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A 36-year-old who learned to invest like Warren Buffett explains Buffett's No. 1 rule

Emmie Martin

When Danielle Town found herself burnt out and even starting to get sick from her work as a corporate attorney, she knew she didn't want to keep working at the same breakneck pace for much longer. So she started brainstorming ways to retire faster.

"I started to think, 'What else can I do to support myself without being dependent on my salary?'" Town tells CNBC Make It .

Her father was an investor and author of two books on the topic, so Town grew up hearing about Warren Buffett's two famous rules: 1. Don't lose money. 2. Don't forget Rule No. 1.

But Town was reluctant to turn to the stock market as a means to fast-track her retirement. "I had heard 'Rule No.1' my whole life. And I ignored it my whole life," says Town, now 36. "I thought, 'What does that even mean?'"

Town tried to focus on hoarding her cash. But she quickly realized that, thanks to inflation, money stockpiled in a savings account would lose value over time .

She considered a few other options, but she knew the choice was clear: She needed to start investing. She reluctantly called her dad and, with his help, Town began to take a deeper dive into Buffett's Rule No. 1, which can be applied using a strategy called 'value investing.'

"My dad's point is deeper than it sounds: buy a wonderful company when it is a bargain and only when you are certain that it will be worth more 10 years from now than it is today," Town writes in her book.

She continues: "Be so confident that you now own a great company that — even if the stock prices goes down — you don't worry and you stay with it until it goes back up, and, ideally, you never sell."

In short, look for companies that will become more valuable over time and commit to sticking it out with them.

It's a strategy Buffett has benefited from time after time . He purchased See's Candies with longtime business partner Charlie Munger in 1972 and spent more than $1 billion on Coca-Cola stock in 1988 — both of which turned out to be good bets and both of which he still owns today.

When deciding whether or not to invest in a company himself, Buffett and his partners follow a few simple guidelines, one of which involves trying to determine the company's longevity.

"We sort of know it when we see it," Buffett said during the the Berkshire Hathaway 2017 Annual Shareholders Meeting . "It would tend to be a business that for one reason or another we can look out five or 10 or 20 years, and decide that the competitive advantage that it had at the present would last over that period."

To emulate Buffett's success, Town knew she couldn't pick stocks at will and be done. She spent a year working with her dad to further understand value investing and narrow down which companies she wanted to buy into for the long-term. She chronicles her step-by-step journey in her new book, " Invested: How Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger Taught Me to Master My Mind, My Emotions, and My Money (with a Little Help from My Dad) ."

Town takes her time to research each company she's interested in before handing over any money. "Investing for me is a practice and it's very important to me to think of it like a practice, just like yoga or meditation or practicing tennis," she says. "Anything that you enjoy doing and want to become better at over time, without a specific end goal where you're going to stop."

She reads The Wall Street Journal, sets up Google alerts for companies she's interested in and follows Charlie Munger's four principles for investing when weighing pros and cons.

So far it's working out for Town. After months of research, she decided to buy shares in Whole Foods. And then, when the company was bought by Amazon, she decided to cash out. "Despite our desire to 'never sell,' selling was inexorably part of this practice," she writes.

Although she described the experience as a "break up," she earned a 41 percent return on investment. "It was a great start," she writes. "Time to get back to researching companies and looking for my next favorite company. I had fallen in love with this practice, really."

Taking the time to choose individuals stocks was the right choice for Town, but it's not for everyone, and Buffett offers good advice in that case, too: "If you're not going to take the time to learn to do [value investing], he says you should invest in a low-cost index fund," Town says.

Especially for long-term retirement savings, Buffett says , "it's the thing that makes the most sense practically all of the time."

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