The Early Years
It is hard to imagine the billionaire Warren Buffett as a small child, enjoying the guidance of loving parents in a politically-enthralled home in the Great Plains region of the United States. Warren Edward Buffett was born in Omaha, Nebraska to the U.S. Representative Howard Buffet and his stay-at-home wife Leila in 1930. He was the second of three children, and the only son of the soon-to-be four-term Senator. When Warren was 12, the Buffett family moved to Washington D.C. as a result of his father’s political career.
As a child, Warren began peddling goods like sodas, bubble gum and newspapers around his neighborhood for money. While attending Woodrow Wilson High School, he earned some money working at his grandfather’s grocery store. He supplemented the income with detailing cars and selling newspapers, golf balls, and stamps. At the age of 14, Warren Buffet filed his first tax return, totaling $35,using his bicycle and watch as deductions, as they were part of his fixed expenses when delivering newspapers.
By the time he was well into his sophomore year, Warren had partnered with a friend and split the cost of a $25 pinball machine. They placed the arcade game in a barber shop, and enjoyed the benefits of the pocket change from customers who were biding their time waiting for a cut or shave. No more than three months passed before the boys had pinball machines in several barber shops around town. Warren Buffett sold the pinball business to a war veteran the same year for about $1,200.
Upon his graduation in 1947, Warren was listed in his yearbook as someone who “Likes math: Future stockbroker.”
Early Brushes with Stocks
Warren had the influence of his father’s stock brokerage company to guide him down a path of success. As a child, he would steal away into the customer’s lounge of the regional stock brokerage near his father’s office and watch investors at work. He was ten years old when he made his first trip to the New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan. Bitten by the bug of investing, Warren made his first stock purchase at the age of 11. He bought three shares of Cities Service for himself, and three for his sister. That company later became what is known as Citgo, the petroleum giant.
Ownership Ignited: First Business Opportunities
While other kids were worried about World War II and how the depression was affecting their families, Warren Buffett was thinking ahead. In high school, he invested in a company that was primarily owned by his father by purchasing a 40 acre farm operated by a tenant farmer. He spent a total of $1,200—the same amount he sold his pinball business for a few years earlier.
The College Years
Buffett enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School in 1947 and joined the fraternity of Alpha Sigma Phi. He studied there for only two years before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where Warren graduated at age 19 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Though he was turned away from Harvard Business School, Buffett enrolled instead in the Columbia Business School after finding out his favorite financial author, Benjamin Graham, was on staff. He graduated with a Master of Science in Economics in 1951. After graduation, he attended the New York Institute of Finance.
Business Beckons; Success Answers
Buffett started his working career as an investment salesman at Buffett-Faulk & Co. He worked there from 1951 to 1954. After that, Buffett had a short stay with the Graham-Newman Corp as a securities analyst from 1954 to 1956. From 1956 to 1970, Buffett was a general partner with Buffett Partnership, Ltd.
Then, in 1970, he took the position of Chairman and CEO at Berkshire Hathaway, where he remains to this day. This publicly-traded conglomerate operates with revenues of over $162 billion dollars per year. It is also the sole owner of Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, Helzberg Diamonds and NetJets, among others. The company also owns half of Heinz and a significant minority share in American Express, IBM, M&T Bank, and Proctor Gamble. Berkshire Hathaway was listed as the 4th most successful American company in 2015 by Fortune.
Warren Buffett married Susan Thompson in 1952. The couple had three children: one girl and two boys. Although they began living separately 1977, the couple remained married until Susan’s death in 2004. During their separation, Warren had a committed relationship with a woman named Astrid Menks, who began living with Buffett after Susan moved out in 1977 to pursue a singing career in San Francisco. Ms. Menks and Warren Buffett were married in 2006 on Buffett’s 76th birthday. She was 60 years old. The two remain a together and live together happily in Omaha, Nebraska—his birthplace, and headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway.
After a health scare from being diagnosed with prostate cancer in April of 2012, Mr. Buffett announced that he is cancer free, and happy to have the illness behind him after 44 days of a radiation treatment cycle.
Click here to read Warren’s Famous “10 Ways to Get Rich”.