The Wit and Wisdom of Warren Buffett
By JOSH FUNK
OMAHA, Neb. -- Billionaire Warren Buffett dispensed plenty of advice on investing and life during this weekend's Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting.
The wisdom Buffett and his investing partner Charlie Munger offer is part of what attracts more than 30,000 to the meetings each year.
Here's a sample of their insights:
Buffett and Munger told shareholders that successful investors must learn all they can about the businesses they are buying and stick to industries they know, but the right temperament is also important.
"You just have to avoid getting excited when other people are excited," Buffett said.
Admittedly, it's hard to continue to make rational decisions about investments when the stock market is soaring, but it has proven profitable for Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) (BRK.A).
"We've always tried to stay sane when other people like to go crazy," Munger said. "That's a competitive advantage."
Disadvantages Of Size
Berkshire Hathaway's size and its $49 billion cash pile allow Buffett to do bigger deals than ever, like the recent deal to buy half of the H.J. Heinz Co. (HNZ) in a $23.3 billion transaction.
Buffett reminded shareholders that size does have its disadvantages. He said it will continue to get harder to meet or exceed Berkshire's past returns.
But Munger said he's confident the conglomerate will still perform well over the long term.
"Of course our annual gains will slow down a bit, but it will still be very pleasant," Munger said.
Buffett said he's just as passionate about investing and running Berkshire Hathaway as he was when he was younger.
"You have to love something to do well at it," he said after a questioner suggested he'd lost some intensity at age 82.
Buffett said hunting for acquisitions and thinking about Berkshire is what he enjoys.
"There's nothing more fun for me than finding something new to add to Berkshire," he said.
The Federal Reserve's aggressive bond-buying program has helped stimulate the economy, but Buffett said it may be hard for the Fed to safely unload its $3.4 trillion investment portfolio.
"It's a lot easier to buy things than it is to sell them," Buffett said.
The Fed has been buying $85 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage bonds to try to keep long-term borrowing rates down and get the economy moving.
Buffett said it's hard to predict what will happen when the Fed starts unloading bonds, but it's likely to be "very inflationary."
"We really are in uncharted territory," Buffett said.
Berkshire Hathaway's Future
Buffett said he doesn't expect his successor to make any significant changes to Berkshire Hathaway after the 82-year-old investor is gone.
Buffett faced several questions related to the future of the Berkshire conglomerate he built.
Berkshire's next CEO may make some changes in how many of the more than 80 subsidiaries report to him directly, but he expects the company will remain extremely decentralized.
And Buffett said he doubts it would make sense to split Berkshire into several different pieces.
"Breaking it up into several companies, as far as I'm concerned, would produce a poorer result," Buffett said.
And even though Berkshire's next CEO won't have the Oracle of Omaha's reputation and connections, the company will still have a huge pile of cash to invest.
"In times of distress, few people have capital and even fewer are willing to commit," Buffett said.
As usual, Munger cut straight to the heart of the issue.
"I want to say to the many Mungers in the audience, don't be so stupid to sell these shares," he said.
"That goes for the Buffett family, too," Buffett said.