On the eve of Father's Day, Peter Buffett spoke with Jill Schlesinger about what he has learned from his famous father. Here are five lessons that the Oracle of Omaha passed on to his son.
Stay in Milwaukee
In other words, follow your own path, not the approach taken by everyone else. After his big career breakthrough – scoring the memorable “Fire Dance” scene in the Oscar-winning film Dances with Wolves – Peter Buffett didn’t move to Hollywood. Instead he continued to live in Milwaukee, and remained true to himself. His father, of course, did the same thing, remaining in his home town of Omaha instead of following the investing herd and moving to Wall Street. Warren Buffett has said this makes him a better investor, because he doesn’t get caught up in the fear, greed or conventional wisdom that other investors fall prey to.
Give Your Kids Opportunity, Not Handouts
Peter Buffett says his father helped him get started, but didn’t give him so much money that he could just sit back and live off the inheritance. As Warren Buffett put it: “Enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing.” It’s a useful starting point even if you’re not in Buffett’s league when it comes to wealth. You might decide to pay your children’s way through college, for example, but tell them that after that, they’re on their own.
Give to Charity, and Get a Lot Back
Sure, Peter Buffett may have a little more to drop in the collection plate than you do, but the lesson he learned still applies. In 2006, Warren and Susan Buffett gave each of their kids $1 billion to give to charity. With his wife, Jennifer, Peter launched the NoVo Foundation, which helps girls and women around the world who “suffer from violence, poverty and discrimination simply because they are female.”
Peter remembers his dad asking: “Do you think this will affect your music?” “I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Peter says — but then the work he was doing with girls in Africa started to seep into his art. “My music has taken all these interesting turns because of the foundation. Which I never would have expected.”
Invest in Potential
Great investors and smart bettors understand that biggest returns come not from the best company or the fastest horse, but the most undervalued stock or the least appreciated steed. Peter Buffett said he applied his father’s investing wisdom to his charitable foundation: “If you invest in an undervalued asset and just let it grow, the market will catch up and recognize its value and you’ll get a huge return,” Peter Buffett says. “To me, that’s an adolescent girl in the developing world.”
Do What You Love
“[My Dad] always said, ‘Do what you love,’” says Peter. “That was critical. Really, my Dad and I do the same thing ... He told me: ‘Don’t settle for anything other than your passion – if you’re lucky enough to find it.” But finding it, Peter says, is the hardest part.
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