Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors ever — but the “Oracle of Omaha” didn’t get there overnight. In fact, about 99% percent of his wealth was created after his 50th birthday.
That doesn’t mean the 92-year-old was a late bloomer. He started his financial path toward wealth at a young age and built his fortune slowly over the years, decade by decade.
Warren Buffett’s Wealth Through the Years
Buffett was born in 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, and showed a savvy business acumen as a child. At just 6 years old, he started his first venture: selling gum and Coca-Cola door to door. By the time he was a teenager, he had filed his first tax return, owned multiple pinball machines placed in local barber shops and had a profit-sharing stake in a 40-acre farm in Omaha. Legend has it that during his younger years Buffett once said that he would be a millionaire by age 30, “and if not, I am going to jump off the tallest building in Omaha.”
Here’s a look at Warren Buffett’s net worth and earnings, as well as the median household income provided by data from the U.S. Census Bureau throughout the years.
Warren Buffett’s 20s: The First $100,000
After graduating from college, Buffett tried repeatedly to land a job with his mentor Benjamin Graham — even offering to work for free — but had to return to Omaha to work for his father as a stockbroker after Graham’s repeated rejections. At age 21, his net worth was just $20,000.
However, after he kept sending investment ideas to Graham, the legendary investor relented and hired Buffett a couple of years later for an annual salary of $12,000 — almost three times the annual median income for the average family in 1954. When Graham retired just two years later, Buffett took what he had learned and started applying it to an investment partnership he formed with friends and relatives. By the time Buffett reached 26, his net worth was $140,000.
Warren Buffett’s 30s: Millionaire Status
In 1960, the median family income in the U.S. was $5,620 per year, but Buffett was doing much better than that. In early 1962, Buffett plowed almost all of his net worth — $450,000 at the time — into his investment partnership. That proved a smart move, as the partnership had grown to $17 million in value by early 1964, of which his stake was $1.8 million.
Buffett bought a controlling share of stock in Berkshire Hathaway in 1965, obtaining the company that he would become synonymous with. It also marked the end of the investment partnership that launched Buffett’s career. He closed the partnership to new investors in 1966 and then retired from managing it entirely by 1969.
Warren Buffett’s 40s: Bounces Back From Financial Troubles
By age 43, Buffett’s personal net worth was at a high of $34 million. In 1972, he purchased See’s Candies for $25 million, and the company would haul in about $2 billion in profits over the next 50 years.
Buffett’s 40s also marked the period during which he first reached the milestone of a personal net worth of $100 million, which he achieved in 1978 at the age of 48 as Berkshire Hathaway continued to grow. By the end of the decade, the median U.S. household income was about $21,000 — around 4,500 times less than Buffett’s holdings.
Warren Buffett’s 50s: Becoming a Billionaire
In 1982, when Forbes first printed its list of the 400 richest Americans — a list Buffett has been on every single year of its existence — he was listed with a net worth of $250 million, a quarter of the way to billionaire status. And by 1985, just three short years later, the 55-year-old Buffett had managed the astonishing feat of quadrupling the value of his holdings to get that magical third comma.
Meanwhile, the median household income in 1985 was $27,735. Buffett wasn’t done with the 1980s, though. He would keep building his wealth at an incredible rate and by 1989 at age 59, Buffett was worth $3.6 billion — more than tripling $1 billion in just four years.
Warren Buffett’s 60s: Buffett’s Net Worth Triples
The continued success of Berkshire meant Buffett’s wealth kept growing — from $3.3 billion in 1990 to $10.7 billion in 1995 and closing out the decade at $36 billion in 1999. And although ending the decade with ten times as much money as you started is jaw-dropping, it’s worth noting that he had actually slowed his pace, as his 1989 net worth was 14.4 times what he had in 1982.
The average American family began to creep up in earning power during the 1990s, even if they still fell far short of Buffett. The median household income by the end of the decade was about $42,000, according to Census data.
Warren Buffett’s 70s: Philanthropy and Growth
The early aughts saw Buffett continue to make impressive sums of money, but the extreme pace at which he was multiplying his value started to slow considerably. He hit $32.3 billion in 2001 and climbed to $62 billion by 2008. However, the financial crisis meant Buffett took a big hit, just like everyone else, with his net worth falling to $37 billion in 2009.
In 2006, Buffett ramped up his philanthropic efforts, releasing pledge letters that stated he would donate 85% of his wealth to five charitable organizations over time, most of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Warren Buffett’s 80s: The Sky’s the Limit
As of early 2018, Buffett’s net worth was $84 billion per Forbes, making him the third richest person in the world behind Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. By 2020, he had already donated around $37 billion to charity.
Of course, the master investor was still making much more than the average American. The median household income in the U.S. was $55,322, according to the most recent Census Bureau data.
Warren Buffett’s 90s: Still Going Strong
Despite having an eye-popping net worth of $114.5 billion as of July 7th, 2023, Buffett has fallen down a few rungs and is now just the sixth wealthiest person on the planet at age 92 — still, not too shabby.
He has yet to show signs of slowing down — his total charitable giving has now topped $50 billion, and he’s still at the helm as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
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