Even if you don't invest, you've probably heard of Warren Buffett. The investor behind the megaconglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) has a devoted following of fans in the investing community, and his down-to-earth attitude toward money gives the billionaire a reputation for being an approachable straight shooter.

Buffett's biggest claim to fame is the track record of strong returns that he's put together at Berkshire Hathaway. Over a history that spans more than 50 years, Buffett has more than doubled the overall stock market's return, producing average annual gains of nearly 21% compared to the S&P 500's 10%.

Graph showing value of $1,000 invested in S&P versus Berkshire Hathaway over time

Data source: Berkshire Hathaway. Chart by author.

The most impressive thing about Buffett's outperformance is how the power of compound returns has produced life-changing wealth for his early shareholders. Since 1964, Berkshire shares have risen by more than 2,400,000% -- turning every $1,000 invested back then into $24 million. By contrast, the S&P's performance translates into total returns of 15,500% -- still impressive, but $155,000 is a lot less than $24 million.

Buffett only managed to top the S&P by a 10th of a percentage point in 2017, but he's optimistic about Berkshire Hathaway's future. Though there's already a team in place to ensure the 87-year-old's legacy will endure after he's no longer able to run the company, Berkshire investors hope that Buffett will stick around for years to come.

Dan Caplinger owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.