The first time I heard Charlie Munger’s name was in the late 90s. I was working at an actuarial consulting firm starting to develop an interest in financial markets and investing and someone said, ‘hey, you should check out Warren Buffett and read his shareholder letters’. I did both. Warren had the spotlight, but he talked about Charlie in every letter. He was hard to ignore. For the next few years, though, he was just a name to me. Warren’s ‘sidekick’ and Berkshire’s vice chairman. I didn’t pay much attention to him. That all changed a few years later.
In the early 2000s, I decided to start attending the Berkshire shareholder’s meeting in Omaha. If you’ve never been or seen clips from the meeting, Warren and Charlie sit side by side at a table in front of thousands of shareholders and answer questions (not provided to them in advance). Warren speaks first (unless the question is directed at Charlie) and then, most often, asks Charlie if he has anything to add.
That was the first time I heard Charlie speak. Warren is brilliant. Charlie might have been smarter. Warren would give long, insightful responses to each question. Charlie, if he offered a response, was brief and answered with piercing insight. His responses were to the point and perfectly reasoned. He would quote Marcus Aurelius in one response and then apply the laws of thermodynamics in another. I was in awe.
After that, I started paying attention to Charlie. I read everything I could from him and about him. I started paying attention to the Daily Journal annual meetings (in which he also answered shareholder questions for hours). I read old transcripts from the Berkshire meetings. And, like my experience reading Warren’s letters, my mind expanded again.
Like so many in this business, Charlie, along with Warren, has been a mentor to me. Odd to say about someone you never met, but at least one definition of a mentor is ‘an experienced and trusted advisor’. That fits.
I’ve learned a ton from Charlie over the years, both about how to be a thoughtful steward of our client’s wealth and about how to make myself a better person. How lucky to have had someone like this in our orbit for so long.
I will miss his wisdom and guidance, but I’m grateful for everything he left behind.