It’s a headache to think of a Christmas gift for someone who already has everything. It’s painfully true the other way around, too. Put yourself in the shoes of Warren Buffett, for example. What can possibly be an appropriate present to give to your family and friends when everyone knows that you’re the fourth wealthiest person in the world?
It’s comforting to know that, for a while, Christmas in the Buffett family was exactly what you’d think, where the billionaire investor would literally give each family member a fat envelope of cash and everyone would blow it right away. “He would always give each of us $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills,” Mary Buffett, who was married to the Warren’s youngest son, Peter Buffett, from 1980 to 1993, revealed in a recent interview with ThinkAdvisor. “As soon as we got home, we’d spend it—whooo!”
Realizing that this was out of line with his values and way of life, Warren switched up the tradition one day.
“One Christmas there was an envelope with a letter from him. Instead of cash, he’d given us $10,000 worth of shares in a company he’d recently bought, a trust Coca-Cola had. He said to either cash them in or keep them,” Mary told ThinkAdvisor.
Perhaps like Warren had hoped, the new gifting tradition successfully fostered an interest in investing in his family members, particularly his daughter-in-law.
“I thought, ‘Well, [this stock] is worth more than $10,000.’ So I kept it, and it kept going up,” Mary said. “Every year when he’d give us stock—Wells Fargo being one of them—I would just buy more of it because I knew it was going to go up.”
Mary, now 67, is a professional singer turned businesswoman. During her union with Peter, who’s a musician, they owned a music company together, which turned out to be an inspiration for Mary’s Christmas gift ideas for Warren.
Mary Buffett was married to Peter Buffett from 1980 to 1993.
“The first year we were married, I realized, ‘Warren is very rich. Therefore, he doesn’t want anything,'” Mary said in the ThinkAdvisor interview. “I didn’t know what to get him, so I put together our music company’s balance sheet to show him that we were making money.”
She clarified that it wasn’t a move to try to get Warren to invest in or buy the company. “I just wanted to show him, ‘Look, we’re doing good,'” she added.
After her divorce with Peter in 1993, Mary went on to cofound a number of businesses, including the investment firm Sanford DeLand and the Buffett Online School. She also teaches business and finance classes at UCLA and other universities in California.