Warren Buffett is a billionaire investor known for his thrifty lifestyle. Unlike some of America’s super rich, who split time between homes in Palm Beach and Aspen, Buffett lives modestly. This reporter journeyed to Buffett’s home in Omaha, Nebraska, to spend some time with America’s favorite moneyed man.
Buffett, not a driver or assistant, picks me up from the airport when I arrive. He drives a rust-stained 1989 Ford sedan. I tell him the car makes sense for a man made famous by his long-term investment strategies. “Nope. Just bought it this morning. I flipped my other car, a Hyundai, for this one. Made a quick five.” Thousand? “Just five.” Buffett–drenched in billions–is not too big to earn a buck wherever he can find it. “I left my briefcase in the other car,” he says. “It had our lunches in it.”
As we pick our way through an Omaha dumpster, Buffett speaks about his foray into investing. “I had snuck into an office building in hopes of finding a sink to bathe in,” he recalls. “It turned out to be a brokerage firm. When I was spotted, I confessed that I was trespassing. I had hoped for a night in jail–and the soup that comes with it–but was instead offered a job.”
We enter the public library, where Buffett stealthily tears pages from books in the Young Adult section. “It’s going to be freezing tonight,” he tells me as he stuffs paper into his shirt. He heads over to the magazine section. Rather than reading the pretentious Economist or Journal of Quarterly Economics, he reaches for the local rag. Famous for his attention to detail, Buffett eyes each page carefully for market information, clipping retail coupons along the way. “It’s been six years since I’ve paid full price on a haircut,” he says proudly.
From looking at him, you wouldn’t know that his company just completed a five billion dollar merger with a European plastics company. The only merger Buffett wants to discuss is personal: “When I’ve got two pairs of pants that have just had it, I sew the good parts together to make one new pair.” This explains his khaki-jeans, but not the adoration of his hometown. Everywhere we go, Buffett is greeted with cheers and salutations. As Buffett siphons gasoline from the car of an admiring local, I can’t help but wonder how a man so wealthy can remain so normal. He is the everyman, and yet there is no one like him.