The outstanding success of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has made many early investors into millionaires.

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As Anupreeta Das writes for The Wall Street Journal, many Berkshire Hathaway investors are as unlikely as Warren Buffett himself. The Oracle of Omaha is famous for shunning the trappings of his enormous wealth in favor of philanthropy, and many shareholders have followed the same path.

 

How Do Berkshire Hathaway's Unlikely Millionaires Spend Their Money?

Health, property and charitable donations

Collectible toy trains trader Ed Prendeville bought his first shares for $1,300 each in 1983, and has watched as the value of some of them has soared to over $200,000 each. Throughout the years he invested the profits from his business in Berkshire stock, and has been able to put money aside for his children and for his own retirement fund.

In 2007 Prendeville was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and was only able to afford the cutting-edge treatment thanks to his investments in Berkshire Hathaway. As well as health issues, Berkshire Hathaway investments have enabled others to buy property and raise loans.

Frank Fitzpatrick, who bought his first shares for $40, was able to buy a lakefront home in his hometown of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. 'Forty-Dollar Frank' told the WSJ that his family gathered "for a group hug and said. 'Thank you, Warren," after the purchase was completed.

Diverse group of shareholders with Berkshire Hathaway's interesting stories

Many early investors have put their kids through college and donated to their own alma maters, cultural institutions and medical research. This philanthropic streak seems to have been inspired by Buffett himself, who has pledged to give away nearly every cent of his $62 billion fortune. Buffett told the media that he thinks a "high percentage of big individual shareholders" will also donate most of their money to good causes.

The group of investors that comes to Omaha for the annual shareholders meeting is varied. Tens of thousands of them come to town, money managers, corporate executives, farmers and rabbis, and restaurant staff claim they are a generally stingy bunch.

A large group hail from Portland, Oregon, thanks to money manager Mark Holloway. He bought into Berkshire Hathaway for his clients in the early 1970s, when shares sold for around $400 each. Now a few hundred of them are millionaires.

Those who want to sell their shares face stiff tax penalties. The popularity of charitable donations is explained by the fact that they are tax-free and deductible from federal estate taxes, and many have joined Bill Gates and Buffett's call for the billionaires of the world to donate at least 50% of their wealth to charities.