Last week, HBO’s documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett” aired, providing viewers with a rare look at the life of the world’s greatest investor, the Oracle of Omaha. While his business decisions and investing advice are easy to find, information about his personal life tends to be a little bit harder to come by, and accounts are varied and often incorrect.
On the documentary, his daughter Susan Buffett spoke about her father at length, both in the documentary and to Business Insider, discussing some of the things that people tend to get wrong about her father, including his stance on donations, charity, and his relationship with Astrid Menks. Here are some of the clarifications, to set facts straight:
1. Buffett has never cared about money.
Although Buffett has often said that he knew that he was going to be wealthy from a young age, money has never really been that important of a thing to him. In fact, his children grew up not even realizing how rich their father actually was.
“My parents never talked about money,” Susan said. “It was nonexistent, really, except that my brothers and I got a weekly allowance. We never got the lessons I think some kids get — you know, you can spend this much and you should save the nickel or whatever. None of that went on.”
2. Buffett donated more to charity in his early years than people realize.
Although Buffett has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune, it was only around 2010 that Buffett made that promise. Prior to that, many critics said that he wasn’t donating to charities. However, Susan explained that both her parents did give to charity; they just did not advertise.
“Neither of them have ever been the type to look for any recognition when they were doing philanthropic things…” Susan said. “And so I think there was a little more happening than people realize.”
3. Buffett’s living situation with Astrid Menks was not a simple transition.
When Warren Buffett’s wife, also named Susan, left to pursue her singing career, Astrid Menks moved in. However, while the family often says that they are thankful Astrid was taking care of Buffett, it wasn’t as seamless as it seemed from the outside.
“There were absolutely growing pains,” Susan said. “…as my mother says in the film, he can’t find the light switch. I was just worried that he wouldn’t know how to eat, how to cook any food. He just doesn’t know how to function, except go to work.”
4. Buffett is more generous with his children than people give him credit for.
In the past, Buffett has come under fire for not giving any money to his children and grandchildren. As mentioned above, he pledged to give away 99% of his wealth before or after his death; however, Susan says that she has no problem with it.
“He has been much more generous than people are aware,” Susan told Business Insider. “I feel extremely grateful to have the parents I had and for what they’ve given us. But certainly, he’s not going to leave us $50 billion and shouldn’t. It would be crazy to do anything like that.”
5. Buffett doesn’t get Coca-cola products at a discount.
Despite the fact that Buffett drinks around five sodas a day (his favorite is Cherry Coke) and that he is the largest shareholder of the company, he doesn’t get a discount and doesn’t buy his favorite beverage at cost.
“It was stockpiled more when my mother lived there,” Susan said, “probably because she figured it was cheaper to buy a whole big bunch at once than to go into the grocery store frequently. Astrid is more likely to try to find out where it’s on sale and buy it on sale.”