I have been inspired by this site here to write about some self made men and women.  This is what is wonderful about our country.  It’s not about luck, or bloodlines, or who you know.  It’s about hard work, smarts, tenacity, and vision.

I’ve decided to start with Warren Buffett. He’s an icon in the world of personal finance so it seems natural.  Plus I have a very small connection to him.  My dad mows his grass (not his Omaha grass).  Well, my dad owns the company that does his lawn care.  They’ve met.  I’ve never met him, or seen him, but I have driven by his house in a stalkish kind of way.

Warren Buffett was born on August 30, 1930, to an Omaha stockbroker.  A born investor, he bought his first stock at age 11.  He bought 3 shares of Cities Service Preferred, for $38.00.  He sold the stock for $40, and then watched as it rose to $200. [1]  At age 13 he filed his first tax return.  He deducted his bike and watch as a business expense for his paper route.  At age 15 he bought a pinball machine and put it in a local barber shop.  He soon owned 3 in different locations.   At age 21, while working as a stock broker during the day, he taught “Investment Principals” at night at the University of Nebraska.  Imagine being in that class?!  I hope everyone took good notes.   By age 26 he had a personal savings of over $140,000.[2]

A big influence on Warren’s young life was Benjamin Graham.  As Buffett often would say about Graham’s teachings: “The basic ideas of investing are to look at stocks as business, use the market’s fluctuations to your advantage, and seek a margin of safety. That’s what Ben Graham taught us. A hundred years from now they will still be the cornerstones of investing”. [3]

In 1956, when he was 26 years old, he started his first investment partnership, Buffett Partnership, Ltd.  Over the next several years he added 5 more investment partnerships to the mix.  Then, in 1962 he merged them into one and began buying up shares of Berkshire Hathaway for $7.60 per share.  He took control of the company three years later.  In 1969, 4 years after taking control of Berkshire, Buffett liquidated the partnership.

At age 49, Warren Buffett was listed on the Forbes 400 richest people with a net worth of $620 million.

In 1952, at age 22, he married Susan Thompson and they had 3 children.  At age 27 he bought a two bedroom house for $31,000 and still lives there today.  Warren and Susan separated in 1977 but remained married until Susan’s death in 2004.  Shortly after their separation he began living with a woman named Astrid Menks.  They finally married in 2006.  Warren was 76 and Astrid was 60.  Fitting Warren’s reputation for frugality, the ceremony took place at his daughter’s house and then they went to dinner at the Bonefish Grill.  [4]

Finally, in 2008, he was named the richest man in the world with a net worth of $62 billion.  He plans to donate 85% of his fortune, with most of it going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  He has said he wants to leave his kids enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing.

Other posts in the Series:
Henry Ford
Ingvar Kamprad
Sam Walton
Thomas Edison
Oprah Winfrey
Steve Jobs

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