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21 brilliant quotes from legendary investor and polymath Charlie Munger

·Correspondent
·7 min read
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Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK-A, BRK-B) annual shareholders meeting will take place in Los Angeles on May 1, with Warren Buffett reuniting with his long-time business partner Charlie Munger, who is based in California, after a year apart.

In a normal year, thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Omaha, Nebraska, to listen to Buffett, 90, and Munger, 97, answer questions for hours as they sip Coca-Colas and nibble on peanut brittle from See's Candies. Munger, Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, is adored for his expansive knowledge and his maxims about business, investing, and life as well as his colorful language and humor. Famously, he would often say, after Buffett finished speaking, “I have nothing further to add.” Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting went virtual, with Buffett answering questions from afar in an empty CHI Health Center Arena without Munger.

Full Coverage of Berkshire Hathaway's 2021 Annual Shareholders Meeting

While Buffett is the more public and recognizable face for Berkshire Hathaway, the iconic conglomerate as it stands today was built to Munger’s blueprint of moving beyond so-called “cigar-butt” investing to “buying wonderful businesses at fair prices,” according to a shareholder letter commemorating the company’s 50th anniversary. Though Buffett credits Munger for his success, he also emphasizes that his friend and business partner has made him a “better person.”

And so to commemorate the reunion of these two investing legends and long-time partners and friends, we’ve compiled some of our favorite Munger quotes:

On learning

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.” Poor Charlie's Almanack

"Without the method of learning, you're like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. It's just not going to work very well." 2021 Daily Journal AGM

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than when they got up and boy does that help—particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.” 2007 USC Law School Commencement Address

“I think that a life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn all the time.” 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

“Acquire worldly wisdom and adjust your behavior accordingly. If your new behavior gives you a little temporary unpopularity with your peer group then to hell with them.” Poor Charlie's Almanack

“Live within your income and save so that you can invest. Learn what you need to learn.” Damn Right! : Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger

Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger smiles during an interview in Omaha, Neb., Monday, May 7, 2018, with Liz Claman on Fox Business Network's
Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger smiles during an interview in Omaha, Neb., Monday, May 7, 2018, with Liz Claman on Fox Business Network's "Countdown to the Closing Bell". (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

On investing and business:

“Understanding both the power of compound interest and the difficulty of getting it is the heart and soul of understanding a lot of things.” Poor Charlie's Almanack

“There are huge advantages for an individual to get into a position where you make a few great investments and just sit on your ass: You are paying less to brokers. You are listening to less nonsense. And if it works, the governmental tax system gives you an extra 1, 2 or 3 percentage points per annum compounded.” —Worldly Wisdom by Charlie Munger 1995 - 1998

“I have a friend who’s a fisherman he says, ‘I have a simple rule for success in fishing. Fish where the fish are.’ You want to fish where the bargains are. That simple. If the fishing is really lousy where you are you should probably look for another place to fish.”— 2020 Daily Journal AGM

“Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance).”Poor Charlie's Almanack

“The world is full of foolish gamblers and they will not do as well as the patient investors.” 2018 Weekly in Stocks interview

“It takes character to sit with all that cash and to do nothing. I didn’t get to be where I am by going after mediocre opportunities.” Poor Charlie's Almanack

“I find it much easier to find four or five investments where I have a pretty reasonable chance of being right that they're way above average. I think it's much easier to find five than it is to find 100. I think the people who argue for all this diversification — by the way, I call it ‘deworsification’ — which I copied from somebody — and I'm way more comfortable owning two or three stocks which I think I know something about and where I think I have an advantage.” — 2021 Daily Journal AGM

"Usually, I don’t use formal projections. I don’t let people do them for me because I don’t like throwing up on the desk, but I see them made in a very foolish way all the time, and many people believe in them, no matter how foolish they are. It’s an effective sales technique in America to put a foolish projection on a desk."2003 Herb Kay Undergraduate Lecture University of California, Santa Barbara Economics Department

"I think the reason why we got into such idiocy in investment management is best illustrated by a story that I tell about the guy who sold fishing tackle. I asked him, 'My God, they're purple and green. Do fish really take these lures?' And he said, 'Mister, I don't sell to fish.'" — "A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom As It Relates To Investment Management & Business," 1994 speech at USC Business School

“Capitalism without failure is like religion without hell.” — Tao of Charlie Munger

[See also: Warren Buffett's 25 best quotes about business, investing, and life]

On mental models and decision-making frameworks:

“We’ve had enough good sense when something is working very well to keep doing it. I’d say we’re demonstrating what might be called the fundamental algorithm of life — repeat what works.” 2010 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

“I spent a lifetime trying to avoid my own mental biases. A.) I rub my own nose into my own mistakes. B.) I try and keep it simple and fundamental as much as I can. And, I like the engineering concept of a margin of safety. I’m a very blocking and tackling kind of thinker. I just try to avoid being stupid. I have a way of handling a lot of problems — I put them in what I call my ‘too hard pile,’ and just leave them there. I’m not trying to succeed in my ‘too hard pile.’” — 2020 CalTech Distinguished Alumni Award interview

On life:

“I think life is a whole series of opportunity costs. You know, you got to marry the best person who is convenient to find who will have you. Investment is much the same sort of a process.” 1997 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

"Another thing, of course, is life will have terrible blows, horrible blows, unfair blows. Doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every mischance in life was an opportunity to behave well. Every mischance in life was an opportunity to learn something and your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in a constructive fashion. That is a very good idea." 2007 USC Law School Commencement Address

“You don’t have a lot of envy, you don’t have a lot of resentment, you don’t overspend your income, you stay cheerful in spite of your troubles, you deal with reliable people and you do what you’re supposed to do. All these simple rules work so well to make your life better.” 2019 CNBC interview

Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

Read more from the Daily Journal Meeting: