Charlie worked with Warren in Buffet’s grandfather’s grocery store in Omaha, Nebraska. Munger earned $2 for ten hours of labor in the 1930’s before he went off to college.

Munger left the University of Michigan to become an Army meteorologist during World War II. After the war he earned a degree from Harvard Law School.

Charlie Munger Sad Story

“I did not intend to get rich. I wanted to get independent, I just overshot!” – Charlie Munger

In 1949, Charlie Munger was 25 years old. He was hired at the law firm of Wright & Garrett for $3,300 per year, or $40,528 in inflation-adjusted dollars as of 2022. He had $1,500 in savings, equal to $18,422 now.

A few years later, in 1953, Charlie was 29 years old when he and his wife divorced. He had been married since he was 21.  Charlie lost everything in the divorce, his wife keeping the family home in South Pasadena. Munger moved into dreadful conditions at the University Club and drove a terrible yellow Pontiac, which his children said had a horrible paint job.  According to the biography written by Janet Lowe, Molly Munger asked her father, “Daddy, this car is just awful, a mess.  Why do you drive it?”  The broke Munger replied: “To discourage gold diggers.”

Shortly after the divorce, Charlie learned that his son, Teddy, had leukemia.  In those days, there was no health insurance, you just paid everything out of pocket and the death rate was near 100% since there was nothing doctors could do.  Rick Guerin, Charlie’s friend, said Munger would go into the hospital, hold his young son, and then walk the streets of Pasadena crying.

One year after the diagnosis, in 1955, Teddy Munger died.  Charlie was 31 years old, divorced, broke, and burying his 9 year old son.  Later in life, he faced a horrific operation that left him blind in one eye with pain so terrible that he eventually had his eye removed.

He ran into Buffett again at a dinner party in 1959 and started a 60 year friendship and later business partnership.

In 1962, Munger both founded and worked as a real estate attorney at the firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. He later gave up the practice of law to focus on managing investments. He also partnered with Otis Booth and got into real estate development.

Charlie Munger ran an investment partnership of his own from 1962 to 1975.  Munger’s investment partnership generated compound annual returns of +19.8% from 1962 to 1975 versus a +5.0% annual return rate for the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the same period.[3]

At 31 years old, Charlie Munger was divorced, broke, and burying his 9 year old son, who had died from cancer. By the time he was 69 years old, he had become one of the richest 400 people in the world, been married to his second wife for 35+ years, had eight wonderful children, countless grandchildren, and become one of the most respected business thinkers in history. He eventually achieved his dream of having a lot of money, a house full of books, and a huge family. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t face unbelievable challenges and tragedies. [1]

Charlie Munger Philosophy

Charlie Munger believes that by using a wide range of different mental models from different disciplines, like psychology, history, mathematics, physics, philosophy, biology, etc., a person can use the overlapping output of the aggregation to create results that is greater than the sum of its parts. He refers to his model as worldly wisdom.[2]

What can we learn from Charlie Munger?

Pursue your interests and where your work energy is. Play to your strengths in the world.

Go to bed every night a little wiser than you were when you woke up that morning. Never stop learning.

Find your own path in life.

Set aside about 20% of time every day to broaden your knowledge base and expand your expertise.

Model success, study what makes something successful and copy the principles.

Simple old fashioned values still work.

  • Family first.
  • Hard work.
  • Integrity and honesty.
  • Good communication.
  • Positive attitude.

Fill your mind with good ideas, not bad ones. Focus on what works and avoid negativity.

You must constantly evolve and grow to keep up in the world.

Always think like a business owner in every role you have.

Always have fun no matter what you are doing.

Charlie Munger Sad Story
Nick, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons