Archive for March 6th, 2011

Last night I finished reading another of the $2 books I keep picking up at my local used bookstore (Half-Priced Books).  This was not one of the ones I was planning to take with me to Baltimore for my (now) aborted detail, but it was picked up shortly after I wasn’t able to go.

The book is titled: “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life“, and was written by Alice Schroeder (2008©).  The author spent several years with Mr. Buffett and seems to have had fairly unlimited access to his time and records in order to create this work.  And, it is a “work”, as it’s over 800 pages!   Having cautioned any readers about the volume of the tome, I’ll now state categorically it is well worth the time invested in reading it (pun intended).

If you know anything about Warren Buffett, it’s probably that he is one of the ten richest men in the world.  You may also have heard something about his personal philanthropy – he will be giving away tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.  How does such a man come to be so wealthy?  What “tricks” did he use?  And why does he now plan to give it away?  The answers appear to be he earned it by saving, investing, and having an incredible amount of focus and intensity; and, he plans to give it all away because he can.

That’s all you will really get out the book…  A personality, a philosophy and a lifestyle, but almost no tips of the trade or inside knowledge of how to make “smart” investments.  Sadly (or maybe not), this is what I was hoping to get from reading the book.  Buffett’s suggestion if you want to learn how to invest: read Benjamin Graham’s books.  After all, that’s what he (Buffett) did.  Again, having said the book is not what I hoped for – or expected – it turns out to be a terrific biography about a truly historical figure.  The book covers most of the 20th century and is almost a history book in itself.

I found the book to be extremely well written and I will even go so far as to admit I cried when Mr. Buffett’s wife passed away.  Highly recommended!

Last night I watched “On Golden Pond” with Hil.  We are both Katherine Hepburn fans and we have both seen this movie multiple times, but probably not in the last ten years or so.  Anyway, the movie co-stars Henry Fonda in his final movie role and for which he received an Oscar for Best Actor.   The movie is about an elderly couple trying to come to terms with family issues (cantankerous father and insecure daughter) as they also are trying to come to terms with their own mortality.  I believe it was nominated for ten Oscars and it won three.  I highly recommend it – for the actors, the cinematography and the story – all brilliant!

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If you want to build pyramids to yourself, and take a lot of resources out of society, you ought to pay like hell for it.  You ought to pay a perfectly appropriate tax.  I would force you to give back a huge chunk to society, so that hospitals get built and kids get educated too.
… I love it when I’m around the country club, and I hear people talk about the debilitating aspects of a welfare cycle, where some woman had a child at seventeen, and she gets food stamps, and we’re perpetuating a cycle of dependency.  And these same people are leaving their kids a lifetime supply of food stamps and beyond.  But instead of having a welfare officer, they have a trust fund officer.  And instead of having food stamps, they have stocks and bonds that pay dividends.
  —   Warren Buffett
(On the subject of inheritance taxes.)

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There are two ideas of government.  There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below.  The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

—  William Jennings Bryan

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