An un-authorized comparison between Warren Buffet and Me
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, January 26, 2012
I have never met Mr. Buffett in person, but in a recent Time Magazine, cover story on this unique person, he and I seem to have a few things in common.
Mr. Buffett believes in making money – as do I. (He’s just a little better at it.)
He believes in fairness – that has always been my credo.
He believes in the ability of the government to make people’s lives better – I think that is a reasonable expectation.
But most of all, he believes in luck – and this is where both of us are blessed!
However, there are a few statistical fine points where our numbers don’t quite sync. Mr. Buffett is the third richest man in the world, I’m afraid that I am somewhere down in the 35 billionth percentile.
Mr. Buffet admits to being a member of the 1% Club…. And proud of it.
I am pleased to have attained the exalted 50% level. Where your glass is either half full (optimist) or half empty (pessimist).
Mr. Buffett prides himself on having had the good luck to be born: “male in 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska.”
I had the bad luck to be born in 1927 into Nazi Germany, but had the good luck to be kicked out, ten years later, due to Hitler’s anti-Semitic paranoia. This brought me to the shores of New York as a scrawny refugee boy.
Mr. Buffet’s beginnings were modest and simple, as were mine. We both went to public school. None- the-less, both of us got a decent education.
He sold chewing gum, Coca Cola and magazines door to door - I started my working career cleaning shoes at three cents a pair, (undercutting the competition by two cents.) I sold the Saturday Evening Post every week at the entrance to the subway. It did not grow into a huge business, but bought me candies at the local grocery store... Mr. Buffet worked in his Grandfather’s grocery store; I worked in my father’s cabinet shop after school and except for a few part-time jobs, (including a stint on Broadway as an extra in an operetta) I have always been self-employed: We were both entrepreneurs!
In 1983, Mr. Buffet bought the Nebraska Furniture Mart, America’s largest Home furnishing store run by the legendary Mrs. B (Rose Blumkin), who ran it with an iron fist into her 103rd birthday. This puts us both in the furniture business!
Mr. Buffett gets by on a salary of $100,000 per year, so do I. He drives an old 2008 Cadillac I drive a ’22 Model T. He flies around in his corporate Jet; I occasionally manage to bum a ride in a friend’s.
He went on to Columbia Business School and learned all the tricks of the trade on how to make money.
I went to Colombia School of Architecture, (albeit in their night-extension courses) and learned about styles and construction.
This is where our lives have taken divergent turns. Mr. Buffett acquired corporate entities and sagaciously built them in to huge successes. (I should have gone to Columbia Business School instead of Architecture.) Consequently, Mr. Buffett has attained unbelievable wealth. He has acquired company after company; I have gained piles of trophies and awards, plus a few honorary doctorates, though wealth has steadfastly eluded me. Good luck has paved both our ladders of success.
In our old age, Mr. Buffett now owns a railroad (I’ve always been a railroad buff but own only a few miniature models). Mr. Buffet is generously giving away 99% of his wealth to charity; I am giving roughly 35% of my earnings annually to the government (albiet reluctantly) to fight wars on poverty, insurgents, and bailing out nasty bankers.
We both have been blessed with loyal, clever wives, who have supported us spiritually all our lives. And now we are now both widowed (though Mr. Buffett has found happiness in a new marriage) I am still living in the afterglow of my departed wife, Erica.
The undeniable comparison: Today we are both contented elderly gentlemen, reaping the pleasures of a fulfilled life and understanding that many of the best things in life are free.