Client Questions: Learnings from Warren & Charlie

May 11, 2023

The hottest items at the meeting – Warren and Charlie “Squishmallows” – (whose maker Jazwares is owned by Alleghany, a recent Berkshire acquisition). About 10,000 were sold for $9.99 at the event and some have been listed on Ebay for as much as $500!


Most clients know how much I respect Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, so it goes without saying that I tuned into the annual meeting this past weekend.

A client asked what I thought of the meeting and after that brief discussion, I thought it was worth summarizing five top lessons I gathered (with a corresponding quote) during the five+ hour annual meeting. This year’s meeting as a whole was very reflective, with both Warren and Charlie offering advice that went far beyond investing and finance. They touched on ways to be fair to your family, to live a good life, and to enjoy life & your success along the way.

1.) Clear is kind – in an interesting exchange about estate planning, Warren spoke at length about his belief in the need for transparency in estate planning with your children and/or beneficiaries. He emphasized the value of being transparent in the process noting “I do not sign a will until my three children have read it, understand it, and make their suggestions.” He admitted that facts and circumstances will vary by family but stated quite directly that “when the will is read to them and it’s the first they’ve heard about what the deceased thought about things, the parents have made a terrible mistake.”

2.) Invest in yourself – Warren was adamant (as he has been over the years) about the power of your own knowledge and resulting skill set “Your best defense is your earnings power. If you’re the best doctor in town, the best lawyer in town, the best teacher in town..the economy is productive and you will succeed with your talents….the best investment is always in yourself

3.) Cash flow is king– both Warren and Charlie commented on the importance of cash flow when it comes to lifelong savings (namely keeping earnings>spending as they have both done throughout their careers). Per Warren – “spend a little bit less than you earn. You can spend a little but more than you earn…then you’ve got debt, and chances are you’ll never get out of debt” (he did offer an exception for a home mortgage)

Per Charlie, (when giving advice to live a good life) offered this “it’s so simple to spend less than you earn, avoid toxic people, toxic activities, keep learning all your life, defer gratification because you prefer it that way, and if you do it all this way you will succeed.”

4.) Investing Commandments – One of the most consistent messages from Warren and Charlie is the fact that they are investing in businesses (as opposed to trading and owning stocks). They speak with such admiration and fondness about the companies they own and view it as a long-term partnership. As Warren said “we’re interested in owning a wonderful business forever” He also discussed another constant theme of theirs, which is to know what you own and rest easy as a result..“you should never have a night when you’re worried about investing” Warren reminded the audience.

5.) Far more to life than money – There were several moments during this meeting where both Charlie and Warren offered broader life advice. Warren suggested giving some thought to how you wish to be remembered and acting accordingly when he said “you should write your obituary and then try to figure out how to live up to it”

He also issued a powerful reminder on the importance of kindness. “I’ve never known anybody that was basically kind that died without friends. And I’ve known plenty of people with money that have died without friends, including their family.”

As always, I learned so much from these two wonderful men. The advice is always very simple and straightforward, delivered with humility and wit – all of which makes it that much more powerful to receive.

Thanks Warren and Charlie – for this year’s meeting and all that have come before it.

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