Warren Buffett warned people not to think investing is an easy way to make a fortune as he answered a variety of questions at the annual meeting of his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway.
Speaking in Los Angeles, the legendary billionaire investor said it could be tough to pick the long-term winners. He pointed out that in 1903 there were more than 2,000 car companies, and nearly all of them failed, even though cars have transformed the country since then.
“There’s a lot more to picking stocks than figuring out what will be an incredible industry in the future,” said Buffett, who is 90. “I just want to tell you that it’s not as easy as it sounds.”
The meeting was held online for the second year running because of the pandemic. It was hosted on the west coast for the first time, rather than at the company home in Omaha, to accommodate Buffett’s California-based vice-chairman, Charlie Munger.
Buffett has said that most people will fare better by owning an S&P 500 index fund instead of betting on individual stocks. He said many of the novice investors who jumped into the market recently and drove up the value of video game retailer GameStop are essentially gambling.
Stock trading platforms that allow people to buy and sell stocks for free, such as Robinhood, were only encouraging a “gambling impulse”.
“There is nothing illegal to it, there’s nothing immoral, but I don’t think you build a society around people doing it,” he said.
He spent several hours answering questions on Saturday afternoon alongside Munger and fellow vice-chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain.
The executives held forth on a variety of topics at the meeting, including the policies of the Federal Reserve and the stimulus packages passed by Congress, which Buffett said have done a good job of propping up the economy and keeping interest rates low.
He said the government clearly learned lessons from the Great Recession in 2009 and acted quickly in response to the pandemic, but it was hard to predict the long-term consequences of those policies.
“This economy right now – 85% of it is running in a super-high gear