It's graduation season. And, on Saturday, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is holding its annual shareholders meeting.
Therefore, obviously, it's time for graduation gift ideas inspired by the great investor and philanthropist.
Your son the senior is acquisitive? Warren Buffett. Daughter graduating from business school? Warren Buffett. You're graduating? Send this to your parents.
A share of Berkshire Hathaway stock
One of the B shares, of course, which trade for $166 and change. You could spring for an A share, which would definitely make an impression, since those trade around $249,540. Not to suggest you beat up on yourself, but if you'd bought a share of Berkshire for your kid four years ago, your scion would have earned about 52%. It gets worse: If you'd bought that share right when your child was born, say 21 years ago, it would have risen about 649%, compared with 219% for the S&P 500. But take heart — even though the mortality tables suggest Mr. Buffett, 86, will go to his (even greater) reward in the next 10 or 20 years, he's assembled a powerful collection of businesses and managers to set Berkshire Hathaway up for continued success.
A starter Rolex
No cheap Timex for Mr. Buffett, though he's famously frugal. He wears an 18-karat yellow gold Rolex Day-Date watch, which retails for about $37,500 — or around $39,000 if you want diamonds on the face, and who doesn't? You could get your child a starter Rolex. There are preowned specimens for under $5,000 at Tourneau.com.
A Buffett suit
Mr. Buffett has about 20 suits from Dalian Dayang Trands. They say the Chinese business refuses to charge him. Its in-house labels include "Yousoku, a younger, more affordable line with suits going for about 1,000 renminbi, or about $150 at current exchange."
Mr. Buffett's very own investment advice!
Get your graduate a portfolio of low-cost index funds, preferably from Vanguard. In the 2013 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter, Mr. Buffett wrote that his will instructs his trustee to "put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost index fund. (I suggest Vanguard's.)" He just ended a 10-year contest between his choice of a low-cost Vanguard S&P 500 index fund and a collection of five hedge funds chosen by Ted Seides. Mr. Seides just lost the wager.
A big old pile of cash
Even a fraction of the $86.4 billion cash pile Berkshire had at the end of last year will be appreciated.
Mr. Buffett's brain
Or, at least, what feeds it. If you're economizing, how about subscriptions to five newspapers, since that's what Mr. Buffett reads daily, he has said. He may read the print versions, but you could buy digital subscriptions to his reading selection — the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, USA Today and his hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald.
Mr. Buffett's pen
Also affordable, a Warren Buffett Montblanc pen. Berkshire-owned Borsheim's Jewelers has one featuring his signature for $229.91. "Let this pen inspire the stockholder in you to make some excellent business decisions," the site suggests. You may want to skip the BRK-emblazoned maple cutting board, at $37.38.
Mr. Buffett took a Dale Carnegie course when he was young and said it had a profound impact on him. There are all sorts of online and in-person Carnegie courses. Extreme budget version: Mr. Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People, which you can buy for less than $8 on Amazon.com.
A fraction of a jet
Back to blowing out the budget. When Berkshire Hathaway had its own corporate jet, a Falcon 20, Mr. Buffett named it The Indefensible. Later, he bought NetJets Inc., which allows people to buy fractional shares of a private jet, and which Mr. Buffett switched to using. This can be cheaper than an A share but still very, very expensive. "An entry level prepaid fractional jet card providing 25 hours of flight time on a light jet will cost between U.S. $154,000 to $165,000," according to SherpaReport.com. Maybe you could split it with the parents of your kid's roommate? Maybe your kid shared a quad?
Lunch with Mr. Buffett
Going way, way over the top, you could bid on lunch with Warren Buffett. The price depends on the desperation of your fellow bidders. Last year the annual event went for $3,456,789, to an anonymous hungry person. As many as seven people can attend the lunch, which will be at New York's Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. Most important, the proceeds go to charity.