What Would Warren Buffett Do? WWWBD?
Over the past year I have told myself repeatedly I am going to the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder conference. I read 1500 Days and Planting Our Pennies last year and practically drooled over the thought of attending what some call the capitalist woodstock. I was ready to go, but did not know where to start, I know I needed a few things, since Warren Buffett does not set up shop in Chicago to host his annual shareholder meeting. Essentially I had 4 moving parts to obtain:
- Ride to Omaha
- Ride from Omaha to Chicago
- Tickets to Berkshire
- Place to stay in Omaha
The great news is Mr. 1500 days was in town and as luck would have it was on his way there from Chicago, check mark on Ride to Omaha. I’m sure he would want gas money or all of the dinosaur figurines I could find, but either way I’m in! I was lucky enough to secure a ticket/pass from Richmond Savers, who if you have not checked out I highly suggest doing so. I’m not a credit card guy, but if you are travel hacking it is the way to go. I was so proud of myself I was half way there, my plan was to make the entire trip on $200 or less, then started getting a little more difficult.
Securing a ride back was all over the place for me. I was trying to get a ride to Kansas City so I could get a cheap one-way flight, per Warren Buffett’s direction of course. After failing to secure a ride, I realized I could just take a train from Omaha to Chicago, which could actually work, I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this sooner. Here I am feeling like a genius again, well a little bit, but here’s where I failed. After looking at Air BNB, the prices for what I was looking for were just too much, I couldn’t see paying $150 night to sleep in a bed a couple miles away for 2 nights, which led me to a new destination Couchsurfer.org, I mean it led me to my spontaneous frugal date night, why not a free couch to stay or bed, I’m pretty open. Long story short on this one, with a week left to go the guy that I was waiting on his decision if he was in town that weekend, declined. I had 11 days to figure everything out, when I realized I needed to ask myself a question: What would Warren Buffett do if he were me?
What Would Warren Buffett Do?
There came a time last week, that I started thinking that traveling to Omaha, Nebraska to see Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger might not be the best use of my money, in fact it might be a bad use of my money. I am currently in student loan debt and I am closing in on paying it all off, the plan was to be finished in April, but now is the end of June and even that payoff is coming down to the dollars and cents of being able to pay it off by then. So a $200 trip or potentially more could derail this in a flash. I decided to ask Warren Buffett what I should do, here’s what he had to say*:
- Just avoid credit cards, do not pay 18 to 20%, you can’t make any financial progress this way
- You don’t want to be on the side of the equation that’s always behind in life
- It’s way easier to stay out of trouble then it is to dig yourself out of trouble
- If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it
- The habits you form early on in will carry you throughout your life
You can’t make any financial progress that way. Looking at the first statement, while it involves credit cards, is very similar to what can be said about paying interest on a loan, you can’t make any financial progress that way. While my student loans are a much smaller 3.63%, my monthly payment and debt load still are in the way of my financial progress, including this trip, my 401 (k) contribution, H.S.A., and IRA to name a few. I mean who knows a couple years ago I would have just put my trip on a credit card and paid the 18-20%, foolish I know.
Stay out of trouble and don’t get behind financially. The second and third bullet points I’m going to lump together because they are very similar. The side of the equation we do not want to be on is always owing someone, when you do a net worth calculation, you take your Assets minus your Liabilities and assuming you are winning this battle a positive number will equate out. If your liabilities are greater, like they were for me a few years ago I would always be trying to dig myself out of trouble and believe me I have been. The list is pretty extensive: credit cards, student loans, personal loan, car loan, and today I’m not even including mortgages because that still counts, the bank wants their money! If it’s easier to stay out of trouble sounds like I should skip Berkshire, but let’s not jump to conclusions, let Warren finish.
If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it. If we all listened to this statement from age 18-65, I think everyone of us could be millionaires. I had to ask my self a real simple question:
What do you want more, to pay off your student loans or attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual conference?
This made my decision, I without a doubt wanted my student loans paid off, I don’t want to wait another day or even another minute if I don’t have, even if that means missing out on the potential to see Warren Buffett talk for a few hours, to me the I want to win more than I want to hear from someone who is a winner. If I would have went on the trip I might be paying off my student loan in July or August and I don’t want that. When you are finishing a race, you don’t hope that they extend it a couple extra miles, NO you sprint your a$$ off and finish the race as fast as you can, that my friends is where I am today, sprinting down the finish line of the student loan debt repayment marathon.
The habits you form early on in will carry you throughout your life. The last statement I wanted to be a reminder to myself today and every day forward. I am breaking down bad habits of the past and forming new habits that I plan to carry me throughout life. I know for a fact the Berkshire Hathaway trip would not have broken me financially, but the habit of making a small sacrifice today for an even greater pleasure just a few short months away are the habits I want to form today and every day forward. I don’t want to form a habit of taking the easy way today to only endure pain in the future. I hope during the last days of June, I go back to this post and smile a little knowing that I created a financial habit that kept me on track toward my big win of paying off my student loan.
Warren Buffett isn’t really known for his advice on staying out of debt, but rather his investment prowess. However I think we all can take a little bit of advice from Warren and make some pretty sound financial advice on the topic. I didn’t get to see Warren Buffet or enjoy the Berkshire Hathaway extravaganza, but I really do think I listened to what Warren Buffett would do in my situation. Who knows maybe I’ll see him next year and I can ask him myself.
Have you ever asked yourself, What would Warren Buffett do in your situation?
*I didn’t really talk to Warren Buffett but I sure did listen to this YouTube clip, most of the information came from the first 12 minutes.