Charlie Munger, a name synonymous with investment brilliance and a cornerstone in building one of the greatest fortunes in U.S. history, died Tuesday at age 99.
While he may not have been a household name like his legendary partner Warren Buffett, Munger was a legend in the investment world in his own right. His approach to success was rooted in deceptively simple principles: taking simple ideas seriously, loading up on the few insights you have and maintaining a long-term investment view. This philosophy set him apart in an era where Wall Street often favored short-term gains over long-term planning.
Munger’s investment strategy was both unique and straightforward. He famously advised investors to take stakes in a few exceptional companies and then, as he put it, “just sit on your ass.” This advice, reflective of his trademark curmudgeonly style, emphasized the virtue of patience and the value of long-term commitment to investing.
His candid and direct investment style was further exemplified in his caution against combining promising investments with speculative ventures. He used a memorable analogy to drive this point home. “If you mix raisins with turds, you still have turds,” he said. This quote highlighted his belief in the importance of maintaining the purity of investment choices and warned against diluting quality with inferior options.
Munger’s journey wasn’t just about his professional success; it was also marked by significant personal challenges and resilience. He faced the devastating loss of his 9-year-old son Teddy to leukemia at a time when there were no effective treatments or medical insurance for the disease. The tragedy came just a year after Munger had endured a difficult divorce, leaving him to juggle his responsibilities as a father and lawyer while grappling with emotional turmoil.
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At 52, he faced another challenge when a failed cataract surgery left him blind in one eye. He learned braille, demonstrating his determination to adapt and learn, regardless of the circumstances. His attitude toward these challenges was reflected in his statement, “I made the mistake — the fault was mine,” showing his tendency to take responsibility for his choices and face life’s hurdles head-on.
Munger’s wisdom is immortalized in his numerous insightful quotes. He believed in the power of continuous learning, saying, “I think that a life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn all the time.” He emphasized the importance of character, resilience and the practicality of investment, advising others to “live within your income and save so that you can invest. Learn what you need to learn.”
In his final interview with CNBC journalist Becky Quick, Munger shared a glimpse into his mindset as he approached age 100. He spoke of a bucket list desire to catch a 200-pound tuna, a dream from his younger days. Munger noted his diminished physical capacity compared to when he was 96, saying, “I would have paid any amount to catch a 200-pound tuna when I was younger. I never caught one. There are things you give up with time.”
This interview, part of a CNBC special reflecting on Munger’s life and legacy, also touched upon his plans for his 100th birthday, including a New Year’s Eve party. Quick mentioned how Munger had advised Buffett to write his own obituary in a way that reflected how he lived his life. Munger confirmed he did the same, saying, “Yeah, I’ve written my obituary the way I’ve lived my life.” He then added that it wouldn’t matter to him if people chose to ignore it after his death, saying, “I’ll be dead. What difference will it make?”
Munger’s death at a California hospital was not just the loss of a great investor but the end of an era characterized by his wisdom and straightforward approach to business and life. As vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., his partnership with Buffett was instrumental in the company’s success. Buffett acknowledged Munger’s indispensable contribution, stating, “Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation.”
In the 2003 book “Damn Right! Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger,” Buffett offered insight into what made Munger so exceptional.
“What makes Charlie special is his character,” Buffett said. “It’s true that his mind is breathtaking: He’s as bright as any person I’ve ever met and, at 76, still has a memory I would kill for. He was born, though, with these abilities. It’s how he has elected to use them that makes me regard him so highly.”
Losing Munger demonstrates that you did not need to know him personally to feel the impact of his death. His advice on business and life, shared at events like Berkshire Hathaway and Daily Journal shareholder meetings, influenced a broad audience.
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This article Charlie Munger Revealed What Was Left On His Bucket List Before He Died — ‘I Would Have Paid Any Amount To Catch A 200-Pound Tuna When I Was Younger. I Never Caught One’ originally appeared on Benzinga.com
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