Why I’m grateful to him and so many others — and to CAPITALISM.
Now for a few words about Warren Buffett, Capitalism, the stock market, and yours truly, on the occasion of Mr. Buffett’s annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting this weekend. They come from a fan.
Today I was lying in my bed doing what I do best: feeling sorry for myself. Here’s how it went: My parents are long deceased. They were wildly generous to me in their lifetimes and on their deaths, but that money has long since been spent, largely on my own son and his family. My wife used to work as a successful lawyer, but she turned exclusively to charity work about seventeen years ago. I have many friends and a sister, and they are all wonderful people, especially my sister and my best friend, Phil DeMuth. But I could not count on them for any meaningful financial help if things went horribly wrong in the material world.
“I am all alone,” I said to myself, self-pityingly. “There’s no one to help.”
And then I realized there were lots of people to help, led by and exemplified at the highest level by Warren Buffett. I have some savings. Not as much as people with private jets, but some. About half is in real estate. The rest is in stock corporations or partnerships.
The people who run these corporations, these partnerships, are the ones who help me. Mr. Buffett, whom I am super proud to call a friend, uses the most powerful brain on the planet to maximize the value of my little tiny bits of Berkshire Hathaway. His astounding capabilities are basically given to me for free to maximize my well-being. He gets paid basically zero. His pay is in BRK stock’s price rise and when it rises, my microscopic bits of it rise just as his do.
Yes. It’s incredible but true: I have the absolutely smartest man in the world helping me. So I am not alone.
And then there is the Hathaway family of Los Angeles — not related to Berkshire-Hathaway. They control and run the Los Angeles Athletic Club Company, or LAACO. It’s a real estate company specializing in mini-store warehouses and a big athletic club on some of the best real estate in booming downtown L.A.
They run the company (or maybe it’s a partnership — I forget which) with scrupulous honesty and integrity. It’s done well for me over the years and so I have Karen Hathaway, the boss, and everyone else at LAACO looking out for me, too.
And I have most of my savings in index funds composed of all the large industrial companies and some financial ones in this country and abroad. Some of the people who run these companies are not great people. But the vast majority are intelligent, hard working, and devoted to making the companies thrive. As the companies thrive, so — over long periods — does the stock price and the dividend (if any). So I have some of the smartest, most hard-working executives in the world working for me through my itty bitty stock ownership in this myriad of companies.
Plus, I have Janet Yellen and Stanley Fischer of the Federal Reserve working night and day to keep the economy stable and the dollar strong. They, like Mr. Buffett, get paid basically zero for this unbelievably important work. So, they are helping, too.
In other words, I am a terrible over-spender. Just awful. But I have some of the best people in the world on my team trying to save me from ruin at my own hands. Just by owning stock, which anyone with even modest savings can do, I have a legion of friends, led by the emperor of capitalism, Mr. Buffett, to help me out.
I also have my pals Kevin and Jerry at Merrill Lynch, Phil DeMuth, my money manager at Conservative Wealth Management, his nephew Chris, at a hedge fund called Rangely, and some nameless people at other funds I have forgotten about. I am far from wealthy but I am not alone.
That is capitalism and it is the future and it works, and it’s doing its level best to keep me afloat and in my swimming pool, NOT face down.
Congratulations on another great year, Mr. Buffett, and long may you run. Thank heavens for capitalism, which protects us without robbing from us (usually) or putting us in prison. It’s nice to have friends.