Warren Edward Buffett was born on August 30, 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, to Howard, a stockbroker and future congressman, and Leila (Stahl) Buffett. As a child, Buffett reportedly showed interest in stocks, writing stock prices on the chalk board in his father's office. Legend has it that he told his childhood friend if he wasn't a millionaire by age 30, he would jump off of the tallest building in Omaha. When Buffett was 11 years old, he visited the New York Stock Exchange and bought his first shares: three shares of Cities Service Preferred (an oil and gas concern) for himself and three for his sister Doris.
Nebraska was hit hard by the effects of the Great Depression. Like many children of the Depression, Buffett grew up to respect the value of money. He became so frugal that when he moved to New York for business school, he lived at the YMCA in order to save money. He got a job as a paperboy when he was 13 years old, and would eventually deliver newspapers on both the morning and afternoon routes. In 1944, Warren filed his first tax return and reached his short-term goal of having $1,000.
Buffett spent his formative adolescence in Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. In grade school and high school Buffett not only showed his precocious proclivity for business by delivering newspapers, but also sold stamps, Coca-Cola (KO) beverages, golf balls and magazines door-to-door, while also working as an editor for a horse racing tip sheet called Stable-Boy Selections. During this period, Warren started a pinball leasing business. He and a business partner bought cheap pinball machines, ensured they were in working order, and then installed them to get what were, quite possibly, his high school classmates' coins.
By the time he was 15, Warren had amassed $2,000 and used it to buy a 40-acre farm in Nebraska. He hired a farm laborer to work on the land, then used the profits to help pay his way through University. Warren graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, after which he applied to Harvard Business School. After being rejected by Harvard, Warren matriculated at Columbia Business School, where he graduated in 1951 with a Master of Science in Economics. While at Columbia, Warren studied under legendary value investor Benjamin Graham.
With his degree in hand, Warren returned to Omaha and studied public speaking while there. He also began teaching investing at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. In 1954, Warren moved his new wife Susan and his young daughter to New York, where he began working for his mentor, Benjamin Graham.
After several years of moving from city to city, Warren permanently returned to Omaha and bought himself a modest house. For someone as frugal as Warren, the $31,500 price tag on the house was difficult for him to accept and he nicknamed the decision Buffett’s Folly.
From 1951 to 1956, Warren was an investment salesman and a securities analyst. By 1956, he had $174,000 and a house, and decided to retire at 26 years of age, under the belief that he could make enough money from his investments alone to live a comfortable life. Warren realized, however, that to meet his goal of becoming a millionaire by age 35, he would have to be more active. Fortunately for his future partners and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) shareholders, Warren changed his mind and went after the opportunity for his biggest success. In 1956, he started Buffett Partnership Ltd.
Warren's first and most famous and influential deal was his acquisition of Berkshire Hathaway in 1964. The company started life in the 1830s as the Valley Falls Company, a textile manufacturer, and then became the Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates in 1929, before eventually merging with the Hathaway Manufacturing Company in 1955. After the merger, Berkshire Hathaway was a profitable business with millions of dollars in revenue, 12,000 employees and 15 factories. Buffett made his first investment in the company in 1962.
In June of 2006, Buffett announced his intention to give away most of his fortune to charity. The bulk of his donation was announced in a letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which, as of 2014, has received 185 million shares of Berkshire Hathaway at a market value of US$28.3 billion.
Buffett told Charlie Rose in 2006, "I don't believe in dynastic wealth." Buffett's belief that people who inherit wealth are "members of the lucky sperm club" and his liberal politics persuaded him not to give his fortune to his children. Buffett also favors inheritance taxes, and higher taxes on capital in general.
Warren's first wife, Susan, died in 2004. In 2006, he married Astrid Menks, with whom he "had a relationship of 20 years," according to The New York Times. Warren and Susan had lived apart since the late 1970s, but never divorced, and Susan approved of his relationship with Astrid.