Warren Buffet’s 10 Rules for Financial Success, Even in a Crisis

Dear Rich Lifer,
It’s hard to imagine losing $10 billion in seven days, but that was the case last week for the world’s third-richest man.

As the markets closed on Friday, March 20, Warren Buffett watched his net worth plummet by $9.6 billion to $66.4 billion.

While I don’t expect you to feel bad for the 89-year old billionaire, it makes you wonder what must go through the mind of a legend like Buffett in times like these?

After all, this isn’t Buffett’s first rodeo…

Between 1965 and the end of 2017, Berkshire Hathaway increased its market value by an annualized rate of 20.9% — more than double the S&P 500’s average annual growth of 9.9% during the same period.

Buffett achieved this kind of growth during financial times like the 1973-74 stock market crash, Black Monday, the dot-com bubble burst, September 11, and the 2008 Great Recession.

Suffice to say, Buffett knows his way around a market crash or two. So, who better to glean some financial advice from than the “Oracle of Omaha” himself?

In 2008, an article called “10 Ways to Get Rich – Warren Buffett’s Secrets that Can Work for You” was published in Parade magazine.

The article was written by none other than Alice Schroeder, author of Buffett’s best selling biography The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.

In writing Buffett’s biography, Schroeder spent approximately 2,000 hours with Buffett studying his every move.

In my opinion, Schroeder’s 2008 piece is more relevant today than ever before.

If you’re stuck wondering what to do during these uncertain financial times, you could do a lot worse following other advice.

Here are Buffett’s 10 rules to getting rich.

Rule 1 – Reinvest Your Profits

When you first make money, you may be tempted to spend it. Don’t. Instead, reinvest the profits. Buffett learned this early on. In high school, he and a pal bought a pinball machine to put in a barbershop. With the money they earned, they bought more machines until they had eight in different shops. When the friends sold the venture, Buffett used the proceeds to buy stocks and to start another small business.

Rule 2 – Be Willing To Be Different

Don’t base your decisions upon what everyone is saying or doing. When Buffett began managing money in 1956 with $100,000 cobbled together from a handful of investors, he was dubbed an oddball. He worked in Omaha, not on Wall Street, and he refused to tell his partners where he was putting their money. People predicted that he’d fail, but when he closed his partnership 14 years later, it was worth more than $100 million.

Rule 3 – Never Suck Your Thumb

Gather in advance any information you need to make a decision, and ask a friend or relative to make sure that you stick to a deadline. Buffett prides himself on swiftly making up his mind and acting on it. He calls any unnecessary sitting and thinking “thumb-sucking.”

Rule 4 – Spell Out The Deal Before You Start

Your bargaining leverage is always greatest before you begin a job – that’s when you have something to offer that the other party wants. Buffett learned this lesson the hard way as a kid, when his grandfather Ernest hired him and a friend to dig out the family grocery store after a blizzard. The boys spent five hours shoveling until they could barely straighten their frozen hands. Afterward, his grandfather gave the pair less than 90 cents to split.

Rule 5 – Watch Small Expenses

Buffett invests in businesses run by managers who obsess over the tiniest costs. He once acquired a company whose owner counted the sheets in rolls of 500-sheet toilet paper to see if he was being cheated (he was). He also admired a friend who painted only the side of his office building that faced the road.

Rule 6 – Limit What You Borrow

Buffett has never borrowed a significant amount — not to invest, not for a mortgage. He has gotten many heart-rending letters from people who thought their borrowing was manageable but became overwhelmed by debt. His advice: Negotiate with creditors to pay what you can. Then, when you’re debt-free, work on saving some money that you can use to invest.

Rule 7 – Be Persistent

With tenacity and ingenuity, you can win against a more established competitor. Buffett acquired the Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1983 because he liked the way its founder, Rose Blumkin, did business. A Russian immigrant, she built the mart from a pawnshop into the largest furniture store in North America. Her strategy was to undersell the big shots, and she was a merciless negotiator.

Rule 8 – Know When To Quit

Once, when Buffett was a teen, he went to the racetrack. He bet on a race and lost. To recoup his funds, he bet on another race. He lost again, leaving him with close to nothing. He felt sick — he had squandered nearly a week’s earnings. Buffett never repeated that mistake.

Rule 9 – Assess The Risks

In 1995, the employer of Buffett’s son, Howie, was accused by the FBI of price-fixing. Buffett advised Howie to imagine the worst- and best-case scenarios if he stayed with the company. His son quickly realized that the risks of staying far outweighed any potential gains, and he quit the next day.

Rule 10 – Know What Success Really Means

Despite his wealth, Buffett does not measure success by dollars. In 2006, he pledged to give away almost his entire fortune to charities, primarily the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He’s adamant about not funding monuments to himself – no Warren Buffett buildings or halls. “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. That’s the ultimate test of how you’ve lived your life.”

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

You May Also Be Interested In:

How to Turn Your Doubts Into Profits

For better or for worse, our understanding of money often shapes our life. Money rules us in ways we can't understand, because we don't truly understand money and how it works. When my wife Kim and I began our journey from broke, to rich, to retired in less than 10 years, we were nearly out of money, low on confidence, and filled with doubt. We all have doubts. The difference is what we do with those doubts...

Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

View More By Nilus Mattive