Warren Buffett’s Wealth Through the Years
Buffett was born in 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, and already as a young child, he displayed a keen business sense. He launched his first business at age 6, selling gum and Coca-Cola door to door. He owned many pinball machines that were installed in neighborhood barbershops by the time he was a teenager, filed his first tax return, and had a profit-sharing interest in a 40-acre farm in Omaha. According to legend, Buffett once declared in his youth that he would be a millionaire by the age of 30, and that “if not, I am going to jump off the tallest building in Omaha.”
Here’s a look at Warren Buffett’s net worth and earnings over the years, as well as the median household income based on U.S. Census Bureau data.
Warren Buffett’s 20s: The First $100,000
After graduating from college, Buffett repeatedly tried to get a position with his mentor Benjamin Graham, even offering to work for free. However, after Graham’s repeated rejections, Buffett was forced to go back to Omaha and work as a stockbroker for his father. His wealth at age 21 was just $20,000.
The renowned investor eventually gave in and recruited Buffett a few years later for a salary of $12,000 — nearly three times the median yearly income for the typical family in 1954 — after Buffett persisted in bringing Graham investment ideas. Two years after Graham’s retirement, Buffett began applying what he had learned to an investing partnership he had established with friends and family. At the age of 26, Buffett had a net worth of $140.000.
Warren Buffett’s 30s: Millionaire Status
Buffett was faring better than the $5,620 per year typical family income in the United States in 1960. Early in 1962, Buffett invested nearly all of his $450,000 net worth—his total assets—into his investing venture. That turned out to be a wise decision as the partnership, in which he held a $1.8 million stake, had risen to a value of $17 million by the beginning of 1964.
In 1965, Buffett acquired a majority stake in Berkshire Hathaway, the business he would later come to be associated with. Additionally, it signaled the dissolution of Buffett’s career-launching investment relationship. In 1966, he stopped accepting new investors into the partnership, and by 1969, he had completely stopped managing it.
Warren Buffett’s 40s: Bounces Back From Financial Troubles
Buffett’s personal net worth reached a high of $34 million by the age of 43. He paid $25 million for See’s Candies in 1972, and during the next 50 years, the business made roughly $2 billion in earnings.
As Berkshire Hathaway continued to expand, Buffett’s 40s were also the decade in which he first hit the milestone of a personal net worth of $100 million, which he did in 1978 at the age of 48. The median household income in the United States by the end of the decade was about $21,000, which is roughly 4,500 times less than Buffett’s assets.
Warren Buffett’s 50s: Becoming a Billionaire
Buffett was listed with a net worth of $250 million in 1982, when Forbes published its first list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. At the time, he was a quarter of the way to billionaire status. Since then, Buffett has appeared on this list every year it has been published. And by 1985, three years later, the 55-year-old Buffett had accomplished the incredible accomplishment of quadrupling the value of his stocks in order to obtain that elusive third comma.
In 1985, the average household income was $27,735. Buffett, though, wasn’t finished with the 1980s. By 1989, at the age of 59, Buffett was worth $3.6 billion, more than tripling $1 billion in just four years. He would continue to amass money at an astonishing rate.
Warren Buffett’s 60s: Buffett’s Net Worth Triples
Buffett’s wealth increased over the course of the decade, rising from $3.3 billion in 1990 to $10.7 billion in 1995 and $36 billion in 1999 due to Berkshire’s ongoing success. And while having 10 times as much money at the end of the decade as you had at the beginning is astounding, it’s important to note that he had actually slowed down, as his net worth in 1989 was 14.4 times what it was in 1982.
Even though the typical American family was still far below Buffett in terms of income, it started to slowly increase during the 1990s. According to Census data, the median household income at the conclusion of the decade was around $42,000.
Warren Buffett’s 70s: Philanthropy and Growth
Buffett continued to amass tremendous sums of money in the early 2000s, but the rapid rate at which he was increasing his wealth started to drop significantly. He reached $32.3 billion in 2001 and $62 billion in 2008, respectively. Buffett’s net worth, like everyone else’s, was severely impacted by the financial crisis in 2009, plummeting to $37 billion.
Buffett increased his charitable giving in 2006, announcing in pledge letters that he would eventually give 85% of his wealth to five nonprofit organizations, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation receiving the majority of it.
Warren Buffett’s 80s: The Sky’s the Limit
According to Forbes, Buffett had a net worth of $84 billion at the beginning of 2018 and was the third richest person in the world (after Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos). He had already given $37 billion to charity by the year 2020.
Of course, the master investor continued to earn significantly more than the typical American. According to the most recent data from the Census Bureau, the median household income in the United States was $55,322.
Warren Buffett’s 90s: Still Going Strong
Buffett has dropped a few rungs and is now only the sixth wealthiest person on the planet at age 92, which is still not too awful considering his eye-popping net worth of $114.5 billion as of July 7th, 2023.
He hasn’t shown any indications of slowing down; to date, he has donated more than $50 billion to charity, and he’s still serving as Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO.