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Independence Valued in Billionaire Buffett Family

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Independence Valued in Billionaire Buffett Family

Independence Valued in Billionaire Buffett Family

Independence Valued in Billionaire Buffett Family

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Billionaire Warren Buffett made big news this week by pledging most of his fortune to charity. Jennifer Ludden talks to his granddaughter, Nicole Buffett, an artist in San Francisco, about his decision not to pass the bulk of his wealth on to his children.


On Fridays we focus on your money. Today, the world's second richest man says charity does not begin at home.

Warren Buffett says he never considered leaving his billions to his children. He told one reporter flooding them with dynastic mega-wealth would be neither right nor rational.

We thought we'd talk about this philosophy with 30-year-old Nicole Buffett, Mr. Buffett's granddaughter. She's an artist living in San Francisco.

Ms. NICOLE BUFFETT (Granddaughter of Warren Buffett): Hi. Thanks for having me.

LUDDEN: Well tell me, what was your reaction this week when your grandfather announced he was giving most of his fortune to charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

Ms. BUFFETT: I was pleasantly surprised, and I'm feeling very happy about it.

LUDDEN: Really?

Ms. BUFFETT: Yeah.

LUDDEN: Did you see it coming? I mean, did you know this is the kind of thing he had in mind?

Ms. BUFFETT: You know, I really did not see it coming, although my grandmother - this is something that really would have pleased her. He's fulfilling her wishes, I believe.

LUDDEN: What was your upbringing, may I ask? Upper class? Middle class?

Ms. BUFFETT: I would say I was middle class, with a very upper class education.

LUDDEN: And your grandfather actually did pay for your college, is that right?

Ms. BUFFETT: Yes, he did.

LUDDEN: But no further help once you were an adult?

Ms. BUFFETT: No. You know, basic kind of things paid for while I was in school. You know, basically I always needed a part-time job while I was in school to kind of supplement the aid that I was given.

LUDDEN: I've read that you were a nanny at one point?

Ms. BUFFETT: Yes, I've been a nanny, and I actually really, really enjoy working with children. It's a really nice way to make extra money and do something that I feel good about.

LUDDEN: Was there a time, though, when you really could have used some more money, and there it was, sitting in the family account, but not at your disposal?

Ms. BUFFETT: Well, definitely. There's many times where I really could use more money. It was sitting there.

LUDDEN: Was that frustrating?

Ms. BUFFETT: I think there were moments where it did feel frustrating. But I think it's a frustration that is kind of a universal frustration, of, you know, feeling like, wow, how, you know, I need more money and how do I make more money. And I think that's just the thing that my grandfather, you know, wanted to allow me to experience. It was, okay, I'm at that place of frustration, and what am I going to personally do to create a living to support myself?

LUDDEN: And was asking grandpa an option, or was that made clear early on, that you weren't to do that?

Ms. BUFFETT: It's a family known rule that that's what we're about. We don't do that, you know, we don't operate in that way. And it wouldn't have been something that would have felt totally comfortable for me or - it wasn't an option, really, in my mind to do that.

LUDDEN: I've read that your grandmother, Warren Buffett's late wife, had some words of wisdom for you.

Ms. BUFFETT: She definitely did.

LUDDEN: Can you tell me what they were?

Ms. BUFFETT: Yes. She had basically five sayings, and the first one was, show up. The second was tell the truth. The third, pay attention. The fourth, do your best. And the fifth was don't be attached to the outcome. And I think that that was her way of really supporting this path and this teaching that both grandpa and grandma have of being independent and really empowering ourselves.

LUDDEN: Nicole Buffett, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Ms. BUFFETT: Thank you.

LUDDEN: Nicole Buffett, she's the granddaughter of Warren Buffett, and an artist living in San Francisco.

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