Charlie Munger, the trusted confidante of Warren Buffett, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 99. His death leaves a significant void at Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), and investors believe that despite the conglomerate's established succession plan, filling Munger's role will be challenging. Berkshire announced that Munger peacefully passed away at a California hospital, where he resided. No specific cause of death was provided. Munger was on the verge of turning 100 on January 1.
"Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie's inspiration, wisdom and participation," Buffett, Berkshire's 93-year-old chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.
The passing of Munger, who served as Berkshire's vice chairman since 1978, signifies the end of an era in both corporate America and the world of investing. Alongside Warren Buffett, Munger earned widespread respect and admiration from investors globally, with many attending Berkshire's annual shareholder weekends in Omaha, Nebraska, to glean insights from the duo's down-to-earth wisdom on investing and life.
While Munger wasn't directly engaged in the day-to-day operations of Berkshire, his death means that Buffett has lost his longstanding confidante and sounding board.
"It's a shock," said Thomas Russo, a partner at Gardner Russo & Quinn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and longtime Berkshire shareholder. "It will leave a big void for investors who have modeled their thoughts, words and activities around Munger and his insights."
In honor of Munger's enduring legacy, we've gathered a selection of our favourite quotes from Charlie:
Quotes 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
“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
“I think that a life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn all the time.” — 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
Quotes On learning
"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 Annual Meeting
“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
“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
“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
Quotes On the stock market
"I think value investors are going to have a harder time now that there’s so many of them competing for a diminished bunch of opportunities. So my advice to value investors is to get used to making less." — 2023 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
"There is so much money now in the hands of so many smart people all trying to outsmart one another. It’s a radically different world from the world we started in." — 2023 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
"I wish everything else in America was working as well as Costco does. Think what a blessing that would be for us all." — 2022 Daily Journal Annual Meeting
"I love everything about Costco. I'm a total addict, and I'm never going to sell a share." — 2023 Daily Journal Annual Meeting
Quotes On investing
"One of the inane things [that gets] taught in modern university education is that a vast diversification is absolutely mandatory in investing in common stocks. That is an insane idea. It's not that easy to have a vast plethora of good opportunities that are easily identified. And if you've only got three, I'd rather it be my best ideas instead of my worst. And now, some people can't tell their best ideas from their worst, and in the act of deciding an investment already is good, they get to think it's better than it is. I think we make fewer mistakes like that than other people. And that is a blessing to us." — 2023 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
“If you’re going to invest in stocks for the long term or real estate, of course there are going to be periods when there’s a lot of agony and other periods when there’s a boom. And I think you just have to learn to live through them. As Kipling said, treat those two imposters just the same. You have to deal with daylight and night. Does that bother you very much? No. Sometimes it’s night and sometimes it’s daylight. Sometimes it’s a boom. Sometimes it’s a bust. I believe in doing as well as you can and keep going as long as they let you.” — 2021 Daily Journal Annual Meeting
“Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance).” — Poor Charlie's Almanack
“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
Quotes On new technologies
"I am personally skeptical of some of the hype that has gone into artificial intelligence. I think old-fashioned intelligence works pretty well." — 2023 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
On Big Tech regulation: "I would not break them up. They've got their little niches. Microsoft maybe has a nice niche, but it doesn't own the Earth. I like these high-tech companies. I think capitalism should expect to get a few big winners by accident." — 2023 "Acquired" podcast
“We now have computer algorithms trading with other computers. And people buying stocks who know nothing, being advised by people who know even less. It’s an incredibly crazy situation ... All this activity makes it easier for us.” — 2022 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting
"We are going to miss these newspapers terribly. Each newspaper... was an independent bastion of power. The economic position was so impregnable … and the ethos of a journalist was to try to tell it like it is. And they really were a branch of the government — they called them the Fourth Estate, meaning the fourth branch of the government. It arose by accident. Now about 95% of [newspapers are] going to disappear and go away forever. And what do we get in substitute? We get a bunch of people who attract an audience because they’re crazy ....
Quotes On the US economy and business
“What makes capitalism work is the fact that if you’re an able-bodied young person, if you refuse to work, you suffer a fair amount of agony, and because of that agony, the whole economic system works ... You take away that hardship and say, ‘You can stay home and get more than if you come in to work,’ that’s quite disruptive to an economic system like ours. The next time we do this, I don’t think we ought to be so liberal.” — 2022 Daily Journal Annual Meeting
“Capitalism without failure is like religion without hell.” — Tao of Charlie Munger
Bonus compilation from Warren Buffett
From Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett in the latest Berkshire Hathaway letter to shareholders, published in February:
"Charlie and I think pretty much alike. But what it takes me a page to explain, he sums up in a sentence. His version, moreover, is always more clearly reasoned and also more artfully — some might add bluntly — stated.
Here are a few of his thoughts, many lifted from a very recent podcast:
• The world is full of foolish gamblers, and they will not do as well as the patient investor.
• If you don’t see the world the way it is, it’s like judging something through a distorted lens.
• All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there. And a related thought: Early on, write your desired obituary — and then behave accordingly.
• Patience can be learned. Having a long attention span and the ability to concentrate on one thing for a long time is a huge advantage.
• You can learn a lot from dead people. Read of the deceased you admire and detest.
• Warren and I don’t focus on the froth of the market. We seek out good long-term investments and stubbornly hold them for a long time.
• You have to keep learning if you want to become a great investor. When the world changes, you must change.
• Finally, I will add two short sentences by Charlie that have been his decision-clinchers for decades: 'Warren, think more about it. You’re smart and I’m right.'
And so it goes. I never have a phone call with Charlie without learning something. And, while he makes me think, he also makes me laugh."