Warren Buffett is widely considered to be the top investor of all time. Over his 54-year tenure at Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B), Buffett has generated 20.5% annualized returns for shareholders -- more than double the rate of return achieved by the S&P 500. To put this in perspective, consider that a $1,000 investment in Berkshire when Buffett took the reins would have been worth a staggering $24.7 million today.
In addition to being one of the most successful investors, Buffett is also one of the most quotable. Always happy to share some of his investment wisdom with everyday investors, Buffett has been the source of some of the best investing quotes of the last half century or so. With that in mind, here's a list of 100 of the best Warren Buffett quotes of all time that can help you with investing, personal finance, and life in general.
Warren Buffett's golden rule
- "Rule No. 1 is never lose money. Rule No. 2 is never forget Rule No. 1."
This seems like a good place to start. And, on its surface, it's actually quite inaccurate -- Buffett has made many losing investments throughout his career. However, Buffett means that it's incredibly important to keep capital preservation at the top of your priority list when deciding how to invest your money.
Warren Buffett on value investing
Warren Buffett is widely considered the world's best value investor, so he's had many memorable quotes about finding the most value in stock investments.
For starters, although the words price and value are often used interchangeably, it's important to realize that they refer to two different concepts. The central idea of value investing is to pay a low price relative to the value you receive.
- "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."
People often look to Buffett's wisdom when their stocks fall, and these five quotes give an overview of how Buffett feels about these situations. Smart long-term investors love when the prices of their favorite stocks fall, as it produces some of the most favorable buying opportunities.
- "Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble."
- "Widespread fear is your friend as an investor because it serves up bargain purchases."
- "Whether we're talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down."
- "We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful."
- "The best thing that happens to us is when a great company gets into temporary trouble...We want to buy them when they're on the operating table."
However, be careful about buying so-so businesses just because they're on sale:
- "It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price."
In other words, just because a stock is cheap doesn't mean it's a good investment. Buffett would much rather pay a little more for a great business. However, Buffett cautions against paying too much, even for an excellent company:
- "For the investor, a too-high purchase price for the stock of an excellent company can undo the effects of a subsequent decade of favorable business developments."
One of Buffett's favorite characteristics to look for in companies he invests in is a durable competitive advantage. This could mean cost advantages, a strong brand name, or something else.
- "The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage."
Margin of safety is another cornerstone of Buffett's investment strategy. In other words, how much cushion does a company have when it comes to recessions and other adverse conditions. This Buffett quote sums up the concept nicely:
- "On the margin of safety, which means, don't try and drive a 9,800-pound truck over a bridge that says it's, you know, capacity: 10,000 pounds. But go down the road a little bit and find one that says, capacity: 15,000 pounds."
Warren Buffett on investing for the long term
- "You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."
In other words, some things just take time and can't be rushed.
Not only is Warren Buffett a great value investor, but he's also an avid supporter of buy-and-hold investing. To that effect, here are some of Buffett's best quotes about why buying great stocks for the long run is the smartest way to go and how investors should approach their investment decisions.
- "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago"
- "If you aren't willing to own a stock for ten years, don't even think about owning it for ten minutes."
- "When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever."
- "An investor should act as though he had a lifetime decision card with just twenty punches on it."
- "Since I know of no way to reliably predict market movements, I recommend that you purchase Berkshire shares only if you expect to hold them for at least five years. Those who seek short-term profits should look elsewhere."
- "Buy a stock the way you would buy a house. Understand and like it such that you'd be content to own it in the absence of any market."
- "All there is to investing is picking good stocks at good times and staying with them as long as they remain good companies."
- "Do not take yearly results too seriously. Instead, focus on four or five-year averages."
- "I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years."
- "It is a terrible mistake for investors with long-term horizons -- among them pension funds, college endowments, and savings-minded individuals -- to measure their investment 'risk' by their portfolio's ratio of bonds to stocks,"
Warren Buffett on dealing with losing investments
Not all of your investments are going to be winners. Buffett has picked stocks that turned out to be losers on many occasions. It's how you deal with your losing investments that determines your success:
- "Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be a more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks."
- "The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging."
In other words, if one of the companies you invest in doesn't end up performing quite as well as you hoped, one of the worst things you can do is to continue to throw more money into it. The best move if you're wrong about a company is to figure out a better way to put that capital to work.
Warren Buffett on the importance of a good reputation
It's undeniable that Warren Buffett has built one of the strongest reputations in the investing world. And, most of the businesses Berkshire owns have excellent reputations of their own. Buffett considers reputation a priceless asset that should be protected at all times:
- "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
- "Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless."
Warren Buffett on the right mindset for investing
Buffett doesn't believe that you need to be particularly intelligent to be a successful investor, but you do need the right mentality. Patience and a good temperament are far more important than IQ, according to these four Buffett gems:
- "The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd or against the crowd."
- "The stock market is a no-called-strike game. You don't have to swing at everything -- you can wait for your pitch."
- Success in investing doesn't correlate with IQ ... what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.
- "You don't need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ."
Warren Buffett on avoiding fees and bad advice
To be clear, Buffett isn't necessarily opposed to investment fees that deliver value. On the other hand, Buffett has a tremendous dislike for excessive fees that make Wall Streeters rich at the expense of ordinary investors:
- "When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients."
- "Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway."
- "If returns are going to be 7 or 8 percent and you're paying 1 percent for fees, that makes an enormous difference in how much money you're going to have in retirement."
Warren Buffett on market crashes and recessions
As I mentioned earlier, many investors look to Buffett's wisdom when it comes to investing in turbulent markets. So, here are some excellent pieces of advice from Buffett that could help you through tough times:
- "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked."
When the market goes up and up, everyone looks like an investing genius. It's only when things go sour that you see who actually has a good long-term strategy.
- "The years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines -- even panics -- that will affect virtually all stocks. No one can tell you when these traumas will occur."
- Predicting rain doesn't count, building the ark does.
Market turbulence will happen. It's not an "if," but a "when." So, be ready for them. Mentally prepare yourself to not panic during downward moves, and to bargain-hunt for shares of your favorite companies on sale.
- "This does not bother Charlie [Munger] and me. Indeed, we enjoy such price declines if we have funds available to increase our positions."
- "The best chance to deploy capital is when things are going down."
Market crashes and market corrections should be thought of as buying opportunities, not as reasons to panic. In fact, some of the most outstanding investments Buffett has ever made were during market crashes.
- "It's been an ideal period for investors: A climate of fear is their best friend. Those who invest only when commentators are upbeat end up paying a heavy price for meaningless reassurance."
Buffett wrote this in 2009 in regards to the financial crisis. In the wake of the crisis, Berkshire made some savvy investments in bank stocks, which Buffett wouldn't have done if he had been focused on what market commentators were saying.
Warren Buffett on the importance of cash
At the end of 2018, Berkshire Hathaway had well over $100 billion in cash on its balance sheet. And, while this is a lot even by Buffett's standards, Buffett insists on maintaining a minimum of $20 billion in cash at all times. These quotes help explain why:
- "Too-big-to-fail is not a fallback position at Berkshire. Instead, we will always arrange our affairs so that any requirements for cash we may conceivably have will be dwarfed by our own liquidity."
- "We never want to count on the kindness of strangers in order to meet tomorrow's obligations. When forced to choose, I will not trade even a night's sleep for the chance of extra profits."
- "Cash ... is to a business as oxygen is to an individual: never thought about when it is present, the only thing in mind when it is absent"
Buffett never wants Berkshire to be in a position where it needs any type of bailout. No matter how bad economic conditions get, Buffett wants enough cash on hand to meet all of the company's ongoing requirements.
- "The one thing I will tell you is the worst investment you can have is cash. Everybody is talking about cash being king and all that sort of thing. Cash is going to become worth less over time. But good businesses are going to become worth more over time."
On the other hand, Buffett doesn't like having too much cash sitting around like Berkshire does right now. He'd much rather deploy Berkshire's cash into assets that earn a return, and cautions investors against keeping too much of their assets in cash as well.
Warren Buffett on stock-picking
- "If you like spending six to eight hours per week working on investments, do it. If you don't, then dollar-cost average into index funds."
Buffett openly acknowledges that not everyone should invest directly in stocks. If you have the desire and time to properly research stocks, there's nothing wrong with it, but most people don't.
- Charlie and I view the marketable common stocks that Berkshire owns as interests in businesses, not as ticker symbols to be bought or sold based on their "chart" patterns, the "target" prices of analysts, or the opinions of media pundits.
- Buy into a company because you want to own it, not because you want the stock to go up.
Buffett advises investors not to think of their investments as "stocks," but to think of buying a stock as buying an entire business.
- "Never invest in a business you cannot understand."
- "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."
- "If you don't feel comfortable making a rough estimate of the asset's future earnings, just forget it and move on."
- "Buy companies with strong histories of profitability and with a dominant business franchise."
- "We want products where people feel like kissing you instead of slapping you."
There's a reason you won't find a bunch of biotech or high-growth technology companies in Buffett's portfolio. He doesn't understand them, so he doesn't invest in them. Not only should you understand the businesses you invest in, but stick to companies with established track records of profitability, products consumers love, and that are among the top companies in their industries.
- "It's better to have a partial interest in the Hope diamond than to own all of a rhinestone."
It's smarter to invest in large but fantastic companies than to buy a mediocre business just because it's cheap.
- "In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield."
- "One thing that could help would be to write down the reason you are buying a stock before your purchase. Write down "I am buying Microsoft at $300 billion because..." Force yourself to write this down. It clarifies your mind and discipline."
Finally, these two tidbits are excellent advice to help evaluate investments. Historical data is always more accurate than future projections, so it should play a far larger role in your analysis. And, always know why you're investing in a company before putting your money in.
Warren Buffett on the importance of learning
Buffett believes that your mind is perhaps your most important asset as an investor. So, it's important to spend time exercising your mind, as these five quotes explain:
- "I just sit in my office and read all day"
- "I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business."
Buffett is an avid reader. It often surprises people to learn that the bulk of Buffett's work day consists of sitting alone in his office and reading, but Buffett credits much of his success to his pursuit of as much knowledge as possible.
- "The most important investment you can make is in yourself."
- "One can best prepare themselves for the economic future by investing in your own education. If you study hard and learn at a young age, you will be in the best circumstances to secure your future."
- "Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it."
Warren Buffett on ignoring market noise
According to Buffett, one of the worst mistakes investors can make is to pay too much attention to commentators on TV, political drama, or market rumors.
- "In the 54 years (Charlie Munger and I) have worked together, we have never forgone an attractive purchase because of the macro or political environment, or the views of other people. In fact, these subjects never come up when we make decisions."
- "In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497."
- "We've long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune tellers look good. Even now, Charlie and I continue to believe that short-term market forecasts are poison and should be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also from grown-ups who behave in the market like children."
- "Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can't buy what is popular and do well."
- "Don't get caught up with what other people are doing. Being a contrarian isn't the key but being a crowd follower isn't either. You need to detach yourself emotionally."
- "You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right."
Warren Buffett on America
Despite the seemingly constant political headlines, many of which paint a rather negative picture of the future, Buffett insists that America's future is bright and that it remains an excellent place to invest.
- "For 240 years it's been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start."
- "American business -- and consequently a basket of stocks -- is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead."
Throughout our history, the stock market has delivered annualized returns in the 10% ballpark over longer periods of time. And, there's no reason to think that will change anytime soon.
- "I won't say if my candidate doesn't win, and probably half the time they haven't, I'm going to take my ball and go home"
Buffett was an outspoken Hillary Clinton supporter in the 2016 presidential election. However, that doesn't mean that he threw in the towel because his candidate lost -- American business will do just fine over the long run no matter who is in the White House.
Warren Buffett on knowing what not to invest in
Avoiding bad investments can be even more important than finding good ones, and here are a few pieces of wisdom Buffett has picked up throughout his career.
- "After 25 years of buying and supervising a great variety of businesses, Charlie and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them."
In other words, you'll rarely catch Buffett investing in a business with lingering problems without clear solutions. He'd much rather just find another company to invest in instead.
- "Speculation is most dangerous when it looks easiest."
If you've been investing for a while, try to think back to the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. I can't think of another period of time when it was easier to make money in the stock market. And we all know how that turned out...
- "Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies."
- "Keep things simple and don't swing for the fences. When promised quick profits, respond with a quick "no."
If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Half of all coin-flippers will win their first toss; none of those winners has an expectation of profit if he continues to play the game.
Some speculators will get lucky, at least at first. Few, if any, will do well over the long run.
- "What we learn from history is that people don't learn from history."
It's been said many times that the worst thing you can hear about an investment opportunity is that "this time it's different." Generally, when you hear that phrase, the investment exhibits many of the same signs as previous bubbles and fads.
Warren Buffett on knowing your strengths and weaknesses
One of Buffett's biggest suggestions to investors is to know their "circle of competence." If someone is really good at evaluating pharmaceutical stocks, that's what they should stick to. On the other hand, that investor shouldn't attempt to find the cheapest bank stock to buy.
- "There is nothing wrong with a 'know nothing' investor who realizes it. The problem is when you are a 'know nothing' investor but you think you know something."
- "You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence. The size of that circle is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital."
In other words, if you only know one or two sectors well, don't feel that you have to "branch out." And if you don't know any at all, there's no shame in sticking to index funds.
- "We believe that a policy of portfolio concentration may well decrease risk if it raises, as it should, both the intensity with which an investor thinks about a business and the comfort-level he must feel with its economic characteristics before buying into it.
- "Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they're doing."
Don't buy stocks just for the sake of diversification. Nearly half of Berkshire's stock portfolio is made up of banks. Why? Buffett understands that business very well.
Warren Buffett on avoiding spoiled kids
Buffett famously is planning to give away 99% of his wealth to charity. So, while his wife and kids will end up inheriting a substantial amount (1% of billions of dollars is still a lot of money), it won't be as much as you might expect for Warren Buffett's family.
- "I believe in giving my kids enough so they can do anything, but not so much that they can do nothing."
Warren Buffett on debt
Buffett is very anti-debt, with the exception of home mortgages. Over the years, Buffett has advised investors to steer clear of debt, especially when it comes to buying stocks.
- "If you're smart, you're going to make a lot of money without borrowing."
- "If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need."
- "You can't borrow money at 18 or 20 percent and come out ahead."
Warren Buffett on mortgages
As I mentioned, one big exception to Buffett's debt-averse nature is mortgages. He says that homeownership makes sense for people who plan to stay in one place and that the 30-year mortgage is an excellent financial tool. Especially because if rates go down, you can always just get another loan:
- "Because if you're wrong and rates go to 2 percent, which I don't think they will, you pay it off. It's a one-way renegotiation. It is an incredibly attractive instrument for the homeowner and you've got a one-way bet."
Warren Buffett on charitable giving
As I mentioned, Buffett is planning to give away 99% of his wealth, so it's fair to say that philanthropy is a big deal for Buffett. Here's what he's said about the concept of taking care of people less fortunate than himself:
- "If you're in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%."
- "We have learned to turn out lots of goods and services, but we haven't learned as well how to have everybody share in the bounty. The obligation of a society as prosperous as ours is to figure out how nobody gets left too far behind."
Warren Buffett on bitcoin
Buffett generally advises against investing in anything that isn't a productive asset, and he thought bitcoin was even worse than most other types of assets in that category. Here's a trio of quotes that make Buffett's position on bitcoin quite clear:
- "Bitcoin has no unique value at all,"
- "You're just hoping the next guy pays more. And you only feel you'll find the next guy to pay more if he thinks he's going to find someone that's going to pay more. You aren't investing when you do that, you're speculating."
- "Stay away from it. It's a mirage, basically...The idea that it has some huge intrinsic value is a joke in my view."
Warren Buffett on smart habits
- "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."
Choose your investments wisely, as well as how you spend your time. Time is the only asset you can't get any more of, so be extremely selective when handing it out.
- "It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction."
Surround yourself with the best and brightest and it will elevate you as well. Surround yourself with laziness and pessimism, and you'll gravitate that way. It's your choice.
Warren Buffett on great management
It's difficult to overstate the value Buffett places on great managers when it comes to investing in a company or acquiring a business:
- "When you have able managers of high character running businesses about which they are passionate, you can have a dozen or more reporting to you and still have time for an afternoon nap. Conversely, if you have even one person reporting to you who is deceitful, inept or uninterested, you will find yourself with more than you can handle."
- "And so the important thing we do with managers, generally, is to find the .400 hitters and then not tell them how to swing."
Warren Buffett on stock buybacks
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding stock buybacks recently, and here's how Buffett feels about them:
- "When stock can be bought below a business's value it is probably the best use of cash."
- "What is smart at one price is stupid at another."
In other words, buybacks can be good or bad, depending on the price paid. If a company believes it is worth $100 per share and can buy stock for $90, it's a great use of capital. If the same company's stock is trading for $110, it's a bad move. Continuing on that point:
- "Many management [teams] are just deciding they're gonna buy X billions over X months. That's no way to buy things. You buy when selling for less than they are worth. ... It's not a complicated equation to figure out whether it is beneficial or not to repurchase shares."
Warren Buffett on gold
I mentioned earlier that Buffett isn't a fan of unproductive assets, and gold is no exception. Here's why you'll never see Buffett put any significant amount of Berkshire's capital into precious metals:
- "I have no views as to where it (gold) will be, but the one thing I can tell you is it won't do anything between now and then except look at you. Whereas, you know, Coca-Cola will be making money, and I think Wells Fargo will be making a lot of money, and there will be a lot -- and it's a lot -- it's a lot better to have a goose that keeps laying eggs than a goose that just sits there and eats insurance and storage and a few things like that."
- "You could take all the gold that's ever been mined, and it would fill a cube 67 feet in each direction. For what it's worth at current gold prices, you could buy -- not some -- all of the farmland in the United States. Plus, you could buy 10 ExxonMobils, plus have $1 trillion of walking-around money. Or you could have a big cube of metal. Which would you take? Which is going to produce more value?"
Warren Buffett on index funds
As we've already discussed, Buffett thinks picking stocks is a good idea if you have the time and desire to do it right. However, most people don't. That's why Buffett thinks index funds are the best way to go for most people:
- "Among the various propositions offered to you, if you invested in a very low cost index fund -- where you don't put the money in at one time, but average in over 10 years -- you'll do better than 90% of people who start investing at the same time."
- "Just pick a broad index like the S&P 500. Don't put your money in all at once; do it over a period of time."
- "It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results."
Index funds are guaranteed to match the market's performance over time, which has been pretty strong throughout history.
Many more quotes to come
Even at 88 years of age, Buffett remains quite active in Berkshire's operations. So, it's likely that the list of "best Buffett quotes" will only get better as he writes more letters to Berkshire's shareholders, participates in annual meetings, and is interviewed by the financial news media.