8 Warren Buffett Quotes Every 80-Year-Old Needs to Hear

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Young folks in their 80s still have a lot to learn from their elders. Elders like 93-year-old Warren Buffett, the uber-rich founder of Berkshire Hathaway. With $134.9 billion to his name, you might think you wouldn’t have too much in common with him. But through his long and prosperous life, Buffett has not gotten beyond his raising as a Nebraska boy. He’s often sought out for his financial advice, but the man has deep life wisdom that anyone younger than him can learn from.

Buffett’s pithy, down-home quotes are all over the internet. We’ve chosen a few of the ones we think folks born between 1935 and 1944 might particularly appreciate. For many people this is a time of life that invites us to look back and evaluate our path. But with many years of life potentially before us, it’s important to use this reflection to propel us forward to some of our best years of living and loving. By the way, if you like this article, you might want to forward to your grandkids the one we put together just for them: 10 Warren Buffett Quotes Every 20-Year-Old Needs to Hear.

1. “You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.”

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Appreciate your own good qualities and the determined path it took to develop them.

Our latter years are often times of reflection when we evaluate the choices we’ve made, what we’ve learned, and what kind of legacy we’re leaving behind. For some people, this can be a time of regret, wishing we had managed our finances with more foresight or had focused more attention on relationships that were important to us.

It can help to think about the good qualities you have today: your tenacity, your unique perspective on life, the achievements you’re proud of, the people you love. Now, realize that all the choices you’ve made, good and bad, have come together to make you the worthwhile person you are now. If your life is good, no doubt it has some bad and some ugly in the past as well—but that is not the sum total of who you are today.

2. “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

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Other people’s lives might look good . . . but what are they hiding?

Social media has made it particularly easy for people to create a picture-perfect image of themselves to project to the world that doesn’t reflect reality. But this is nothing new. The “perfect” American family of the 1950s had plenty of dysfunctionality of its own. Just look at how weird their Baby Boomer children turned out!

Plenty of people flaunt wealth and status to make themselves look better than they are. But one day, those chickens will come home to roost. Businesses built on bad debt crash, risky investments in crypto crash, fancy houses get foreclosed, and luxury cars get repossessed. Meanwhile, people like you and me might feel left behind when we’re just putting money away year-by-year in a vanilla blue chip mutual fund. But when all is said and done, you have money in the bank and you didn’t lose your shirt in the process.

3. “In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”

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Looking backward is useful . . . if your plan is to drive in reverse!

Time is a funny thing. We can only remember the past, not the future. This makes the future kind of scary to us. Rather than be anxious about an unknown future, sometimes we distract ourselves with remembering the known past. We run over scenarios again and again in our minds, congratulating ourselves for our glory days or berating ourselves for missed opportunities and mistakes.

But we don’t remember the past perfectly and completely. Our selective memory distorts it and sometimes gives it a meaning and significance greater than it actually had. And it is a great distraction from enjoying our present and making hopeful plans for the future. One solution is to give each memory a meaning and a good conclusion: “I made a mistake, and here is what I learned from it that I can use today” or “That was a great achievement, and I am still a person who can achieve great things.” Let your memories drive you forward, not pull you back.

4. “There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.”

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Sometimes, getting from point A to point B really just requires going in a straight line from point A to point B!

Plenty of people make their money trying to teach other people how to make money. And because most of what there is to say about it has already been said, they have to come up with a novel angle or some extra steps to make what they’re selling look unique. That’s true of many fields of knowledge. We can make things so needlessly complicated that investing and other pursuits might seem the domain only of the hyper-educated.

That’s not how Warren Buffett made his money. He has consistently specialized in purchasing undervalued stocks of solid companies that pay regular dividends. He buys low and sells high. These are the most basic investment strategies imaginable. But this no-frills approach has made him into a billionaire many times over. What areas of your finances, relationships, or life plans could benefit from drawing a straight line from point A to point B?

5. “Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.”

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You don’t need to win a popularity contest. If the person you love most loves you back, consider your life a success!

The 80s are generally not a time to focus on accumulating more wealth and material possessions, although there are certainly people who choose to do that. But for most people, this is a time to enjoy the fruits of your labor a little more. And what human beings generally find is that no matter how much they enjoy spending time alone, no one wants to spend all their time alone.

People appreciate having a relationship with someone they love who loves them back. Love is not something that can be bought, of course. It’s a lot like trying to catch a cat. If you pursue it, it runs away. But if you sit quietly, it comes to you. It’s important to let our loved ones know how we feel about them without being so clingy that they avoid being in contact with us. 

6. “If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster.”

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No matter how messed up your life might be, every day is a chance to make a different choice and make the most of the time you have left, which could still be decades!

Warren certainly minces no words, and that’s definitely the case with this quote. Ouch! We can’t sugarcoat it. Some people do get to their 80s and realize they’ve made substantial mistakes, some of which just can’t be fixed. Some relationships are broken beyond repair. We developed an unfavorable reputation in our professional life that can’t be undone now that we’re retired. 

Keep in mind, though, that people in their 80s can and do often go on to live for 10 or 20 or more years. Whether you have a long time or a short one, you still have today to demonstrate kindness and compassion to others, to be a good listener, to be generous with your time and resources, to learn and share new things, to develop patience and optimism. None of us, at any age, has fully maxed out our potential in these areas. There is plenty for you to do that only you can do. Let this fill you with a sense of purpose and hope.

7. “It’s never paid to bet against America. We come through things, but it’s not always a smooth ride.”

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America’s true strength lies not in its prosperity but in its people.

Among some, it’s fashionable these days to bash America. Now in fact, America has, from the beginning, been an “experiment” in a new kind of government in a free society. It’s a model that has been wildly successful and emulated around the world. But because it is experimental, the Founders designed it to be “tinkered” with. The Constitution is flexible enough to apply in every generation despite the sometimes radical cultural changes we go through.

By the time we’ve lived here 80 or more years, we’ve seen a lot of changes. Many of these were scary for us in the past but turned out to be just blips in the radar. That’s what some of the trends we find unsettling today might be. If the past is any judge, however, we can predict that this grand experiment we call America will continue for generations to come, even if our grandchildren are living on the moon! 

8. “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an inner scorecard or an outer scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an inner scorecard.”

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Who’s keeping score? You or other people? Keep your own score, by your rules, if you want to feel satisfied.

“Whoever dies with the most toys wins!” goes a popular bumper sticker. Of course, we know better. No one is taking any material thing with them when they die. Nevertheless, an enormous number of people, maybe even most people, live as if this is true. Some people actually do spend their lives working ceaselessly to acquire status symbols and high bank balances.

But even people who are not wealthy and who might be living paycheck to paycheck also might feel the need to buy things in order to feel successful—even if what they buy comes from the thrift store and the fast-food drive-through. And how many people have accepted the narrative that it’s absolutely essential to have every debt paid off when you die and money in the bank to leave your children? What happens if you just . . . don’t?

A Different Scorecard

Maybe instead of measuring your success by what a consumer society tells you to accomplish financially and materially, you could measure by what is important to you—the love you’ve shown and received, the meaning you’ve found in life, and the contribution you’ve made to leaving the planet better than you found it. Now that sounds like the life of a winner!

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