Warren Buffett was on Charlie Rose yesterday. Asked about how the upcoming fiscal cliff could impact the economy and his approach to investments, here's what he said:
I don't think it will do that much because I think people will assume that a solution will be found quite promptly. It's a little like the debt ceiling [last summer] ... the rest of the world may think we're idiotic at times, but they don't think we're going to commit suicide. I hope something gets worked out before January 1st, but if it goes a little bit beyond that ... I will not be selling stocks.
If you guaranteed me that the fiscal cliff, that we go past that, I wouldn't sell a share of stock.
Keep calm and carry on.
What's interesting is the last line, about permanently going over the fiscal cliff. There's near-universal agreement that that would push the economy back into recession, with a corresponding plunge in stock prices. Even if you guaranteed Buffett that outcome, he wouldn't sell a single share of stock.
That, folks, is why he's so much more successful than most investors.
Remember the fall of 2008? As swarms of investors were busy liquidating their portfolios at multi-year lows, Buffett wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled "Buy American. I am." Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B) invested billions into companies like Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and General Electric (NYSE:GE) at incredible terms. Since the day he published his "Buy American" article, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) has returned 58%.
Many investors respond to recessions with strategic selling. Buffett looks at them as gifts and responds with strategic buying. Something to keep in mind as we approach the fiscal cliff.
Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Berkshire Hathaway and Goldman Sachs. 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.