Collection: Warren Buffett - #49 | We Don't Take Risk to Make a Small Percentage Gain



Good afternoon, Mr. Buffett. I’m Nelson Coburn (PH) from Silver Spring, Maryland. I have one question I want to ask that hasn’t come up here yet. Where does the money sit that comes in, say, from dividends and whatever other income that comes into Berkshire, that you’re waiting to invest someplace else? Is it get — someplace where it’s taking in a profit? Or is it just sitting, gathering dust? (Laughter) WARREN BUFFETT

Well, we only have about four or five commercial paper names we accept. We’re very picky about where we put — the money all gets invested. We do not have anything sitting around in a safe or anyplace else. So it’s all invested. But we do not get venturesome, in the least, in terms of where our short-term money goes. So we only have, like I say, maybe four or five approved names on commercial paper, all of which I approve. I mean, if anything ever goes haywire on this, it’s my fault. Right now, we have, maybe, a billion and something in relatively short-term Treasurys. And we have a little extra in some commercial paper, maybe. But you will never see us reaching for an extra eighth of a percent on short-term yields. Some of you may remember the fiasco in the — in Penn Central, in the commercial paper market. And Penn Central, around 1970 or thereabouts, was paying a quarter of a point, as I remember, more than other commercial paper issuers. And of course, they, one day, despite showing a positive net worth, I think, of a billion and a half or so, they said they had a lot of net worth but no cash. Turned out cash was more important. And so they defaulted. Now, the interesting thing about doing that is, if you’re getting a quarter of a point extra, and you came over on the Mayflower, and you landed, and you said, “Well, I’m going to apply myself to getting a quarter of a point extra on short-term money,” and you didn’t make any mistake until you got to Penn Central, you would — aside from the compounding aspect — you would be behind at that point. And I don’t like a business that you can do right for 300 years and then make one mistake and — (laughter) — be behind. So we are very picky about short-term paper. But it is all invested. And when it’s large amounts, it probably will be in Treasurys. A couple firms’ commercial paper, we take.

Zone 2, please?


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[YAPSS Takeaway]

Being safe is more than important making extra on short-term money that will be used for future investments.