When we think about the most successful investors of our time, it's easy to land on Warren Buffett as an obvious candidate. With a fortune in the ballpark of $100 billion, Buffett has managed to accumulate more money than most of us will ever come remotely close to having.
Buffett didn't accrue that fortune through sheer luck. He did it by being a shrewd investor.
But in spite of that, it doesn't necessarily pay to try to invest like Buffett. In fact, you may want to take a very different approach for these key reasons.
1. You don't have his stock-picking knowledge
Warren Buffett knows a lot about analyzing companies and hand-picking stocks. But many everyday investors don't have nearly the same level of knowledge and skill as he does.
In fact, it's for this reason that Buffett has often suggested that the typical investor put money into index funds. Index funds are passively managed funds that track different benchmarks. An S&P 500 index fund, for example, will have the goal of matching the performance of the S&P 500 itself.
The benefit of loading up on index funds is that it takes much of the guesswork out of investing. And index funds lend to instant diversification, which is an important thing to have in your portfolio. If you buy shares of an S&P 500 index fund, for example, you'll effectively get to own 500 different companies with a single investment.
2. You can't afford the same level of risk
Warren Buffett clearly has a lot of money. And because of that, he can afford to lose a fair share should that circumstance arise. As such, Buffett can continue to keep a lot of his wealth in stocks despite the fact that they're risky.
Generally, as we get older, it's a good idea to shift away from stocks and move over to safer investments, like bonds. This doesn't mean that seniors need to dump their stocks completely, but scaling back is a good idea.
At 90 years old, Buffett doesn't have to follow this rule of thumb. If he were to lose $1 million in the stock market overnight, it wouldn't so much as make a dent in his wealth or lifestyle. But since the rest of us don't have the level of wealth that Buffett does, we can't take on the same level of risk.
3. You probably have different goals
Warren Buffett's goal is to give away his impressive fortune, and at this point, he's about halfway toward meeting that objective. But let's face it — most of us aren't looking to give our money away. Rather, we need our money to cover our expenses in retirement.
Now, this isn't to say that you intend to spend down your entire nest egg in your lifetime. You may have the goal of leaving some money behind to your children, for example.
But for the most part, you're probably not looking to gift your entire estate to a series of charities. And so you'll need to take a different approach to investing than Buffett altogether.
Learn from Buffett, but don't copy him
There's nothing wrong with aiming to learn from Warren Buffett. But should you plan to invest just like him? Probably not. Instead, keep reading up on the advice he has to give and apply it to your own situation. The great thing about Buffett is that he's always been generous with his words of wisdom, and listening to what he has to say could set you up for a successful financial future.
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