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The key points of 'The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life' by Alice Schroeder

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder provides a comprehensive insight into the life and principles of Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time. This article highlights key points from the book, focusing on Buffett's early life, his journey to becoming a successful investor, and his personal life and philanthropic endeavors.

Key Takeaways

  • Warren Buffett's childhood in Omaha shaped his values and investment approach.

  • Buffett's early investments and meeting with Benjamin Graham were pivotal moments in his career.

  • Building Berkshire Hathaway solidified Buffett's reputation as a savvy investor.

  • The principles of value investing and Buffett's long-term perspective are key to his success.

  • Buffett's commitment to family relationships and philanthropy has had a significant impact on society.

Warren Buffett's Early Life

Childhood in Omaha

Warren Buffett's formative years in Omaha laid the foundation for his future success. Born during the Great Depression, Buffett's early fascination with numbers and money became evident. By the age of six, he was already making small profits from selling gum and Coca-Cola to his neighbors. This entrepreneurial spirit was a glimpse of the business magnate he was to become.

Buffett's childhood was not just about business; it was also about learning. He spent considerable time reading books from the Omaha public library, especially those on investment and wealth. His voracious reading habits helped him to understand the value of investments from a young age.

  • At age 11, Buffett purchased his first stock.

  • By 15, he had amassed over $2,000 from various ventures.

First Investments

Warren Buffett's foray into the world of investing began remarkably early. At the tender age of 11, he made his first purchase of stock, buying shares of Cities Service Preferred for himself and his sister, Doris. This early investment would mark the beginning of a lifelong journey in finance.

Buffett's initial investments were not just limited to stocks. He also engaged in various entrepreneurial ventures, such as delivering newspapers and selling golf balls and stamps. Below is a list of his early business activities:

  • Delivering The Washington Post

  • Buying and selling used golf balls

  • Setting up a pinball machine business

Meeting Benjamin Graham

Warren Buffett's encounter with Benjamin Graham marked a pivotal moment in his life. Graham, known as the father of value investing, became a mentor to Buffett after he enrolled at Columbia Business School. Buffett was deeply influenced by Graham's investment philosophy, which emphasized the intrinsic value of a company and the importance of a margin of safety.

Buffett's admiration for Graham was evident when he offered to work for Graham's partnership for free, a testament to his eagerness to learn from the best. However, Graham initially turned him down, only to hire Buffett later on.

Buffett's time with Graham was not just about learning investment strategies; it was also about understanding the importance of ethical considerations in business decisions. This ethical mindset would become a hallmark of Buffett's career.

Becoming a Successful Investor

Building Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett's journey with Berkshire Hathaway began with the acquisition of a struggling textile company. His vision transformed it into a powerhouse holding company, with a diverse portfolio of businesses. The initial steps were not easy, as the textile business continued to falter, but Buffett's strategic moves set the foundation for future growth.

One of the pivotal decisions was to diversify the company's investments. Berkshire Hathaway ventured into the insurance industry, which provided a steady stream of cash flow. This cash flow was then reinvested into other undervalued companies, a practice that became a hallmark of Buffett's investment strategy.

Buffett's approach to building Berkshire Hathaway was methodical and focused on long-term value creation. The company's growth can be attributed to a series of smart acquisitions and investments, including:

  • The purchase of National Indemnity, a turning point for the company

  • Investments in well-known companies like Coca-Cola and American Express

  • Expansion into industries such as utilities and railroads

Value Investing Principles

Warren Buffett's approach to investing is deeply rooted in the principles of value investing, a strategy he refined under the mentorship of Benjamin Graham. The core tenet of this philosophy is to buy stocks that appear undervalued by the market, based on their intrinsic worth, and to hold them for the long term.

  • Look for companies with strong fundamentals.

  • Analyze the long-term profitability and potential of a business.

  • Be patient and wait for the right price before buying.

Buffett's success is a testament to the effectiveness of value investing. By adhering to these principles, he has built an impressive portfolio and a reputation as one of the most successful investors in history.

Long-Term Perspective

Warren Buffett's investment philosophy is deeply rooted in the concept of a long-term perspective. Patience is key; he believes that holding onto investments over an extended period allows one to reap the benefits of compound interest and market growth. This approach contrasts sharply with the short-term thinking prevalent in today's market.

  • Avoids market timing

  • Focuses on company fundamentals

  • Ignores short-term market fluctuations

Personal Life and Philanthropy

Family Relationships

Warren Buffett's personal life, particularly his family relationships, has been as intriguing as his professional endeavors. Despite his immense wealth, Buffett maintained a relatively modest lifestyle and instilled in his children the value of hard work and self-reliance. His approach to parenting emphasized practical intelligence, which he believed was crucial for success.

  • Susan Alice Buffett

  • Howard Graham Buffett

  • Peter Andrew Buffett

Buffett's marriage to Susan Thompson in 1952 lasted until her death in 2004, although they lived separately from 1977. This unconventional arrangement was agreed upon amicably, and both pursued their individual interests while remaining married. Buffett later married his longtime companion, Astrid Menks, in 2006.

Giving Pledge Commitment

Warren Buffett's commitment to the Giving Pledge is a testament to his belief in the power of philanthropy. In 2010, he pledged to donate the majority of his wealth to charitable causes, joining forces with Bill and Melinda Gates. This initiative encourages the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the bulk of their wealth to addressing society's most pressing issues.

Buffett's philanthropic efforts are not just about donations, but about setting a precedent for others to follow. His actions underscore the importance of social responsibility among the affluent. The Giving Pledge has since become a global movement, with numerous signatories committing to similar philanthropic goals.

  • Signatories of the Giving Pledge commit to:

  • Publicly declare their intention to give away more than half of their wealth.

  • Engage in philanthropy that is thoughtful and impactful.

  • Encourage others to participate in philanthropy.

Impact on Society

Warren Buffett's influence extends far beyond the realm of finance. His commitment to philanthropy and ethical business practices has made a significant impact on society. Through the Giving Pledge, which he co-founded, Buffett has inspired other wealthy individuals to donate a majority of their wealth to charitable causes.

  • Advocacy for increased taxes on the wealthy

  • Support for public health initiatives

  • Investment in educational programs

Buffett's approach to philanthropy is strategic, focusing on long-term solutions to societal problems. His contributions have funded a range of initiatives, from improving public education to advancing healthcare research.


In conclusion, 'The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life' by Alice Schroeder provides valuable insights into the life and business strategies of Warren Buffett. From his humble beginnings to becoming one of the most successful investors in the world, the book delves into the key points that shaped Buffett's approach to investing and life. Readers are able to gain a deeper understanding of Buffett's principles and philosophies, making it a must-read for anyone interested in finance, investing, and personal development.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Warren Buffett's childhood like?

Warren Buffett's childhood was spent in Omaha, where he showed early signs of financial acumen and a passion for business.

How did Warren Buffett make his first investments?

Warren Buffett made his first investments in stocks and businesses at a young age, demonstrating his interest and talent in the world of finance.

Who is Benjamin Graham and how did he influence Warren Buffett?

Benjamin Graham was a renowned investor and mentor to Warren Buffett, introducing him to the principles of value investing that shaped Buffett's investment philosophy.

What is Berkshire Hathaway and how did Warren Buffett build it?

Berkshire Hathaway is a multinational conglomerate that Warren Buffett transformed into a successful investment vehicle through strategic acquisitions and prudent management.

What are the key principles of value investing followed by Warren Buffett?

Warren Buffett's value investing principles include buying undervalued stocks, focusing on long-term growth, and investing in quality companies with strong fundamentals.

How has Warren Buffett's philanthropy impacted society?

Warren Buffett's philanthropic efforts, including his commitment to the Giving Pledge, have had a significant impact on society by supporting various charitable causes and initiatives.

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