Warren Buffett: Why I Don’t Put $100 Billion in the S&P Index

Warren Buffett: Why I Don’t Put $100 Billion in the S&P Index

Renowned investor Warren Buffett, often regarded as the “Oracle of Omaha”, has long made strategic financial decisions that have yielded extraordinary results. Among these, one particular approach stands out: his decision to keep a substantial amount of Berkshire Hathaway’s capital in cash rather than investing it all in the S&P 500 Index. If you’ve ever wondered why one of the world’s most successful investors opts for this strategy, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we delve into the reasons behind Buffett’s strategy, exploring how it contributes to flexibility and resilience in the face of fluctuating market conditions. We’ll unpack the advantages of maintaining liquid assets. While Buffett recommends that the best strategy for most investors is to buy and hold the S&P 500 index for the long term, he explains in the below transcript why that’s not usually the best strategy for Berkshire Hathaway.

Whether you’re an aspiring investor, a seasoned financial professional, or someone intrigued by the strategic insights of a legendary figure, continue reading to discover the wisdom behind Warren Buffett’s approach to financial management and investment. It’s an opportunity to glean insights from Buffett’s time-tested strategies and understand why the most valuable skill for your portfolio could sometimes be patience and a hefty cash reserve.

Below is a transcript of Warren Buffett’s statement when asked why he doesn’t keep Berkshire Hathway’s cash in the S&P 500 index. [1]

Becky Quick of CNBC asked, “Some of them said, ‘Is 20 billion still the amount that you feel comfortable holding?’ Others asked, ‘If you’ve got all this and you’re telling all of us to put our money in S&P Index, why don’t you put that 100 billion dollars in S&P Index?’

Warren Buffett replied, “That wouldn’t be the dumbest thing in the world if we did, but that’s a lot to move in and out. No Index Fund would take it. I mean, to start with, knowing that we would want to, might want to yank out 50 billion of it out in a week, so we’d almost have to create our own Index Fund to do it.”

Becky Quick interjected, “It wouldn’t be hard.”

Buffett continued, “Well, it’d be a fair amount. I mean, they’re better set up to do it than we are to buy 500 stocks in the proper proportions and keep it indexed, but we could create something that was a quasi-index fund and that would have been smarter than what we’ve done, Becky.”

Buffett always admits when someone points out how he could have done better when they use hindsight bias. However, he knows his strategy and edge, executes it with discipline, and doesn’t try to predict the future. He looks at probabilities and risks. He runs Berkshire Hathaway’s cash reserve capital and not his own personal portfolio. His personal portfolio is almost all Berkshire stock.

Why Buffett Can’t Keep Berkshire Hathaway’s Cash in the S&P 500 Index

Warren Buffett keeps a significant amount of Berkshire Hathaway’s assets in cash or cash equivalents rather than investing all of it in the S&P 500 Index. Here are some of the primary reasons:

  1. Liquidity: Buffett often keeps a significant amount of cash on hand to ensure that he has the liquidity necessary to take advantage of investment opportunities as they arise.
  2. Flexibility: Keeping cash allows for greater flexibility. It allows making significant investments on short notice without selling off any assets.
  3. Market Downturns: Having cash allows Buffett to take advantage of market downturns. When prices fall, he can buy undervalued companies or stocks, which can generate significant returns in the future. If fully invested in the S&P 500 index, he would not have the cash to take advantage of bear markets because his capital would be trapped in the downtrend.
  4. Risk Management: Keeping a large amount of cash can be a form of risk management. It can act as a buffer against unexpected financial difficulties or market downturns.
  5. Debt Repayment: A cash reserve enables Berkshire Hathaway to repay any outstanding debts or meet other financial obligations as they arise.
  6. Investment in Businesses: Buffett prefers to invest in businesses directly rather than index funds. He looks for businesses with solid fundamentals and the potential for long-term growth, which may offer greater returns than the S&P 500 Index.
  7. Acquisitions: Berkshire Hathaway often acquires other companies. Having a large amount of cash on hand allows Buffett to make these acquisitions without raising additional funds.
  8. Economic Uncertainty: During periods of economic uncertainty, Buffett tends to hold more cash. This is a defensive strategy designed to protect Berkshire Hathaway from potential losses.
  9. Insurance Claims: Berkshire Hathaway owns several insurance companies. Cash on hand ensures they can cover insurance claims even in adverse circumstances.
  10. Bargaining Power: When Berkshire Hathaway has a large amount of cash, it can act as a form of bargaining power in business negotiations. Other companies may be more willing to negotiate favorable terms with Berkshire Hathaway, knowing it has the cash to back up its commitments.

Key Takeaways

  • Maintaining Liquid Assets: Buffett finds it crucial to have substantial liquidity on hand to seize on unanticipated investment possibilities that crop up.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility is a prized advantage. Significant cash holdings can provide the agility to make sizable investments at short notice.
  • Exploiting Market Fluctuations: When markets hit low, cash-rich investors like Buffett can capitalize by buying undervalued entities, which might offer lucrative returns in the long run.
  • Guarding Against Risk: Holding a large cash reserve is a sensible risk mitigation strategy, buffering against unexpected fiscal challenges or market fluctuations.
  • Servicing Debt Obligations: Cash reserves aid in meeting financial commitments, including debt repayment, without additional fundraising.
  • Direct Business Investments: Buffett opts to inject capital into promising businesses over index funds, seeking out companies with robust fundamentals and long-term growth potential.
  • Company Acquisitions: Having ready cash allows the potential for outright company acquisitions without external fundraising.
  • Weathering Economic Instability: In uncertain economic climates, a defensive strategy includes holding additional cash to safeguard against possible losses.
  • Insurance Payouts: As an owner of several insurance firms, cash on hand ensures that claims can be covered even under unfavorable conditions.
  • Negotiation Leverage: Large cash reserves can enhance bargaining power in business deals, leading to more advantageous terms.


Warren Buffett’s approach to managing the enormous capital of Berkshire Hathaway involves strategic choices that prioritize adaptability, risk mitigation, and leveraging market opportunities. By maintaining a sizable cash reserve, Buffett ensures he’s always prepared to seize investment opportunities, weather economic uncertainties, meet financial obligations, and leverage in negotiations. This stance reveals an inherent wisdom: while immediate gains can be alluring, the real value often lies in long-term planning and the power of patient capital. Buffett’s approach underscores the value of having a clear investment strategy, robust risk management, and the foresight to exploit market conditions, demonstrating why he is revered as one of the world’s most successful investors.