Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett is no ordinary gift recipient. Known for his extraordinary success in investing, he has remained one of the world’s wealthiest people for years.
Shopping for a family member is often challenging, but when that family member is Buffett, the dilemma becomes even more unique: What can you possibly give a billionaire who already has everything?
Mary Buffett, who was married to Warren Buffett’s son Peter, faced this question during their first Christmas as a married couple. She and Peter owned a music business, leveraging her prior experience as a Columbia Records executive and manager for Playboy’s late Founder Hugh Hefner.
During a 2019 interview with ThinkAdvisor, Mary Buffett said, “The first year we were married, I realized, ‘Warren is very rich, therefore, he doesn’t want anything.'” This led her to an unconventional gift choice: She presented her father-in-law with the balance sheet of their music company to show they were profitable.
Mary Buffett made it clear that her gift wasn’t an investment pitch. She simply wanted to show that they were doing well financially, a subtle but powerful affirmation of Buffett’s philosophy of enabling others to make their own way rather than providing them with unearned success. She clarified, “I just wanted to show him, ‘Look, we’re doing good.'”
The uniqueness of Mary Buffett’s Christmas gift to Warren Buffett becomes even more meaningful when viewed through the lens of Buffett’s approach to family and wealth. He’s well-known for his belief in giving his children enough resources to take initiative but not so much that they lose the drive to accomplish things on their own. He famously said the perfect inheritance is “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything but not so much that they would do nothing.”
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For those curious about what spending Christmas with Buffett entails, his daughter-in-law provided some insight.
“When the family got together in Laguna over Christmastime, all the titans of industry would be there,” she said. The conversation naturally gravitated toward companies and investing, subjects that were always top of mind for Buffett.
When asked what Buffett gave as Christmas gifts, she explained that he would typically give each family member $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills every Christmas. Then one year, he gave them $10,000 in shares of Coca-Cola stock with a note explaining they could save it or cash it in. Each year he continued giving them $10,000 of shares in his favorite stocks, which varied.
Mary Buffett has since moved on to other ventures, including writing multiple books about her famed former father-in-law and lecturing on business and finance.
Buffett didn’t amass his fortune by waiting for opportunities to come to him. He actively sought them out and invested wisely. This mindset isn’t just for the ultra-wealthy or financial experts; it’s a principle that anyone can apply. Whether you’re considering investing in blue-chip stocks or the more uncertain yet potentially rewarding world of startups, taking the initiative is crucial.
Buffett’s principles of informed decision-making, diversification and taking calculated risks can be applied broadly, even to emerging sectors like healthcare and new technologies. These sectors offer numerous opportunities for anyone to invest in startups, even with as little as $500. Buffett’s approach is not so much about having a financial head start, often referred to as a “silver spoon,” but more about adopting a disciplined and educated approach to investing.
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