I think I could count to a billion, if pressed. Like if a gun were held to my head. But pragmatically, I really don’t have any understanding of what that number is. I can’t imagine a billion anything—certainly not dollars. So it’s usually hard for me to find much meaning in the Forbes annual ranking of the world’s billionaires.
But when this year’s ranking saw Warren Buffett vault to the #1 spot (at an estimated net worth of $62 billion), I took a little more notice.
Buffett is one of my heroes. Not just because of what he’s accomplished and how good he is at what he does, but also because what he’s like (as far as I can tell). He continues to live a modest lifestyle; he’s leaving most of his vast fortune to charity; and he has a wicked sense of humor. I’m surely romanticizing him, of course. Maybe he has bad breath or is a pain around the house.
On the personal-finance side, I love Buffett because he achieved financial independence doing something I can at least imagine doing—value investing. I don’t know many of the top billionaires on the list, but lots of them did one thing amazingly well—the type of feat that’s hard for me to imagine accomplishing in my future, with nearly 40 years behind me already. Larry Ellison ($25 billion) founded Oracle. Sergey Brin and Larry Page ($18.7 and $18.6 billion) founded Google. George Lucas ($3.9 billion) made Star Wars. I don’t really see it in the cards for me to start a company like Oracle or Google at this point; and if my shaky, unsteady camera-work in our home videos of our kids is any indication, I don’t think a blockbuster film is in my future either.
But I can imagine figuring out value investing a bit more. I can imagine becoming a decent value investor.
Buffett passed Bill Gates ($58 billion) to take the #1 spot—for the first time in 13 years. With the economy looking how it looks, and with the stock market doing what it’s doing, I’d like to interpret this as representing some promise for investing (and value investing in particular), going forward. Some of this is undoubtedly wishful thinking.
What do you think?