9 Life Lessons From Warren Buffett Everyone in Their 80s Should Hear

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Warren Buffett, sometimes called the “Oracle of Omaha,” is widely recognized as a legendary businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He built his staggering fortune by investing in undervalued companies with both strong foundations and long-term growth potential. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A), the investment company he co-founded, has grown over the years into a multinational conglomerate worth over $880 billion. He remains its chief executive officer and continues to have a rock-star-like presence in the investing world, even as his age approaches the mid-90s.

Books and the internet are full of words of wisdom Buffett has shared over the years, both investment and life advice. They so often resonate due to their practical, down-to-earth quality. These are just a few of his well-known quotations:

  • Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.
  • Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
  • If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.

What follows are nine life lessons attributed to Buffett that are particularly relevant to those well into retirement and their golden years. Sometimes we expect advanced age to be a time of rest and reflecting on our accomplishments. But it can also be a confusing time full of big surprises and adjustments. We may even still be trying to figure who we are and what it all means. Here is Buffett’s take.

Is Warren Buffett Still Relevant?

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Here’s why Warren Buffett matters.

Forbes asked in 2019 whether Buffett was still relevant. The answer was yes, for his vision, his resilience, and his principles. Despite the current market and economic uncertainty, little about Buffett and his style of investing has changed since then, as he approaches 94 years of age. He built his wealth by value investing. That is, by buying into businesses with a solid foundation but with stocks that trade for less than their intrinsic value. It is a strategy that made Berkshire Hathaway into a conglomerate with a current market cap near $885 billion and made Buffett one of the wealthiest persons in the world. No wonder his words and actions still make headlines.

1. Generosity

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Taking a philanthropy pledge.

More than a decade ago, Buffett pledged to gift 99% of his wealth to philanthropy by the end of his life. In fact, he has donated more than $50 billion so far, making him one of the world’s most magnanimous philanthropists. Much of that was in annual gifts to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at one time the second-largest charitable foundation in the world. The foundation is dedicated to enhancing health care and reducing extreme poverty across the world. “If you’re in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent,” Buffett said.

Benefits of Generosity

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Generosity on a personal level.

On a personal level, generosity can enhance mood and self-esteem while boosting the immune system and reducing stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, thereby helping people live longer. Generosity also helps strengthen relationships and expand a person’s leadership and influence. And it doesn’t just mean giving away money. It can mean being generous with your time and and energy, from volunteering to help those in need to paying more attention to those people and things that matter.

2. Being Consistent

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Sticking with your values and good habits.

Another thing Buffett is known for is rarely changing his habits. Not only has his investment strategy and advice remained the same for many years. His diet has been the same since age six. He still lives in the same house he bought in Omaha in 1958, and he has driven the same car for years. When he figures out what works for him, Buffett rarely changes it. As he once said, “You know … you keep doing the same things and you keep getting the same result over and over again.”

Building Good Habits

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It’s never too late to build good habits.

Consistency is all about building good habits, and it is never too late to start. With repetition, positive behaviors and attitudes become a natural part of everyday life and increase the odds of success. Plus, people who are consistent are often trusted because they can be relied on and depended on by others. It has been said that if one remains true to one’s principles, it provides confidence, conviction, purpose, and a future.

3. Always Learning

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Reading is fundamental.

Buffett’s long-time partner Charlie Munger once said, “You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads,” supposedly eight hours per day. Buffett has a reputation as a voracious reader and a strong advocate of continuous learning, regardless of age or profession. Buffett famously said, “The more you learn, the more you’ll earn.” As he sees it, self-education and staying informed is a never-ending journey. Identify experts, connect with them, and document and share what you learn.

Keeping the Brain Cells Fresh

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Lifelong learning has many benefits.

Lifelong learning offers us a deeper understanding of ourselves and our passions. In careers, it creates job security, opens new doors, and supplies workers with the skills needed to thrive in their chosen fields. In life, it can help boost self-confidence and self-esteem, and recent research suggests that learning keeps brain cells working at optimum levels. Again, this contributes to success, happiness, and well-being.

4. Embracing Failure

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Weeds wither and flowers bloom.

Buffett also learns from his failures. He once told students at Columbia, “Don’t fear failure. I got turned down by Harvard. It was the best thing that ever happened. … And don’t let it eat at you by looking back. Just keep going.” In the end, Buffett said in his 2022 annual shareholders letter, “the weeds wither away in significance as the flowers bloom.” That is to say, mistakes are trivial compared to the gains to be made by persevering.

Failure Is a Teacher

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Failure is a teacher.

Failing teaches us things that we cannot learn otherwise. It is an opportunity to reflect and consider our motivations, to learn, adapt, and ultimately thrive in our personal and professional lives. We don’t celebrate failure, but rather what we learn from it. And we see it as a stepping stone toward growth and success. True failure comes from not learning from our mistakes, or from not having the courage to try in the first place.

5. Measuring Success

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How do you define success?

People measure success in lots of ways. Sometimes it is about the accumulation of wealth, power, or respect. For others, it may be about the impact one has made, or their level of satisfaction or happiness. Buffett has strong opinions on the matter, once saying, “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. If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster.”

What’s in Your Obituary?

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Obituary writing as an exercise.

Buffett recently advised a shareholder to write their own obituary as an exercise in figuring out what kind of life they want to have in order to begin building that life. For the mature individual, that exercise can be a way to reflect on and celebrate accomplishments. Besides wealth, reflections should include what was learned, relationships, impact, and legacy. It can also help make clear how one wants to spend their remaining time.

6. Having Passion

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The most important thing.

Another quotation regularly attributed to Buffett is “Without passion, you don’t have energy. Without energy, you have nothing.” Buffett is a shining example of what it means to be passionate, as indicated by how active and how sharp he is at 93 years of age. He is a big proponent of bringing passion to your work and to your life: “Do what you would do for free, having passion for what you do is the most important thing.”

The Key to Success

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Having passion attracts supporters.

The key to success is to be passionate about what you are doing and always give it your best effort. Passion helps people achieve their goals, build their dreams, and find purpose in life. It also helps people overcome obstacles, improve themselves, and increase their chances of success. And having passion attracts supporters, partners, and followers, increasing the odds of success.

7. Purpose in Retirement

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Recalibrating how you see retirement.

Americans often view retirement as a time to stop working, to wind down and finish out their lives. However, Buffett believes that without a purpose, retirees may suffer health concerns that reduce the quality of their life in retirement and could even shorten their lives. For that reason, Buffett suggests a recalibration of this thinking. Viewing retirement as the next phase of life rather than a time to start “shutting down” allows us to plan accordingly and to enjoy a fruitful retirement.

Ways to Find Purpose

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Strategies for finding purpose.

Here are a few widely shared strategies for finding purpose in retirement:

  • Try new creative pursuits or get reacquainted with old ones.
  • Volunteer in your community or for a cause important to you.
  • Find physical and mental activities that you enjoy.
  • Learn or try new things, or visit interesting places.
  • Stay in touch with people who are important to you.
  • Meet with a life coach to help find purpose in retirement.

8. Associations

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Choose your friends wisely.

Another piece of advice Buffett has offered for years resonates not only with investors but is invaluable guidance in general. That is, to associate with people who are more insightful, more talented, and more experienced than yourself. By doing so, one may “drift in that direction.” Buffett’s long-time business partner, Charlie Munger, was a very successful investor and philanthropist, as well as the “architect” of Berkshire Hathaway’s business philosophy. Buffett’s mentor was investing legend investor Benjamin Graham, and he has a close relationship with tech innovator and philanthropist Bill Gates.

Learn From the Best

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Paying it forward.

What happens when we associate with individuals who are better than we are, whether intellectually, morally, or professionally, is that we open ourselves up to new perspectives and opportunities for growth. We see them as sources of inspiration and motivation, becoming encouraged to do what it takes to bring our best to the table. Then, after a lifetime of acquiring new expertise, we can pay it forward to help others along their journeys.

10 Life Lessons From Warren Buffett Everyone in Their 20s Should Hear

9. Legacy

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Spending their inheritance.

Retirees who still have a large retirement account as they approach the end of their life may be thinking about leaving more money to their heirs. Buffett would recommend that they should enjoy most of it themselves while still in retirement. But how much to leave? In his book “Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2013,” Buffett said, “the perfect amount is enough money so they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”

In Good Company

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A noble legacy.

Given the scale of Buffett’s philanthropy, it is clear that he believes a better world is a far more noble legacy than wealthy heirs. He is not alone. Other well-known and well-off people who reportedly plan to leave their heirs little or nothing include: Anderson Cooper, Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Weber, George Lucas, Gordan Ramsay, Sting, and Mark Zuckerberg.

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