Warren Buffett’s net worth: how the billionaire built his fortune

Warren Buffett is considered by many to be the best investor of all time. Rupert Hargreaves examines how much Buffett is worth, how he made his fortune, and lists the stocks in Buffett’s portfolio.

Warren Buffett is considered by many to be the best investor of all time. When he set out on his own in the mid-1950s, investors entrusted him with just $100,000 (around $1m today) of their capital. Over the course of the past 70 years, he has grown this capital into a conglomerate with just under $1trn of assets.  

Buffett started investing when he was 11 years old, buying six shares of Cities Service preferred stock (three shares for himself and three for his sister) at a cost of $38 per share. He made a small profit on this investment, and went on to build several other businesses.  

He filed his first tax return at just 13 years of age. It was for the 1944 calendar year. He’d earned $592.50 in total, more than half of it from a paper round, the rest from investments. (He paid $7 in tax). 

The young businessman attended the University of Nebraska before moving to Columbia University, where he met his mentor, professor Benjamin Graham.  

Graham essentially wrote the book on value investing and he also managed his own investment firm, which the young Buffett joined when he left university. Unfortunately, Graham wound up the venture a few years after the young entrepreneur joined and he was soon back home in Omaha.  

Soon afterwards, a group of family and friends asked Buffett to invest their savings in the stockmarket. The Buffett Partnerships, as they came to be known, earned a 31.6% annual return before fees from 1957 to 1968 compared to 9.1% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Buffett used a similar investment strategy to the one pioneered by Graham.  

The Warren Buffett portfolio and the rise of Berkshire Hathaway 

Buffett started buying shares in Berkshire Hathaway for his partners’ portfolios in the early 1960s. At the time, Berkshire was a struggling textile business. Its peers had a much lower cost base so they could undercut the firm on price. As losses mounted, the corporation’s market value fell below the value of the assets on its balance sheet.  

The investor wanted Berkshire to start closing its manufacturing facilities and return the cash to its shareholders, which would have produced a fat, risk-free return for all of its shareholders. However, Berskhire’s management declined to follow his plan – so Buffett decided to take control of the business himself.  

Buffett used Berkshire’s capital to buy up other firms, mainly companies in the insurance sector. In 1967, he bought Omaha-based insurer National Indemnity Company for $8.6m, giving him his first foothold in the industry. Not only was National Indemnity a well-run profitable insurer, but it also owned an investment portfolio, a valuable source of capital.  

Today Berkshire Hathaway owns more than 60 subsidiaries, employing more than 300,000 people. It owns insurer Geico, battery maker Duracell, restaurant chain Dairy Queen, BNSF, one of the largest railroads in the US, and a utility giant, Berkshire Hathaway Energy – that’s all alongside a $300bn portfolio of equities.  

Warren Buffett’s net wealth exceeds $100bn  

At the same time, Buffett has built a huge fortune for himself. He is the fifth-richest person in the world (the exact position fluctuates but he’s generally in the top five) with a net worth of $112bn.  

Virtually all of Buffett’s wealth is tied up in Berkshire Hathaway stock. Since he gained control of the business in 1965, the shares have returned 20.1% per annum compared to 10.5% for the S&P 500.  

The top stocks in Warren Buffett’s portfolio  

Buffett’s investing style can be defined by one of his best-known quotes, “Rule no. 1: Never lose money. Rule no. 2: Never forget rule one.”  

Since the 1950s, the investor has always sought to find investment opportunities with low chance of a failure, but high return potential.  

Buffett seeks to minimise the risk of failure by sticking to companies in sectors that he knows well. “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing,” as he puts it. 

He likes to own companies with an enduring competitive advantage, such as a well-known brand or substantial economies of scale, and will not pay over the odds for any business. As a value investor, he prefers to buy when other investors are selling.  

In 2008 when the global financial sector was teetering on the edge of collapse, Buffett invested $5bn of Berkshire’s cash in Goldman Sachs, at extremely favourable terms which would have been impossible for an ordinary investor to access. The bet eventually yielded a profit of more than $3bn for the conglomerate. Around the same time he also ploughed cash into Dow Chemical, Bank of America and General Electric.  

Despite this impressive bet, Buffett generally does not try to time the market or speculate on the price of securities. He believes that investors should approach buying a stock with the same mindset as if they were buying the entire business. He has encouraged others to “own your stocks as an investment – just like you’d own an apartment, house or a farm – look at them as a business.”  

Here are the top 20 equity holdings in Berkshire Hathaway’s equity portfolio (which is managed by Buffett) as reported at the end of March according to the firm’s 13F regulatory filing: 

Company

Symbol

Holdings

Value

% of portfolio

Apple Inc

AAPL

911,347,617

$155,564,138,000.00

42.79%

Bank of America Corp

BAC

1,032,852,006

$41,636,348,000.00

11.45%

American Express Company

AXP

151,610,700

$28,351,201,000.00

7.80%

Chevron Corporation

CVX

159,178,117

$25,918,973,000.00

7.13%

Coca-Cola Co

KO

400,000,000

$24,799,999,000.00

6.82%

Kraft Heinz Co

KHC

325,634,818

$12,826,755,000.00

3.53%

Moody’s Corporation

MCO

24,669,778

$8,323,829,000.00

2.29%

Occidental Petroleum Corporation

OXY

143,162,392

$7,737,804,000.00

2.13%

US Bancorp

USB

144,046,330

$6,719,111,000.00

1.85%

Activision Blizzard, Inc.

ATVI

74,187,400

$5,152,292,000.00

1.42%

Davita Inc

DVA

36,095,570

$4,082,770,000.00

1.12%

HP Inc

HPQ

121,092,418

$3,792,480,000.00

1.04%

Bank of New York Mellon Corp

BK

74,346,864

$3,591,100,000.00

0.99%

Kroger Co

KR

57,985,263

$3,326,615,000.00

0.92%

Citigroup Inc

C

55,244,797

$2,945,319,000.00

0.81%

Verisign, Inc.

VRSN

12,815,613

$2,850,961,000.00

0.78%

General Motors Company

GM

62,045,847

$2,713,886,000.00

0.75%

Paramount Global Class B

PARA

68,947,760

$2,606,915,000.00

0.72%

Itochu Corporation

ITOCF

81,304,200

$2,330,991,414.00

0.64%

Charter Communications Inc

CHTR

3,828,941

$2,088,764,000.00

0.57%

Liberty Sirius XM Group Series C

LSXMK

43,208,291

$1,975,915,000.00

0.54%

Visa Inc

V

8,297,460

$1,840,128,000.00

0.51%

Amazon.com, Inc.

AMZN

533,300

$1,738,531,000.00

0.48%

Aon PLC

AON

4,396,000

$1,431,470,000.00

0.39%

Mastercard Inc

MA

3,986,648

$1,424,748,000.00

0.39%

Snowflake Inc

SNOW

6,125,376

$1,403,507,000.00

0.39%

Celanese Corporation

CE

7,880,998

$1,125,958,000.00

0.31%

Liberty Sirius XM Group Series A

LSXMA

20,207,680

$923,692,000.00

0.25%

McKesson Corporation

MCK

2,921,975

$894,504,000.00

0.25%

Nu Holdings Ltd

NU

107,118,784

$826,957,000.00

0.23%

RH

RH

2,170,000

$707,615,000.00

0.19%

T-Mobile Us Inc

TMUS

5,242,000

$672,811,000.00

0.19%

Globe Life Inc

GL

6,353,727

$639,185,000.00

0.18%

Markel Corporation

MKL

424,343

$620,034,000.00

0.17%

Liberty Media Formula One Series C

FWONK

7,722,451

$539,336,000.00

0.15%

Store Capital Corp

STOR

14,754,811

$431,283,000.00

0.12%

Ally Financial Inc

ALLY

8,969,420

$389,990,000.00

0.11%

Floor & Decor Holdings Inc

FND

4,780,000

$387,180,000.00

0.11%

StoneCo Ltd

STNE

10,695,448

$125,137,000.00

0.03%

Verizon Communications Inc.

VZ

1,380,111

$70,303,000.00

0.02%

Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.

MMC

404,911

$69,005,000.00

0.02%

Royalty Pharma plc

RPRX

1,496,372

$58,299,000.00

0.02%

Johnson & Johnson

JNJ

327,100

$57,972,000.00

0.02%

Procter & Gamble Co

PG

315,400

$48,193,000.00

0.01%

Diageo plc

DEO

227,750

$41,650,920.00

0.01%

Mondelez International Inc

MDLZ

578,000

$36,287,000.00

0.01%

Liberty Latin America Ltd Class A

LILA

2,630,792

$25,518,000.00

0.01%

Vanguard 500 Index Fund ETF

VOO

43,000

$17,852,000.00

0.00%

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust

SPY

39,400

$17,795,000.00

0.00%

United Parcel Service, Inc.

UPS

59,400

$12,739,000.00

0.00%

Liberty Latin America Ltd Class C

LILAK

1,284,020

$12,314,000.00

0.00%

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