She takes part in a portrait of the financial genius, HBO’s “Becoming Warren Buffett,” which premieres Monday at 10 p.m.
In the documentary, Susan, who was named after her mother and goes by Susie, provides a lot of intimate details about her parents, growing up in the family’s Omaha home, and what drove her father to give away a large chunk of his fortune to charitable causes, including her children’s charity, the Sherwood Foundation.
But despite Warren’s reputation for being frugal and highly opinionated about investing money, Susie said finances were rarely spoken about in the Buffett home. In fact, she said she had no idea how rich her father was until her late teens.
“My parents never talked about money. They didn’t fight about it at all, either,” Susie recently told Business Insider. “It was nonexistent, really, except that my brothers and I got a weekly allowance. We never got the lessons I think some kids get — you know, you can spend this much and you should save the nickel or whatever. None of that went on.”
Susie said there are a lot of aspects of her father that people often get wrong.
Here are five misconceptions about Warren Buffett, according to his daughter:
Warren Buffett wasn’t as stingy about donating to charity in the early years as his critics have said.
Before his large gift to several charities and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last year, Warren was ridiculed by critics for not giving money to charity. Susie said she believes this is a side effect of her father’s belief in investing for the long haul.
“His theory, of course, was that he was good at making money and there would be a lot more to give away if he could keep making it,” she said.
But she said her parents had been giving back to the community for decades. They just weren’t tooting their own horn.
“My mother was quietly giving a lot away,” she said. “She started a scholarship program, actually, when I was in high school. It was only a couple kids a year, but she started as soon as there was some money there to give away.
“Neither of them have ever been the type to look for any recognition when they were doing philanthropic things. And it was certainly my mother doing it more than my dad at that point. And so I think there was a little more happening than people realize.”
Warren Buffett is more generous with his children than people give him credit for.
“I actually agree with his philosophy of not dumping a bunch of money on your kids. And, by the way, my dad gets a bad rap for that,” Susie told Business Insider. “He has been much more generous than people are aware. I feel extremely grateful to have the parents I had and for what they’ve given us. But certainly, he’s not going to leave us $50 billion and shouldn’t. It would be crazy to do anything like that.”
Warren’s decision in 2016 to give much of his fortune to charity partly benefits foundations created by his children.
While Susan Buffett is credited with influencing her husband’s departure from the Republican Party, she grew up Republican as well.
“My mother, by the way, grew up Republican, too. And nobody knows that. That’s a funny thing,” Susie told Business Insider.
At one point, Susie recalled, her maternal grandfather ran the election campaign of her paternal grandfather, Howard Buffett.
“The only time my grandpa Buffett lost,” she said. In all, Howard served four terms in Congress.
It wasn’t an easy transition when Warren Buffett began living with Astrid Menks while still married to his wife.
In “Becoming Warren Buffett,” the family speaks about how thankful they were that Astrid Menks stepped into their father’s life after their mother moved out in the early 1980s — though she never divorced Warren.
Susie said it wasn’t as seamless as it appeared.
“There were absolutely growing pains,” she said. “I knew Astrid before my parents did. So, yeah, that’s a strange little part of it. It was very funny. My problem with it at the time was that I am very close to my dad, and, as my mother says in the film, he can’t find the light switch. I was just worried that he wouldn’t know how to eat, how to cook any food. He just doesn’t know how to function, except go to work.
“I think it’s fair to say I was a little bit mad at my mother about leaving. I didn’t quite get why she was leaving,” she said. “I was concerned about him being able to function in the normal world.”
Susie said she moved back home to Omaha for a month because she worried about her father.
“I had some trouble with it, for sure,” she said of Astrid moving in. “My mother and I had many talks over the years about it, and my understanding certainly evolved over the years and changed. And I totally got it eventually.”
Warren Buffett doesn’t stockpile his favorite soda, Coke, nor does he get it for free or at wholesale price because he’s Coca-Cola’s biggest shareholder.
Though Warren has said he drinks roughly five cans of Coke every day, Susie joked that her father “doesn’t have a room dedicated to” storing the drink. He does have an old-fashioned soda fountain for the drink at the office for his holdings company, Berkshire Hathaway.
And just in case people thought that being Coca-Cola’s biggest shareholder means Warren gets free drinks, Susie said Warren pays retail for it.
“It was stockpiled more when my mother lived there,” Susie said, “probably because she figured it was cheaper to buy a whole big bunch at once than to go into the grocery store frequently. Astrid is more likely to try to find out where it’s on sale and buy it on sale.”
|Warren Buffett speaks to a classroom of young people in the HBO documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett.” HBO|
Warren Buffett’s Daughter Susie Opens Up About Her Billionaire Dad: ‘He Doesn’t Care About Money’
Warren Buffett is a simple man, with just one caveat — his nearly $74 billion fortune.
The current second richest man in the world — just a cool $11 billion under pal Bill Gates — is the subject of a new HBO documentary, titled Becoming Warren Buffett, that explores his lesser-known personal life. But his daughter Susie Buffett warns not to expect anything extravagant from the successful Berkshire Hathaway investor.
“He’s pretty boring — it’s just not what people expect,” Susie tells PEOPLE of the most surprising thing about her dad. “I think it’s also probably surprising to people that the money doesn’t matter to him. He made the money sort of by accident because he was really good at doing what he loved, and when you do that particular thing really well, you end up with a whole bunch of money. But it’s really true that he does not care about having a bunch of money.”
Buffett, 86, echoed his oldest child’s sentiments at the film’s premiere in N.Y.C., telling PEOPLE that it’s not that he’s frugal, he just doesn’t think spending money will make him happier than enjoying the simple things in life.
“I buy everything I want in life,” Buffett said. “Would 10 homes make me more happy? Possessions possess you at a point. I don’t like a $100 meal as well as a hamburger from McDonald’s. That’s the way I’m put together, I don’t equate the amount I spend with the enjoyment I’m going to get from something.”
His simplicity extends into his family life.
“When we were kids, he wasn’t as successful,” Susie says. “He was certainly slowly turning into that, but he wasn’t rich or famous when we were kids. I’d call it a very normal household, a very normal upbringing. We lived in a nice house but certainly not the biggest house in town. We went to public schools. We didn’t get cars when we turned 16. We got an allowance and we had jobs we had to do around the house. It was pretty normal.”
Buffett married his first wife Susan in 1952 and they were married until her death in 2004. Susie says her parents’ marriage is the reason for her father’s success. “I don’t think there would be any Berkshire Hathaway if he hadn’t married my mother,” Susie says. “If he had married someone else, it wouldn’t have been the same at all. [The documentary tells] the whole story of his relationship with my mother and how important she was in his life and in his personal development as a human being and as a business person.”
She adds that her parents never fought and were always supportive, saying that “it sounds like a fairy tale life, but we did grow up with this wonderful role model of a relationship with our parents.”
In the trailer for the film, Buffett once again echoes his daughter’s revelations, saying that there are two turning points in his life: “once when I came out of the womb and once when I met [Susan]. I was a lopsided person, she put me together.”
But Buffett’s marriage to Susan wasn’t exactly conventional. In 1977, Susan moved from the family’s home in Omaha to San Francisco to pursue a singing career. Although the couple remained married during this time, this was also when Buffett’s current wife Astrid came into their lives.
“I understood why my mother wanted to leave and it didn’t have anything to do with her not completely loving my dad or not wanting to stay in the marriage — it wasn’t anything like that,” Susie says of her mother wanting to leave Omaha and move to California. “I knew Astrid before my parents did and then my mother got to know her because she was singing at one of the restaurants down at the market where Astrid worked. When she moved, she asked multiple people to sort of check in on my dad and Astrid was one of them.”
Shortly after Susan left for San Francisco, Astrid moved in with Buffett and the two continue to live together now. They got married in 2006 — two years after Susan’s death.
“Astrid’s been part of the family for a long time, so it just sort of evolved into something that for us was kind of normal,” explains Susie, who was already 24 and living in California when Astrid moved in with her father. “I don’t know that it would work for many people, but it worked for my parents and her. Nobody was being hurt and everybody was happy. So for us, it was normal. But I realize it’s not normal.”
“He’s not somebody that any of us thought would make it too well on his own so it kinda worked out perfectly,” she adds. “That’s why we’re all glad Astrid moved in.”
Now in his mid-80s, the billionaire remains a simple family man who still takes all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren to Dairy Queen for lunch once a month.
“I don’t think people realize, he’s got a bunch of great-grandchildren and he could tell you everything about what they’re all doing. He knows every one of those kids and he knows about their lives,” she says. “This documentary is the definitive piece that will be able to be passed down to the generations that didn’t get to know him. They really got it — they got my dad warts and all.”