Charlie Munger: Role, Investment Philosophy, and Berkshire’s ‘Four Giants


Charlie Munger, the Vice Chair of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett’s right-hand man, has played a pivotal role in the growth of the $700 billion conglomerate. Despite his unconventional path, including military service and a law degree without an undergraduate degree, Munger’s journey from law to finance is a testament to his incredible success. He has consistently demonstrated an ethical approach to business and is known for his influential investment philosophy. Discover the man behind the legend, Charlie Munger, and his contributions to the financial world.

Charlie Munger: a pillar in finance

Charlie Munger, born in 1924, serves as the Vice Chair and right-hand man to Warren Buffett, the renowned investor and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified conglomerate with a market capitalization of over $700 billion as of February 2022. Over the past four decades, Munger has played a crucial role in the company’s growth, with subsidiaries spanning insurance, freight rail transportation, energy, manufacturing, and retail.

Education and early career

Charlie Munger, a native of Omaha, worked at a grocery store owned by Warren Buffett’s grandfather during his teenage years. His journey took an unexpected turn during World War II when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a meteorologist. Munger’s education continued as he studied meteorology at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Later, despite not having an undergraduate degree, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School with a J.D. in 1948. During the early years of his career, he founded Munger, Tolles & Olson, a prestigious California law firm.

Transition from law to finance

After a chance meeting with Warren Buffett in 1959, Munger shifted his focus from law to investments. Following Buffett’s advice, he abandoned law practice in the 1960s to manage investments. This period included a partnership with billionaire Franklin Otis Booth in real estate development. Before joining Berkshire, Munger ran his investment firm, achieving an impressive compound annual return of 19.8% from 1962 to 1975, far outperforming the Dow’s 5% annual appreciation rate during the same period.

From “cigar-butt” to Buffet-Munger value investing

Warren Buffett was initially a “cigar-butt” investor, seeking out undervalued, struggling businesses. However, it was Munger who influenced Buffett to shift his strategy. They realized that investing in fundamentally strong businesses at reasonable prices was a more lucrative approach. The Berkshire version of value investing became a remarkable success by following Munger’s mantra: “Forget what you know about buying fair businesses at wonderful prices; instead, buy wonderful businesses at fair prices.”

Munger’s investment philosophy

A central element of Munger and Buffett’s partnership is their commitment to ethical business practices. Munger emphasizes that high ethical standards are integral to his philosophy and his success. He firmly believes that good businesses are ethical businesses, and any reliance on trickery is destined to fail. Munger’s wisdom, influenced by thinkers like Ben Franklin and Samuel Johnson, is evident in his speeches and book, “Poor Charlie’s Almanack.”

Berkshire Hathaway’s “four giants”

As Vice Chair of Berkshire Hathaway, Munger oversees all assets, including the “Four Giants,” which account for a substantial portion of Berkshire’s value:

  1. Insurance Float: Berkshire’s insurance subsidiaries generate substantial investment income from premiums held before paying claims, growing from $19 million to $147 billion during Munger’s tenure.
  2. Apple, Inc: Berkshire’s investment in Apple, Inc. has proven lucrative, with Berkshire owning 5.55% of the tech giant.
  3. BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation): Berkshire’s involvement in the freight rail industry has led to substantial earnings and growth.
  4. BHE (Berkshire Hathaway Energy): Under Munger’s leadership, BHE has seen tremendous growth, becoming a significant player in renewable energy.

Charlie Munger’s net worth

As of 2022, Charlie Munger’s net worth is estimated at $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Charlie Munger’s views on Bitcoin

Charlie Munger is known for his direct and candid opinions. He has expressed strong skepticism about Bitcoin, labeling it as a creation “out of thin air” and expressing concerns about its use in criminal activities.

Charlie Munger’s charitable contributions

Munger’s philanthropic efforts focus on education. He has made substantial donations to institutions like the University of Michigan Law School, Stanford University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, supporting various educational initiatives.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of this article.

  • Comprehensive Profile: The article provides a thorough and comprehensive profile of Charlie Munger, covering his background, career, and influence in the financial world.
  • Well-Structured: The article follows a well-structured format with clear headings and subheadings, making it easy for readers to navigate.
  • Informative Key Takeaways: The key takeaways section offers a concise summary of the article’s main points, making it easy for readers to grasp the essential information.
  • Clear Presentation: The article is presented in a clear and organized manner, enhancing readability and user experience.
  • Lengthy Sections: Some sections of the article, especially the “Four Giants” subsection, could be more concise to maintain reader engagement.
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Frequently asked questions

Who is Charlie Munger?

Charlie Munger is the Vice Chair of Berkshire Hathaway and has been Warren Buffett’s close business partner for over four decades. He is a key figure in the growth of Berkshire Hathaway.

What is Charlie Munger’s net worth?

As of 2022, Charlie Munger’s net worth is estimated to be $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Why does Charlie Munger dislike Bitcoin?

Charlie Munger has strong reservations about Bitcoin, considering it a creation “out of thin air” and expressing concerns about its use in criminal activities.

What are Charlie Munger’s charitable causes?

Charlie Munger supports various educational causes, including substantial donations to institutions such as the University of Michigan Law School, Stanford University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

What is Charlie Munger’s role in Berkshire Hathaway?

Charlie Munger serves as the Vice Chair of Berkshire Hathaway and has been Warren Buffett’s close business partner for over four decades. He plays a pivotal role in the company’s growth and success.

How has Charlie Munger’s background influenced his investment philosophy?

Charlie Munger’s diverse background, including his experience in law and real estate, has shaped his unique investment philosophy. It emphasizes ethical standards and the value of investing in outstanding businesses at fair prices.

What are some key principles of Munger and Buffett’s investment strategy?

Munger and Warren Buffett are known for their value investing approach. They seek businesses with competitive advantages, ethical practices, and the potential for long-term growth. Their mantra is to buy wonderful businesses at fair prices.

What are the “Four Giants” of Berkshire Hathaway, and why are they significant?

The “Four Giants” refer to the major investments under Munger’s oversight at Berkshire Hathaway: Insurance Float, Apple, Inc, BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation), and BHE (Berkshire Hathaway Energy). These investments contribute significantly to Berkshire’s value and long-term success.

Why is Charlie Munger critical of Bitcoin?

Charlie Munger is skeptical of Bitcoin due to its origin “out of thin air” and concerns about its use in illegal activities. He believes in traditional investments with tangible value.

Key takeaways

  • Charlie Munger has played a crucial role in Berkshire Hathaway’s growth, serving as Warren Buffett’s right-hand man.
  • His transition from law to finance, his ethical investment philosophy, and his impact on Berkshire’s success make him a prominent figure in the financial world.
  • Munger’s net worth as of 2022 is $2.5 billion.
  • He is known for his candid views on Bitcoin and his philanthropic efforts in education.
View article sources
  1. Charles T. Munger – California Institute of Technology
  2. Charlie Munger – Columbia University Press
  3. Table of contents for Poor Charlie’s almanack – Library of Congress
  4. Berkshire Hathaway: Explained, Investments, Succession – SuperMoney