If you do not receive the annual report from Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) you are probably missing the stock appreciation too, but you do not have to miss "my pal Warren's" charming musings about the company, investing, or the economy.
You can find Buffett's letters on the company website or refer to Everything Warren Buffett for this year's letter, and past years as well. One thing I thought worthy of sharing from the letter was the notion that financial statements require a lot of guess work. Buffett bemoans his concern about having to include a best guess and forthrightly acknowledges it could be wrong. He highlights the difficulty in predicting future costs with the following story.
A story I told you some years back illustrates our problem in accurately estimating our loss liability: A fellow was on an important business trip in Europe when his sister called to tell him that their dad had died. Her brother explained that he couldn't get back but said to spare nothing on the funeral, whose cost he would cover. When he returned, his sister told him that the service had been beautiful and presented him with bills totaling $8,000. He paid up, but a month later received a bill from the mortuary for $10. He paid that, too -- and still another $10 charge he received a month later. When a third $10 invoice was sent to him the following month, the perplexed man called his sister to ask what was going on. "Oh," she replied, "I forgot to tell you. We buried Dad in a rented suit.
It is very hard to predict the future, but some things are easier than others. I predict that if you read Buffett's letters you will be better off financially in the long run than if you do not. If you do not have the time or inclination to do so then you can check back with me from time to time because I try to share as much as I can glean from the master.
Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the principal for design and research at an architecture & planning firm. He writes the columns Chasing Value and Serious Money. Disclosure: I own shares of BRK.B.