Warren Buffett Finally Explains Why Being Cheap Leads to Happiness

After a certain point, money won't make you happier -- in fact, it's more likely to cause unhappiness than improve your quality of life

Jun 8, 2014 at 8:31AM

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Warren Buffett's house in Omaha (bought in 1958).

Every year, thousands of investors flock to Omaha to hear the wisdom of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. For as long as six hours, with only one break for lunch, the two business legends take questions from investors, the press, and analysts. 

Appropriately for a shareholder meeting, the focus is the business of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) but it's not the only topic they discuss. This year, Buffett discussed frugality, happiness and money in response to a question from a shareholder from Chicago.

Following are my notes on the Chicago shareholder's question, along with responses from Buffett and Munger.

Warren, has your personal frugality helped shareholders? Charlie, do you think Warren's frugality has hurt shareholders?

Warren: First of all, let's ask who's the more frugal.

Charlie: On personal consumption, Warren is more frugal. Warren lives in the same house he bought for a very modest price and has lived there for a very long time.

Warren: I bought it in 1958 and you moved into yours in 1960. He designed his own house. He did not pay an architect, right?

Charlie: I paid $1,900 [for the architect], which was 30% of the market rate.

Warren: There are things money can't buy. I don't think standard of living equates with cost of living beyond a certain point. Good housing, good health, good food, good transport. There's a point you start getting inverse correlation between wealth and quality of life. My life couldn't be happier. In fact, it'd be worse if I had six or eight houses. So, I have everything I need to have, and I don't need any more because it doesn't make a difference after a point. When you get to 10 times or 100 times or 1,000 times, it doesn't make a difference [in quality of life].

Charlie: Frugality is basically how Berkshire happened. I look out over this audience and I see a lot of understated, frugal people. We collect you people.

Warren: Forget about it this weekend! (laughs) The more you buy, the more you save at these prices, folks! (laughs)

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Brendan Mathews owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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