Buffett-1-1200x675 Three Ways Warren Buffett Is Not A Typical Billionaire

Warren Buffett speaks to students in “Becoming Warren Buffett,” a new documentary about the investor’s life. (Courtesy of HBO)

If you happen to spot a nondescript Cadillac pulling into an Omaha-area McDonald’s, it might just be the world’s second-richest person following his morning routine.

In a new documentary titled “Becoming Warren Buffett,” which aired on HBO Monday night and chronicles the Berkshire Hathaway chairman’s rise from ambitious child to legendary investor, Buffett’s renowned folksiness was on full display. Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable billionaires — worth $73.7 billion (and that’s after giving more than $28.5 billion to charity) — his life is notably free of butlers, chauffeurs and megayacht captains.

Forbes has been tracking America’s wealthiest citizens since 1982; few have been quite as frugal as Warren Buffett. Here are three ways Buffett differs from many of his fellow Forbes 400 members:

    1. His home: While Indian oil and gas tycoon Mukesh Ambani built a 27-story personal skyscraper and Oracle founder Larry Ellison owns about $1 billion worth of property throughout the U.S. (including nearly all of Lanai, Hawaii’s sixth-largest island), Buffett’s tastes are bit more simple. He still lives in the five-bedroom Nebraska home he purchased in 1958 for $31,500 (about $262,000 in today’s dollars). It’s a five-minute drive from his equally-unassuming office in downtown Omaha, where just 25 employees oversee a conglomerate that does $211 billion in annual revenues. And while billionaires such as casino magnate Steve Wynn decorate their offices with priceless artwork from the likes of Pablo Picasso, Buffett’s walls feature newspaper clips from financial crises like the Panic of 1907 and Black Tuesday, which Buffett says serve as “a reminder that anything can happen in this world — it’s instructive art.”
    2. His car: While some billionaires have plowed millions into top auto collections, including designer Ralph Lauren’s 70-classic-car-garage and Victoria’s Secret boss Les Wexner’s stable of vintage Ferraris, Buffett has a more traditional set of wheels. He drives himself to work every morning in the 2014 Cadillac XTS he bought after riding around Omaha with GM CEO Mary Barra in his eight-year-old DTS. Buffett asked Barra what made the newer Cadillacs better. “She really let me have it,” Buffett told Forbes in 2014. “She told me about 50 things that were better” than his current car. “By the time we got to lunch — and it’s only 5 or 6 minutes — she sold me.”
  1. His diet: Forget the Michelin guide and rare delicacies (unlike former casino billionaire Stanley Ho, who reportedly paid $330,000 for a white truffle in 2007 and a couple years later had a $200,000 second helping). Buffett famously drinks five Cokes per day and brought the camera crew along to his breakfast stop: McDonald’s, where he grabs a Sausage, Egg & Cheese McMuffin for $2.95 in exact change. “$3.17 is a Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit,” Buffett explains. “But the market’s down this morning, so I think I’ll pass up the $3.17 and go for the $2.95.”

Though Buffett’s relative frugality might seem over the top, it could ultimately prove to be a big boon for the world. Buffett has pledged to give away nearly all of his fortune, meaning the money he is saving will eventually be donated to charity, on top of the billions he has already given to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plus foundations for his late wife and three children.

“In my entire lifetime everything that I spend will be quite a bit less than 1% of everything I make,” Buffett explains in the documentary. “The other 99%-plus will go to others because it has no utility to me, so it’s silly for me to not transfer that utility to people who can use it. It’s doing me no good.”

You can reach me via email (cpeterson-withorn@forbes.com)