Memorable Quotes from
Berkshire’s ’09 Annual Letter

In 75% of [the last 44 years], the S&P stocks recorded a gain. I would guess that a roughly similar percentage of years will be positive in the next 44. But neither Charlie Munger, my partner in running Berkshire, nor I can predict the winning and losing years in advance. (In our usual opinionated view, we don’t think anyone else can either.) We’re certain, for example, that the economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 — and, for that matter, probably well beyond — but that conclusion does not tell us whether the stock market will rise or fall.

–Warren Buffett, 2008 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report

Substitute “housing market” for “stock market,” and you’ve got a pretty good long-term outlook . . .

If you’ve never read one of Buffett’s letters, I highly recommend it; they’re probably the closest thing capitalism has to Mao’s “Little Red Book.”

At least in my view, here are the most memorable quotes from this year’s letter (last year’s top line was an instant — and much quoted — classic: ‘you don’t know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out’):

“Putting people into homes, though a desirable goal, shouldn’t be our country’s primary objective. Keeping them in their homes should be the ambition.”

“At the moment, it is much better to be a financial cripple with a government guarantee than a Gibraltar without one.”

“Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.”

“When the financial history of this decade is written, it will surely speak of the Internet bubble of the late 1990s and the housing bubble of the early 2000’s. But the U.S. Treasury bond bubble of late 2008 may be regarded as almost equally extraordinary.”

“Participants [in derivatives contracts] seeking to dodge troubles face the same problem as someone seeking to avoid venereal disease: It’s not just whom you sleep with, but also whom they are sleeping with.”

*Through its subsidiary, MidAmerican Energy, Berkshire Hathaway is the ultimate parent company of Edina Realty.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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