Warren Buffett’s 25 best quotes about business, investing, and life

Pamela G. Knowles

Need some advice? Legendary investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) Warren Buffett has plenty to share. Through his letters, essays, op-eds and TV appearances, Buffett dispenses folksy, funny, plainspoken advice on investing, management, life, happiness, and everything in between.

On Saturday May 1, Buffett and his longtime business partner Charlie Munger will share more of their wisdom at the 2021 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting. Like last year, shareholders will not attend the event in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but investors from all over the world can watch the event stream live exclusively on Yahoo Finance.

The editors at Yahoo Finance dug up some of Buffett’s best quips, tips, and adages from meeting transcripts, shareholder letters, and interviews.

1. Trust in American ingenuity.

“American magic has always prevailed, and it will do so again.”

Shareholder meeting, 2020

2. Don’t be a fearmonger.

“Fear is the most contagious disease you can imagine. It makes the virus look like a piker.” (A piker is one who gambles with small amounts of money.)

Shareholder meeting, 2020

3. Learn the language.

“You’ve got to understand accounting. You’ve got to. That’s got to be like a language to you,” 

Interview with Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief, Andy Serwer, 2020

[See also: Why Berkshire Hathaway’s health care project Maven failed]

4. Go long.

“[Our] favorite holding period is forever. We are just the opposite of those who hurry to sell and book profits when companies perform well but who tenaciously hang on to businesses that disappoint. [American investor] Peter Lynch aptly likens such behavior to cutting the flowers and watering the weeds.”

Letter to shareholders for the year 1988

5. Invest in companies you believe in.

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

Letter to shareholders for the year 1989

6. Price and value aren’t always the same: Don’t pay too much.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Letter to shareholders for the year 2008

7. Reputation is everything.

“Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.”

Buffett’s Congressional testimony in 1991 regarding Salomon Brothers

8. Be skeptical. If something looks too good to be true …

“A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

The New York Times, Oct. 16, 2008

9. Don’t invest in something you don’t understand.

The important thing is to know what you know and know what you don’t know.”

Haaretz, March 23, 2011

10. Don’t do a deal with someone you don’t trust.

“You cannot make a good deal with a bad person.”

CNBC, 2019

11. Don’t buy a stock unless you think it’s undervalued.

“Just buy something for less than it’s worth.”

Lecture to Notre Dame faculty, 1991

12. Price dips are an opportunity to increase your positions.

“Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”

Letter to shareholders for the year 2008

13. The future is never clear.

“Uncertainty actually is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.”

Forbes, Aug. 6, 1979

14. It’s usually the buyer who encounters unpleasant surprises.

As in the case with marriage, business acquisitions often deliver surprise after the ‘I do’s.’”

Letter to shareholders for the year 2016

15. Park your money in index funds rather than in individual stocks.

“In my view, for most people, the best thing is to do is owning the S&P 500 index fund. There are huge amounts of money people pay for advice they really don’t need.”

Shareholder meeting, 2020

16. Use a bucket, not a spoon.

“Every decade or so, dark clouds will fill the economic skies, and they will briefly rain gold.”

Letter to shareholders for the year 2016

17. Seize an opportunity while you can.

“Don’t pass up something that’s attractive today because you think you will find something better tomorrow.”

— Speech at Columbia University, Nov. 12, 2009

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett eats an ice cream bar while touring the exhibition floor prior to the annual shareholders meeting on Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

18. Stay cool.

“The sillier the market’s behavior, the greater the opportunity for the businesslike investor.”

Preface, “The Intelligent Investor,” 2003

19. It’s during hard times that the winners — and losers — get exposed.

“You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out.”

Letter to shareholders for the year 2007

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway tosses a newspaper during a newspaper tossing competition  in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, May 5, 2012. Berkshire Hathaway is holding it's annual shareholders meeting this weekend. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway tosses a newspaper during a newspaper tossing competition in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, May 5, 2012. Berkshire Hathaway is holding it’s annual shareholders meeting this weekend. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

20. Read and think A LOT. Buffett spends the majority of his day — 80% — reading and thinking.

“The best way to think about investments is to be in a room with no one else and to just think. If that doesn’t work, nothing else is going to work.”

— Colloquium at the University of Florida, Oct. 15, 1998

21. Buffett has long said it doesn’t take a high IQ to be successful in business — knowledge is more valuable.

“What we do is not beyond anyone else’s competence. I feel the same way about managing that I do about investing: It’s just not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”

Fortune, April 11, 1988

22. Follow the rules (Though Buffett readily admits to making a few mistakes of his own.)

“Rule No. 1 is never lose money. Rule No. 2 is never forget Rule No. 1.”

1985 televised interview with the economics broadcaster George Goodman

23. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a board position:

“When seeking directors, CEOs don’t look for pit bulls. It’s the cocker spaniel that gets taken home.”

Letter to shareholders for the year 2019

24. Be frugal. With the exception of his private jet, Buffett is famously sparing and has lived in the same house since 1958.

“I have every possession I want. I have a lot of friends who have a lot more possessions. But in some cases, I feel the possession possesses them, rather than the other way around.”

— CBS News, Feb. 8, 2012

25. You’re your own best asset.

“Your best investment is yourself. There is nothing that compares to it.”

Georgia Tech alumni magazine, 2013

2021 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders  meeting

2021 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting

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