"We always wanted a big two story house; back when we lived in that little two room shack ... We wanted fame and fortune and we'd live life the way the rich folks do; we knew somehow we'd make it, together me and you ..." — "Two Story House," as performed by George Jones and Tammy Wynette
On a recent journey to Omaha my husband utilized some free time to explore the city. Omaha is an exceptionally attractive and clean place, its hilly, urban sectors punctuated by unique architecture, plenty of green space, and a thriving downtown restaurant district.
A few blocks from a main thoroughfare he found himself in a lovely, tree-lined neighborhood, with large lots and well-kept lawns, many featuring solid, brick homes built almost a hundred years ago. A realtor informed him that it was Warren Buffett's neighborhood. So, like millions of others, he drove by and took a photo of Mr. Buffett’s house. So, sitting at my office desk and holding my phone, I find myself looking at the primary residence of America's most famous investor.
The home certainly doesn't qualify as a mega-mansion, even though it is extremely spacious. It actually looks fairly similar to many of the other homes in the neighborhood. There have been additions to the house over the years, and plenty of remodeling work. But the bones are the same as when Buffett paid $31,500 for it in 1958. It's now worth about $650,000.
So what is Warren Buffett doing living in "only" an upper middle class, non-gated neighborhood? Someone worth $87 billion can live wherever he chooses. Well, apparently Buffett likes the familiarity and feel of his long-time home. It's a classic example of wanting what we have. And of being satisfied with what is already ours, especially if it makes us happy.
So many of us (myself included) aspire to acquire, simply for the sake of "movin' on up" in the eyes of others. What most of us really seek is peace and quiet, familiarity and happiness. How many of us, for example, have traded in a perfectly good used car, one that runs well and suits our needs, just because its "newness" has faded? Glittery new purchases are often accompanied by burdensome price tags, and we can find ourselves stuck with difficult, expensive payoffs long after the shine of newness recedes.
I am not naive enough to think that Mr. Buffett doesn't own other homes. He does, including an $11 million house near the ocean in Laguna Beach, California. It's instructive to note, however, that Buffett paid $150,000 (in 1971) for the house, so it proved an excellent investment. That home is currently for sale, because he and his family seldom can gather to use it.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.