Warren Buffett Shares He Went Through A Rebellious Phase And Used To Shoplift From A Major Department Store — ‘We’d Just Steal The Place Blind’
Before Warren Buffett became the investment guru he’s known as today, he shoplifted.
As a teenager, Buffett shoplifted from Sears with his friends, according to his biography “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder.
“We’d just steal the place blind. We’d steal stuff for which we had no use. We’d steal golf bags and golf clubs,” he said in the biography. “I walked out of the lower level where the sporting goods were, up the stairway to the street, carrying a golf bag and golf clubs, and the clubs were stolen, and so was the bag. I stole hundreds of golf balls.”
He was already running businesses during this period At age 6, Buffett began his entrepreneurial journey by selling packs of gum and bottles of Coke to earn money. He collected his earnings, storing them in a nickel-plated money changer attached to his belt, which held great value to him. By age 14, Buffett had filed his first tax return, having earned $1,000 from his paper route.
The revelation of his shoplifting phase adds an unexpected dimension to the Buffett narrative. While he stands today as a paragon of financial success and integrity, his early history reveals a rebellious streak that few would associate with the man who forged his reputation as a stock market legend.
Buffett has consistently emphasized the importance of reputation, stating, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
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He also once said, “We can afford to lose money — even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation — even a shred of reputation,” as documented in the book “Warren Buffett on Business: Principles from the Sage of Omaha.”
Buffett is recognized as one of the most charitable people in history. He topped The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list with a donation of approximately $541.5 million in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after his late first wife. This foundation is noted for its dedication to women’s reproductive rights and education. Buffett’s donation was part of a collective $3.5 billion given by America’s wealthiest people in 2023 to various causes, including universities, scientific research institutes, a healthcare system, a family foundation and a racial justice group.
Buffett chose to share this part of his past, a detail he could have easily kept hidden. His willingness to reveal these aspects of his early life adds a human touch, rendering him more relatable. It underscores the notion that everyone — even the most accomplished people — can make mistakes. Buffett’s life teaches that the past need not define a person’s future and that learning from missteps is an integral part of achieving success.
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