes someone happy.")
You know, people talk about this being an uncertain time. You know, all time is uncertain. I mean, it was uncertain back in - in 2007, we just didn't know it was uncertain. It was - uncertain on September 10th, 2001. It was uncertain on October 18th, 1987, you just didn't know it.
I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.
Asset values and earning power are the dominant factors affecting the valuation of a controlling interest in a business. Market price, which governs valuation of minority interest positions, is of little or no importance in valuing a controlling interest.
Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I'd been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can't run very fast. I'm not particularly strong. I'd probably end up as some wild animal's dinner.
I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire's tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit.