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The 10 Rules That Made Warren Buffett a Billionaire

Doug Whiteman
The 10 Rules That Made Warren Buffett a Billionaire

Warren Buffett may be worth tens of billions, but he still lives simply, and his strategies for investing and amassing wealth aren't too complicated either.

But if it's so easy, you ask, why aren't more people as freaking rich as Buffett is? Because his approach takes the kind of discipline, patience and instinct that many either don't have or are unwilling to develop.

Here are 10 rules that have helped the Oracle of Omaha find and sustain success.

1. It starts with good communication

Becoming Warren Buffett / HBO
Buffett says you need to develop good communication skills if you want to lead.

Buffett's first key to prosperity has little to do with picking stocks. He says you need to become a strong communicator: Wield words as your most important tools.

"Without good communication skills, you won’t be able to convince people to follow you even though you see over the mountain and they don't," Buffett once told a Stanford MBA student.

While this is sage advice for financial planners, it's good for helping anyone develop leadership skills and the ability to think in stressful situations.

2. When investing, innovate — don't follow

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Warren Buffett was never one to follow the herd.

Adopting a herd mentality is a surefire way to get middling results, Buffett believes. "You need to divorce your mind from the crowd," he has said.

It's tough, but you have to break out from the pack by developing your own investing strategy based on your knowledge and experience. "To be a successful investor you must divorce yourself from the fears and greed of the people around you, although it is almost impossible," Buffett says.

At the same time, be open to good advice. Financial planning services can be very helpful — and did you know they're even available online now?

3. Always be willing to learn new things

Becoming Warren Buffett / HBO
Warren Buffett begins each day by reading a newspaper.

Buffett likes to say that knowledge accumulates just like interest in the bank. He starts each day with a newspaper, and he reads books on various topics every day.

Consuming information will not only influence your investing, but it also will prepare you for success in all areas of life. Soak up what others can tell you about new technologies and new strategies.

Those who avoid learning new things risk becoming obsolete. Be like Buffett, and you'll never grow too old to learn a new trick.

4. Live frugally

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For a billionaire, Buffett is known to live a surprisingly frugal life.

Buffett famously lives well below his means. He has been known to drive an older, modest car. He still resides in the house he bought in Omaha, Nebraska, for $31,500 in 1958, and he picks up breakfast at a McDonald's drive-thru almost every day.

Think of wealth as security, not a license to spend foolishly. Live modestly, and you'll be able to weather dips in the financial markets. If you invest to feed a lavish lifestyle, you'll soon find yourself making rash decisions based on greed.

Ready to start investing? If you find the idea a little daunting, consider using one of today's automated investing services, also known as robo-advisors.

5. Look forward, not to the past

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Warren Buffett tells investors to focus on what's ahead, not past performance.

Buffett famously stated in the 1950s that "the investor of today does not profit from yesterday's growth." This maxim still holds true today.

According to Buffett, following past trends is much less important than identifying new opportunities.

When deciding whether to invest in a company, focus on what's in its future, not its history.

6. Never invest borrowed money

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Buffett says invest with your own money -- don't borrow.

When investing, use your own money. Buffett says it's "crazy" to borrow. "It's insane to risk what you have and need for something you don't really need," he told CNBC.

If you borrow to invest, your strategies will be too closely tied to your need to repay the money. Some investments require long-term planning and holding out for growth, which is difficult with a debt hanging over your head.

Already have too much debt? Get it under control with the help of a debt consolidation loan. You can comparison-shop for a loan that works for you.

7. Dividends are key to long-term growth

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Buffett's company earns millions of dollars from Coca-Cola, in the form of dividends.

Warren Buffett loves stocks that pay dividends. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, gets hundreds of millions of dollars each year from Coca-Cola in the form of dividends.

Dividends come from reliable companies that consistently meet or exceed their goals. Their stocks may not make you a lot of money quickly, but their dividends can put your investing on autopilot.

Other high-dividend-paying companies include Caterpillar, AT&T, Verizon and the investment firm BlackRock Capital — though, ironically, not Berkshire Hathaway.

8. Think loooooooong term

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Buffett says invest for the long term and don't get caught up in the stock market's day-to-day moves.

"Buy and hold" is a common, long-term investment strategy that calls for sticking with a stock even when it's having a bad day — or month.

Buffett's approach might be called "buy and hold and hold."

As he likes to tell his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, "Our favorite holding period is forever."

He doesn't mind when a stock takes an occasional tumble, because those are good opportunities to buy more shares at a discount.

9. Know when to fold 'em

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Buffett says you have to know when to walk away from the table.

Don't get the wrong idea — Buffett does sell stocks when he has to. Despite his overall success, he has bet on plenty of clunkers. The trick for long-term investing success is knowing when to walk away.

Buffett learned these lessons as a young man betting on horse races. He tried to make up for losses by increasing his bets, and he lost more money.

Recognize when a stock is a genuine loser, so you can walk away and minimize your losses.

10. Remember, anything is possible

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Warren Buffett keeps headlines like these around to remind himself of what could happen.

Buffett is known to plaster his walls with what he calls "instructional art." This includes newspaper front pages with screaming headlines about stock market crashes.

They remind him that, in investing and in life, anything can happen. If you keep this in mind, then you will proceed with caution and make informed decisions about your investments.

You'll avoid risky debt, won't live an unsustainably lavish lifestyle, and will be able to withstand market fluctuations — just like Warren Buffett.

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