Skip Navigation

A Further Look | Dec 19, 2023

What Can We Learn from the Lives of Charlie Munger and Henry Kissinger?

David B. Root, Jr.


Last month, two iconic figures who personified American exceptionalism died on consecutive days.

Charlie Munger, who became a billionaire investor as part of an extraordinarily successful partnership with Warren Buffet, was born in the heartland of Nebraska. Henry Kissinger and his family immigrated to the United States in 1938 to escape Nazi Germany. He was a student and a professor at Harvard, and later became a dominant figure in American foreign policy as secretary of state as well as national security adviser for decades.

Both served in World War II, and both were able to take advantage of opportunities for education and further advancement that America offered its citizens. They seized the opportunity to contribute to our country’s collective power and leverage it to their benefit. Munger invested wisely in promising companies that could be bought at a fair price. Munger’s free market acumen was largely based on what Einstein called the miracle of compounding, or the power of duration. Sometimes as investors, we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of short-term thinking. It is only by thinking long-term that we can ultimately create something worth having when we arrive at our goal.

While this has proven to be a successful approach in investing, it might also be applied to diplomacy where meaningful alliances are forged over time. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s policies aren’t set up to consider the long-term; elections come and go, annual budgets are typically just compared to the previous year, and most of our government’s focus lies in immediate challenges.

However, one enduring rule that remains fundamental over time, is that a country’s power and its citizens’ prosperity are tied together. The spirit of entrepreneurship, which is the engine of America, depends on private investment and individual talent. This creates a strong economy, on which national security, military readiness and diplomatic power depend.

Munger and Kissinger both showed us that when you are the citizen of a country that provides opportunities, whether born here as an immigrant, good fortune is attainable in the short term. Then it is up to the individual to work for enduring success. One thing remains constant in America: people with talent and an appetite for work find opportunity to succeed.

Munger once said that getting to your first $100,000 in savings is the hardest part. Once you have reached this milestone, it becomes easier to acquire more wealth. It’s true that earning money can be hard, but managing it is even harder. It requires a lot of hard work and discipline.

While we face many roadblocks today - rising interest rates, a lingering pandemic threat, tough job market, the specter of a recession and the emotional angst of an upcoming election season – there is always a way forward. It’s why firms like ours exist. It requires helping you put a plan in place, then working hard to see it through while having a day-to-day focus. As long as America is the land of the free and full of opportunity, there is always reason for hope.

Wishing you and your family a joyous holiday season.

Thanks for reading.

This material has been provided for general, informational purposes only, represents only a summary of the topics discussed, and is not suitable for everyone. The information contained herein should not be construed as personalized investment advice or recommendations. Rather, they simply reflect the opinions and views of the author. D. B. Root & Company, LLC. does not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Before making decisions with legal, tax, or accounting ramifications, you should consult appropriate professionals for advice that is specific to your situation. There can be no assurance that any particular strategy or investment will prove profitable. This document contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such sources, and take no responsibility therefore. This document contains certain forward-looking statements signaled by words such as "anticipate," "expect", or "believe" that indicate future possibilities. Due to known and unknown risks, other uncertainties and factors, actual results may differ materially from the expectations portrayed in such forward-looking statements. As such, there is no guarantee that the expectations, beliefs, views and opinions expressed in this document will come to pass. Information presented herein is subject to change without notice and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure or guarantee better performance and cannot eliminate the risk of investment losses. The impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 on the economy is highly uncertain. Valuations and economic data may change more rapidly and significantly than under standard market conditions. COVID-19 has and will continue based on economic forecasts to have a material impact on the US and global economy for an unknown period.

David B. Root, Jr.


Founder & Chief Executive Officer

How Can We Help?