A well-played "P.S."

Just in case you don't make it through all 19 pages of Berkshire Hathaway's annual report, you should know that arguably the best part is at the very end, when Warren Buffett expresses gratitude for his life and success without getting overly sentimental. At 79, Buffett could be forgiven for crossing the line into schmaltz, but he doesn't. Perfectly pitched, and textbook Midwestern (Buffett is, famously, from Omaha.)

And I think we all can appreciate a well-played "P.S."

"At 86 and 79, [Berkshire CEO] Charlie [Munger] and I remain lucky beyond our dreams.

We were born in America; had terrific parents who saw that we got good educations; have enjoyed wonderful families and great health; and came equipped with a “business” gene that allows us to prosper in a manner hugely disproportionate to that experienced by many people who contribute as much or more to our society’s well-being. Moreover, we have long had jobs that we love, in which we are helped in countless ways by talented and cheerful associates. Indeed, over the years, our work has become ever more fascinating; no wonder we tap-dance to work. If pushed, we would gladly pay substantial sums to have our jobs (but don’t tell the Comp Committee).

Nothing, however, is more fun for us than getting together with our shareholder-partners at Berkshire’s annual meeting. So join us on May 1st at the Qwest for our annual Woodstock for Capitalists. We’ll see you there.

February 26, 2010
Warren E. Buffett
Chairman of the Board

P.S. Come by rail.

"If Berkshire ever gets in trouble, it will be my fault."

Today I finally made my way through Berkshire Hathaway's 2009 annual report, which was released last week.

I'm kind of biased, because I weirdly enjoy reading SEC filings, but I really think anyone could have a good time leafing through Berkshire's annual earnings report. Warren Buffett writes it himself in a conversational tone, sprinkling in his investment philosophies and personal anecdotes with the required facts and figures. I wish more public companies would follow Buffett's lead in making shareholder updates as interesting as they are informative.

I particularly liked his assertion that a CEO should man up and accept full responsibility for the performance of his (or her) company.

"I believe that a CEO must not delegate risk control. It’s simply too important. ...If Berkshire ever gets in trouble, it will be my fault. It will not be because of misjudgments made by a Risk Committee or Chief Risk Officer.

In my view a board of directors of a huge financial institution is derelict if it does not insist that its CEO bear full responsibility for risk control. If he’s incapable of handling that job, he should look for other employment."

Nuptial Numbers

My own fair city apparently leads the country in nuptial spending-- according to statistics released this week, the average wedding for a San Franciscan couple costs $45,284!

Having planned my September 2009 wedding, I have to say I'm not exactly shocked-- it's easy to run up a huge bill getting hitched. We weighed our options for getting married here in S.F., but ultimately decided to wed in Santa Barbara (which wasn't a cost-motivated choice, as S.B. isn't exactly bargain central either.) The fact is, holding any event in Coastal California has the potential to be extremely pricey. 

Even so, we were able to throw a great wedding for much, much less than $45K.  Going forward, under the tag for "wedding", you'll find a few posts on how we kept our spending way below par.

Real talk from John McLaughlin

I have to say a highlight of my birthday was the McLaughlin Group's January 2nd episode**.  Well, specifically, John McLaughlin's "macro-prediction" for the year ahead:

"2009 will be the year when it will gradually dawn on U.S. policymakers that the cause of the global economic crisis is globalism itself. The premise that, as we shifted jobs to developing countries, new jobs would develop here to replace them is false. It is not possible to shift production jobs and service jobs to low-cost countries without hollowing out the purchasing power of the middle class."

My heartbeat actually sped up as I watched him say this, because I am so excited for this kind of real talk to be getting airtime and coming from such a respected person. I hope he's right that the next 12 months will bring a sea-change in way we perceive the pros and cons of our increasingly "flat" world. 

**I'm 25 now, which is safely and unabashedly grown up, so I am going to refrain from making any "Oh, ha-ha, isn't that so nerdy and boring of me" apologies/jokes. Because on the real, John McLaughlin is awesome, and is definitely on all my fantasy birthday/dinner/cocktail party guest lists.