Billionaire Warren Buffett or the “Oracle of Omaha” is known as one of the wealthiest investors in the world, with a net worth that seems to grow by the day. But Buffett wasn’t always as wealthy as he is today. In fact, about 99.7 percent of his immense wealth was earned after his 52nd birthday.
Buffett was born in 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, and showed many signs of a savvy business as a child. At eleven years old, he was already buying stock: many shares of Cities Service Preferred for $38 apiece. When Buffett a teenager, he filed his first tax return, delivered newspapers and owned multiple pinball machines placed in various local businesses. By the time Buffett graduated high school, he had already bought a stake in a 40-acre farm in Omaha, Nebraska.
After graduating college, Buffett repeatedly tried to get a job with his idol Benjamin Graham — even offering to work for free — but had to return to Omaha to work for his father as a stockbroker after Graham’s repeated rejections. By age twenty-one, his net worth was just $20,000. However, after he kept sending investment ideas to Graham, the legendary investor finally hired Buffett a couple of years later for an annual salary of $12,000 — almost three times the yearly median income for the average family in 1954. When Graham retired just two years later, Buffett took what he had learned and started applying it to an investment partnership he formed with friends and relatives. By the time Buffett reached 26, his net worth was between $140,000 and $174,000.
In 1960 at age thirty, the average family income in the U.S. was $5,620 per year, but Buffett was doing much better than that. In 1962 at age thirty-two, Buffett plowed almost all of his net worth — $450,000 at the time — into his investment partnership. That proved a smart move as the company had grown to $17 million in value. Buffett bought a controlling share of stock in Berkshire Hathaway in 1965. Obtaining the company that he would become identified with. It also marked the end of the investment partnership that launched his career. He closed the partnership to new investors in 1966, and in three years would completely retire from managing it.
By age 43, Buffett’s net worth was at $34 million. In 1972, he purchased See’s Candies for $25 million, and the company would haul in about $2 billion in profits for over the next 50 years. Buffett’s 40s also marked the period during which he first reached the milestone of a personal net worth of $100 million, which he achieved in 1978 at the age of 48 as Berkshire Hathaway continued to grow. By the end of the decade, though, the median U.S. household income was about $21,000 — or something like 4,500 times less than Buffett’s holdings.
In 1982 at the age of 52, Forbes first printed its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans — a list Buffett has been on every single year of its existence — he was listed with a net worth of $250 million. By 1985, the 55-year-old Buffett had managed the astonishing feat of quadrupling the value of his holdings to get that third comma. Buffett wasn’t done with the 1980s, he would keep building his wealth at a rapid rate, and by 1989 at the age of 59, Buffett was worth $3.6 billion — more than tripling $1 billion in just four years.
The success of Berkshire meant Buffett’s wealth kept growing — from $3.3 billion in 1990 to $10.7 billion in 1995 and closing out the decade at $36 billion in 1999. The average household income by the end of the decade was about $42,000.
Buffett hit $32.3 billion in 2001 and climbed to $62 billion by 2008. However, the financial crisis meant Buffett took a big hit, just like everyone else, with his net worth falling to $37 billion in 2009. But, Buffett is also about sharing the wealth. In 2006, he released pledge letters that stated he would donate 85 percent of his wealth to five foundations over time.
In mid-July 2018, Buffett’s net worth is $86.6 billion, per Forbes, making him the third wealthiest person in the world. At age 88, Buffett shows no signs of stopping. Buffett earns only $100,000 a year at Berkshire Hathaway and spends it frugally. Still, the legendary investor is making much more than the average American.