Buffett's Lasting Legacy: Immaterial Wealth Warren Buffett is one of the richest people in the world, but he has left his kids a really skimpy inheritance. Son Peter Buffett says he's OK with that. In his new memoir, Life Is What You Make It, Peter says his parents' love and support "didn't come in the form of a check."
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Buffett's Lasting Legacy: Immaterial Wealth

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Buffett's Lasting Legacy: Immaterial Wealth

Buffett's Lasting Legacy: Immaterial Wealth

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TV: That may be because his father is one of the richest men in the world. Peter Buffett, son of Warren, joined us from New York.

PETER BUFFETT: But that support didn't come in the form of a check. That support came in the form of love and nurturing and respect for us finding our way, falling down, figuring out how to get up ourselves. So it starts to paint a very different picture than I think what people usually assume.

: Now, your father rather famously lives in the house that you grew up in.

BUFFETT: That's right. I go home when I visit in Omaha, and I sleep my bedroom.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BUFFETT: And he also, by the way...

: And you are in your 50's, I should say.

BUFFETT: That's right, yeah, exactly. But he also drives himself to work every day to the same parking space, the same office building he's gone to since, I think, 1964. This is a guy that basically loves what he does so much that he's got a very well-worn groove of doing the same thing for a very long time.

: Describe what it was like to be a child in that house. I think it will sound like a very familiar story to most middle-class people.

BUFFETT: Yeah. And certainly of that time, I lived two blocks from where my mother grew up, so I would walk to my grandparents' house, the door was always open. I went to the same high school that both my grandfathers went to and had the same English teacher my mother had. And our house didn't have a fence around it or anything. It was just in a typical neighborhood in Omaha. So it was very classic upbringing in that regard.

: Can you talk to us about exactly what you didn't get, in the way of wealth? You did get a small inheritance.

BUFFETT: However, when you talked about the inheritance, my grandfather left all of us grandchildren a farm. And my dad can't stand the misallocation of capital...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BUFFETT: Now, I also mentioned that had I not spent a dime, that $90,000 would be worth more than $70 million today. And that's another interesting conundrum. A lot of people thing, gee, don't you wish you had the money? No way. You know, I'm much happier having a life.

: Can you seriously say that you have no regrets?

BUFFETT: But I learned more in those times about myself and my resiliency than I ever would have if I just had a pile of money and I could have glided through life.

: From your point of view, though, when you were, say, getting that second mortgage, has there never been a twinge of this is harder than it has to be?

BUFFETT: But he was not doing it from I'm not going to help my kid. He was doing it from - this going to help my kid more. And I believe that and I know that to be true, after the fact.

: So your father has made it very clear, and you've known for a long time that you're not going to inherit vast wealth. But, in fact, he has given you and your sister and brother a large sum of money - each of you - in a different form. And that is money to be spent on good works.

BUFFETT: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, we knew that he would always give his money back to society, essentially. We didn't know he would do it when he was still alive. And we didn't know we would be recipients of some of that. So to suddenly, in 2006, be told you are going to get a pledge of a billion dollars for a foundation was extraordinary. And that's to each of us, individually. It was an extraordinary thing.

: That's a big job.

BUFFETT: Yeah, it's a big job. And he really didn't ask which is kind of funny. He said, here, I'm going to do this. And I thought oh, my gosh, this is an awesome responsibility and opportunity. It's been very exciting to see what's happened.

: And the so the sorts of help that you focused on has been investing in undervalued assets, as your father might put it.

BUFFETT: And we found that young girls, adolescent girls in the developing world in particular, are the greatest undervalued asset we've ever seen. And if you support the girl, you support the family, you support the community, and it just ripples out all over the world, frankly.

: Peter Buffett, it was a pleasure to talk to you.

BUFFETT: Thank you, wonderful to be here.

: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News, I'm Renee Montagne.

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