Frugal Charlie Munger was worth $2.6 billion at the time of his death at age 99 – but little of that wealth is likely go to his family with the investment titan believing ‘the road to human happiness is to expect less’
- DailyMail.com uncovers why the nonagenarian was not a typical billionaire
- READ MORE: Berkshire Hathaway vice president Charlie Munger dies aged 99
One of the world’s best-known investors, Charlie Munger had amassed an impressive $2.6 billion wealth at the time of his death at the age of 99 on Tuesday.
But a look at his life philosophy reveals that little of this colossal nest egg is likely to be passed on to his sprawling family, including six children and two step-children – or at least not in a way which would allow them to splash out on it.
Known for being Warren Buffett’s right-hand man and vice president of their world-leading insurance conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, the nonagenarian was not a typical billionaire.
Nebraska-born Munger’s approach to investing – rooted in simplicity, practicality and frugality – was reflected in his life choices – from his relatively modest longtime family home and lowkey wardrobe to the old-model car which he drove himself.
These carefully considered choices were the result of his belief that indulging in luxury and extravagance was detrimental to a truly fulfilling life.
Berkshire Hathaway, the firm which Buffett ran with Munger, announced that the investment titan passed away ‘peacefully’ on Tuesday morning in a California hospital
Known for being Warren Buffett’s right-hand man and vice president of their world-leading insurance conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, the nonagenarian was not a typical billionaire. (Munger is pictured at a product launch in Beijing with Buffet in 2010)
Munger spent most of his life in a modest and private home in Greater Wilshire, California – but he is believed to have spent part of his twilight years in a luxury gated community called Sea Meadow in Montecito – or ‘Mungerville’ (pictured), which he funded the creation of in 1989
‘I think the best road ahead to human happiness is to expect less,’ Munger told Berkshire Hathaway’s latest annual meeting this year.
Munger was known for imparting pearls of wisdom at conferences he frequently attended with Buffett, and although he’s the lesser-known of the duo, he commands a sizeable fanbase of his own who he once referred to as his ‘groupies’.
Several of his comments over the last few years have given illuminating insight into how he is likely to have handled his inheritance.
During a recent CNBC interview, Munger revealed that he deliberately chose not to upgrade his home to a mansion like his billionaire friends because he ‘didn’t think it would be good for the children.’
After hailing from Omaha, Munger lived for decades in the same relatively simple and unassuming home in Los Angeles, California, which is believed to have been lined by books rather than with expensive items.
‘Warren and I both live in the same house for decade after decade after decade, and all our friends get rich and build bigger and better houses,’ Munger said.
‘Naturally we both considered bigger and better houses, and I had a huge number of children so it was justifiable even, and I still decided not to live a life where I look like the Duke of Westchester or something. I did it on purpose.’
Pressed for more details on this, Munger added: ‘I didn’t think it would be good for the children’, agreeing that they could become ‘spoiled’.
A photo of Munger from his high school yearbook as a senior at Central High in Omaha in 1941
Munger was known for imparting pearls of wisdom at frequent conferences he attended with Buffett, and although he’s the lesser-known of the duo, he commands a sizeable fanbase of his own who he once referred to as his ‘groupies’. (Pictured: Buffett and Munger in 1959)
At Berkshire Hathaway’s 2023 meeting, Munger hinted that he wanted his heirs to live a similarly modest lifestyle to his own – saying that although they’re likely to have different worldviews he doesn’t like it ‘when they try some other way.’
‘I am quite philosophical about my grandchildren not thinking exactly the way I do,’ Munger said. ‘It seems to me that’s almost the natural course of life.
‘I just live my life my own way and they can observe it as an example if they want to, and if they don’t they can try some other way. I don’t like it when they try some other way.’
Munger lived in a plant-filled property he designed himself in LA’s leafy Greater Wilshire neighborhood for 60 years. He kept his home life private, but the house was frequently described as modest.
The investing tycoon said he’d come across ‘a lot of people with extravagant desires’ in his circles – but said in his typically blunt and direct manner: ‘I’m not interested in that’.
However, he did fund a 28-property gated community called Sea Meadow in Montecito in 1989, where he reportedly spent a portion of his twilight years.
The Sea Meadow website describes the coastal area as a ‘premier beach enclave’ which is ‘affectionately referred to as ‘Mungerville”.
Munger was said to shun designer brands in favor of comfier more practical clothes and he drove his own car for most of his life, until his advancing age forced him to switch the SUV for a wheelchair.
His distaste for fashion retail was even echoed in his stock choices – as he told the Acquired podcast ‘I don’t like style companies’ when asked if he’d ever invest in Nike in an interview released last week.
When he gave a rare interview at his home to the Financial Times in May this year, Munger wore a simple plaid shirt reflecting this laid-back style.
In fact, Munger joked in a recent CNBC interview that the only thing he would splash out on is the opportunity to catch a 200-pound tuna fish.
Asked if there’s anything still to tick off on his bucket list, the investor said: ‘Well… I am so old and weak compared to when I was 96 I no longer want to catch a 200 lbs tuna… I would have paid any amount to catch a 200 lbs tuna.’
Given that he donated the majority of his wealth to charities over his lifetime, Munger is likely to have left just as much of his wealth to charities as his descendants.
According to AP, Munger still holds 4,033 Class A Berkshire shares. But back in 2000 he held 15,911 shares, which would be worth more than $8.3 billion today if he’d hung onto it all.
The tycoon gave significant gifts to Harvard-Westlake, Stanford University Law School, the University of Michigan and the Huntington Library as well as other charities throughout the years.
Among his final donations was $40.3 million worth of 77 Class A Berkshire Hathaway shares to the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Museum in San Marino, California, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Along with being an unconventional billionaire, Munger also described himself as ‘not a normal Republican’.
Civil rights attorney Molly Munger is the investor’s second-eldest child, with his first wife Nancy Jean Higgins who he was married to for eight years
The first son of Barry and Munger, Charles T Munger Jr (pictured), is a Republican activist – following his father’s affiliation with the party
Emilie Munger Ogden – his second child with his second wife, philanthropist Nancy Barry, is a trustee at education charity World Learning
Although he supported the right-wing party, he advocated for left-leaning policies like Medicare for all and describing the US current healthcare model as a ‘national disgrace’.
When he divorced his first wife Nancy Jean Higgins in 1953 after eight years of marriage, he lost all of his possessions and drove a poorly repainted yellow Pontiac, according to his 2000 biography penned by Janet Lowe.
The couple, who met through Munger’s sister at Scripps College, had also lost their son, Teddy, at the age of nine to leukemia in 1955. On top of this trauma Munger had to cover the health expenses.
His friend, Rick Guerin, recounted Munger’s heart-wrenching routine of visiting the hospital, holding his dying son, and then wandering the streets of Pasadena in tears.
With Mr. Munger practically broke, his daughter Molly complained to him about his beat-up yellow Pontiac, according to Lowe’s book.
‘Daddy, this car is just awful, a mess,’ she said. ‘Why do you drive it?’ He replied: ‘To discourage gold diggers.’
But the investor’s children all have thriving careers now – with many following in the footsteps of their Munger descendants who worked in the legal industry, including Charles’ grandfather Thomas Charles Munger who was a US district court judge.
His eldest, Wendy, works as a corporate lawyer and appears to be on the Stanford University board of trustees.
Meanwhile, Munger’s second-eldest Molly is a civil rights attorney. Emilie Munger Ogden – his second child with his second wife, philanthropist Nancy Barry, is also reportedly a lawyer.
Stephen English and Molly Munger attend the KPCC 2019 Gala at Westin Bonaventure Hotel on March 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California
Munger’s eldest, Wendy (pictured with husband Leonard Gumport), works as a corporate lawyer and appears to be on the Stanford University board of trustees
The first son of Barry and Munger, Charles T Munger Jr, is a Republican activist – following his father’s affiliation with the party.
Charles Jr gave hefty donations to representatives in his home state, with local news sites describing him as ‘the central force in the Republican Party’s attempted comeback from its two-decade slide in California’.
‘If it weren’t for Charles Munger, the California Republican Party would have been driven into the sea at this point,’ GOP strategist Kevin Spillane told the Los Angeles Times.
Munger outlived both of his wives – with his ex-wife Huggins Freeman dying of cancer at the age of 76 in 2002, and his partner of 54 years Barry Munger passing away in 2010 of an undisclosed illness.
He and Barry had children Charles Jr., Emilie, Barry and Philip together and he was also a stepfather to her two other sons William Harold Borthwick and David Borthwick.
He died in hospital in Santa Barbara, California, on November 28, 2023, at the age of 99.
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