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Berkshire’s Warren Buffett $50 Billion Decision at Age 25

Berkshire's Warren Buffett $50 Billion Decision at Age 25

In a recent Forbes article, Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) tells the story of being 25-years-old with a young family and making a life-altering business decision.

Instead of replacing his business idol, Benjamin Graham, in New York and becoming a junior partner at Graham-Newman Inc., Buffett instead returned home to Omaha and forged his own path. The rest they say is history or as Forbes called it, “Warren Buffett’s $50 Billion Decision.”

Here’s few nuggets from Buffetts story as told to Forbes’ Randall Lane in the series, “When I was 25.”

Some of Buffett’s experiences still resonate today for young people entering the business world: persistence, belief in yourself, do what you like and work hard. And sometimes, things just fall into place.

Take a look.

How did Buffett’s relationship start with Benjamin Graham?

Benjamin Graham had been my idol ever since I read his book The Intelligent Investor.  I had wanted to go to Columbia Business School because he was a professor there, and after I got out of Columbia, returned to Omaha, and started selling securities, I didn’t forget about him. Between 1951 and 1954, I made a pest of myself, sending him frequent securities ideas. Then I got a letter back: “Next time you’re in New York, come and see me.

Buffett went to New York with his young family and worked for Graham but it was a short-lived chapter. An opportunity arose to take over for a retiring Graham at his $6 million Graham-Newman Inc. fund. But Buffett was ready to go home and retire.

…when I got out of college, I had $9,800, but by the end of 1955, I was up to $127,000. I thought, I’ll go back to Omaha, take some college classes, and read a lot—I was going to retire! I figured we could live on $12,000 a year, and off my $127,000 asset base, I could easily make that. I told my wife, “Compound interest guarantees I’m going to get rich.

An unemployed Buffett slowly made the trek home but stopped along the way to talk with companies he wanted to invest in such as Jeddo-Highland Coal Company and Kalamazoo Stove & Furnace Company. All of them were open to speaking with the unannounced Buffet.

A skill was born.

Back in Omaha, the 20-something soon found himself back in the investing game after seven people approached him, including relatives.

You used to sell stocks, and we want you to tell us what to do with our money.” I replied, “I’m not going to do that again, but I’ll form a partnership like Ben and Jerry had, and if you want to join me, you can.” My father-in-law, my college roommate, his mother, my aunt Alice, my sister, my brother-in-law, and my lawyer all signed on. I also had my hundred dollars. That was the beginning—totally accidental.

Buffett soon formed a partnership, possibly called the Omaha Club. He didn’t solicit checks, the money just rolled in. He said to his investors in the evolving business:

If you are in tune with me, then let’s go. If you aren’t, I understand. I’m not going to tell you what we own or anything like that. I want to get bouquets when I deserve bouquets, and I want to get soft fruit thrown at me when I deserve it. But I don’t want fruit thrown at me if I’m down 5 percent, and the market’s down 15 percent—I’m going to think I deserve a bouquet for that.

Meanwhile, Graham-Newman underwent liquidation.

Buffett said of the life-changing experience:

Although I had no idea, age 25 was a turning point. I was changing my life, setting up something that would turn into a fairly good-size partnership called Berkshire Hathaway Inc. I wasn’t scared. I was doing something I liked, and I’m still doing it.