Warren Buffett's Best Advice Isn't Just for Millionaires

Warren Buffett

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Bottom Line

As one of the most successful investors in history, Warren Buffett may be known for his deep financial knowledge and investment advice, but his wisdom isn’t just for millionaires. Some of his best advice has little to do with finances and everything to do with living a happy life. Here are some of his best quotes, complete with a characteristic dose of humor and some recent advice on how to deal with inflation.

Related: Warren Buffett Is Worth $100 Billion and Still Pays Less in Taxes Than You

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On Investing and Inflation

Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha mainly for his smart financial advice. But when asked about the best investment to make, he doesn’t recommend a particular stock or financial strategy. “By far the best investment you can make is in yourself,” he says. He reiterated this advice at the recent 2022 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting. At a time of high inflation, he says, exceptional skills will still be in demand.

Related: How to Outsmart Inflation

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On Finding Work

Buffett encourages young people to find a job that “they would select if they had no need for money,” although he knows that in practical terms it can be a challenge. “Economic realities, I acknowledge, may interfere with that kind of search. Even so, I urge the students never to give up the quest, for when they find that sort of job, they will no longer be ‘working.’”

Related: How Many Billionaires Are in Your State?

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On Failure

"Don't fear failure," Buffett said at a Columbia University event with Bill Gates. "I got turned down by Harvard. It was the best thing that ever happened. There are some good things that happened that didn't seem good at the time. Don't worry about it. And don't let it eat at you by looking back. Just keep going, because you're going to have some things and forget them. Go forward."

Related: Historic Failures by Successful Billionaires

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On the People Around You

The people you surround yourself with will have significant implications for your life. It's important to choose them carefully. "You will move in the direction of the people that you associate with," Buffett said in the conversation with Gates. "So it's important to associate with people that are better than yourself ... you want to associate with people who are the kind of person you'd like to be."

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On Finding a Partner

Buffett has made many important decisions in his life, but in a discussion at Ivey Business School in Canada, he called finding the right spouse the most important of all. "If you make the wrong decision on that, you will regret it. There is a lot of pain involved, but if you have the right spouse it is just wonderful," Buffett said. He encouraged students to look for humor, looks, character, brains ... "or just someone with low expectations."

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On Hiring

Buffett's expanded advice on finding the right person – specifically when hiring – is witty as well as wise. "We look for three things when we hire people: We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity," he says. "And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you're going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb."

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On Honesty

Tying in closely with the advice on surrounding yourself with the right people is Buffett's cutting aphorism about honesty: "Honesty is a very expensive gift — don't expect it from cheap people."

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On Reputation

Good reputations, both corporate and personal, are hard-earned and easily ruined. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” Buffett says. “If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

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On Love

Buffett enjoys untold riches, but he places the most value in an intangible. “Being given unconditional love is the greatest benefit you can ever get,” he said at the Ivey Business School event. “The incredible thing about love is that you can’t get rid of it. If you try to give it away, you end up with twice as much, but if you try to hold onto it, it disappears.”

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On When to Move On

Sometimes it’s better to start over or get onto another path when things aren’t going well. “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks,” Buffett says. Heeding his advice could protect you from bad business pursuits, futureless relationships, and other potential pitfalls in life.

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On Risk

Buffett may be highly successful and driven, but he understands the importance of not getting in over your head. “When forced to choose, I will not trade even a night’s sleep for the chance of extra profits,” he says. 

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On Forming Habits

Bad habits can stick all too easily, and it’s important to focus on forming good ones, especially when young. “I see people with these self-destructive behavior patterns. They really are entrapped by them,” he says. “You can get rid of it a lot easier at [a young] age than at my age, because most behaviors are habitual. The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

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On Increasing Your Value

You might expect Buffett’s advice on increasing your personal value to focus on investment strategies or strategic career moves, but his focus is simpler. “The one easy way to become worth 50% more than you are now — at least — is to hone your communication skills, both written and verbal,” says Buffett.

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On Getting Smarter

The key to getting smarter is on the bookshelf beside you. "I just sit in my office and read all day," he says. Buffett recommends that you "read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge builds up, like compound interest."

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On Success

Don’t measure success by income or prosperity but by happiness. “Someone once said success is getting what you want and happiness is wanting what you get. And that’s what I see in people as I look around,” he told the Ivey students.

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On Protecting Your Money

You don't have to be a millionaire to take some of Buffett's most solid financial advice to heart. "The first rule of investment is don't lose. And the second rule of investment is don't forget the first rule. And that's all the rules there are," Buffett says. The advice may be simple, but it's hard to argue with.

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On Spotting Imposters

You’ll encounter people who aren’t who they seem to be. Warren describes the surprise of this revelation with a perfect metaphor: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked,” he says. Take care in choosing who you work with and stay true to yourself.

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On Patience

As frustrating as it can be, sometimes you just have to be patient, whether in life or business. "No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time," Buffett says. "You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."

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On Integrity

Some of Buffett’s best advice is the bluntest. “Never lie under any circumstances,” he says. Lying will only lead to trouble, and lies can quickly and irreparably damage your reputation.

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On Slowing Down

In today's fast-paced world, it's all too easy to make snap decisions and hurry through life. "I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think," he says. "That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life."

Related: Things Boomers Need to Stop Saying to Millennials About Money