Charlie is the “Real” Architect: Lessons from Buffett’s 2023 Annual Letter

On February 24, 2024, Warren Buffett issued his always-anticipated, and widely read annual letter to shareholders. This letter, began with a special tribute to Charlie Munger, who passed away on November 28, 2023, just 33 days shy of his 100th birthday.

Of note, Buffett very clearly, and without any reservation admitted (or revealed) that Charlie was and has always been the brains behind Berkshire’s entire strategy (Buffett calls him the “architect”), while Buffett was (in his own words) simply the “construction crew”.

In other words, while for decades the world has lavished enormous praise on Buffett for being the world’s genius and best investor, it appears that all along, the accolades should have been going to Charlie.

Each year Buffett uses his letter to provide an update on Berkshire’s activities, but – we believe – it is really a platform for him to attempt to educate other investors on how to achieve success. Here are four top themes and lessons that we’ve identified from his latest letter. (All quotes below are from this years letter).

  1. Buy Wonderful Businesses at Fair Prices, Not Fair Businesses at Wonderful Prices

Perhaps Charlie’s most important strategic instruction to Buffett, or as Buffett says “abandon everything you learned from your hero, Ben Graham”. Does this mean value investing is not the right approach? We don’t think so – it just means having an intense focus on the “value” you are paying when buying what you believe to be great companies.

  1. Buy, Hold and Measure for the Long Term

When you do find these wonderful companies, buy and hold them for the long term, with little focus for the daily “and, yes, even year-by-year movements of the stock market.” For individual investors, this means: don’t trade frequently (or speculate), and don’t have an intense focus on short-term results. At Ginsler Wealth, we also believe that even yearly reviews of performance can be too short-term. Investing is a very long-term pursuit. As our Q4 2023 Quarterly Letter pointed out, if U.S. equity investors (as measured by the S&P500 returns) reviewed their investments based on 2023 calendar year results, they would be ecstatic. But looking back just one further year to 2022, their overall 2-year results would be less than mediocre.

  1. Don’t Expect Home-Runs (from Berkshire)

Buffett goes to great lengths in this year’s letter to make clear that Berkshire’s size and lack of options of “moving the needle” means “no possibility of eye-popping performance”. He instead suggests that the future for Berkshire looks like “a bit better than the average American corporation and, more important, should also operate with materially less risk of permanent loss of capital. Anything beyond ‘slightly better,’ though, is wishful thinking.”

(Secretly, I believe Buffett is trying to signal to readers the type of investor he welcomes at Berkshire, and the type that should invest, or speculate, elsewhere.)

But his forecast doesn’t sound very optimistic. Or does it? You may recall from Ginsler Wealth’s Q2 2022 Quarterly Letter, if an investor can achieve average returns but avoid major losses, resulting longer-term returns could likely be great. In fact, we believe that is the formula for investing success. We advise our clients to expect “reasonable” long-term returns (not homeruns), but with a likely lower chance of large drawdowns. When this approach compounds over many years—not scrutinized over every single month, quarter or even year, as per #2 above—we expect our clients to come out ahead.[1]

  1. Ignore Pundits, Forecasters and the Like

Buffett says “pundits should always be ignored”. As an example, he later says “Neither Greg nor I believe we can forecast market prices of major currencies. We also don’t believe we can hire anyone [emphasis added] with this ability.” Anyone! At Ginsler Wealth, when asked to make any predictions of the future, our answer is always the same: “We don’t know”.


Our approach to “not knowing”, is to build diversified portfolios that we believe should perform well, held over the long-term, with less chance of capital loss or impairment. Seems like we’ve been listening to Buffett all along![2]


You can read Ginsler Wealth’s summaries of Buffett’s 2022 (last year’s) Letter and 2021 Letter at the links provided.


[1] Investing is inherently risky and nothing above should be viewed as a guarantee or promise.

[2] Nothing in this article should be deemed investment advice.


Image Credits:

A. Costanza: Dave Quiggle
B. Mosby: Architect Magazine
C. Munger: Lane Hickenbottom/Reuters from Business Insider

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