You Don't Need Lunch With Warren Buffett to Get His Stock Picks

Why pay millions to win an auction to break bread with the billionaire investor when his best ideas are free for the taking.

You don't need to fork over millions of dollars to get investment ideas from Warren Buffett, even if it is for a good cause.

Every year, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (symbol: BRK.B (opens in new tab)) auctions off a private lunch with himself in order to raise money for the homeless of San Francisco. To get a sense of the stakes, last year's winning bid topped out at $3.5 million on eBay (EBAY (opens in new tab)). That tied a record from 2012. Bidding on this year's 18th Annual Power Lunch with Warren Buffett doesn't close until Friday, June 9 at 10:30 p.m. ET, so there's still time to set a new all-time high. As of Friday morning, bidding stood at $2 million, but there's usually a surge of bidding at the end of an eBay auction.

And did we mention it's for a good cause? Proceeds from the auction go to Glide (opens in new tab), which bills itself as a "radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization." Buffett's lunch auctions have raised $23.6 million for Glide over the past 17 years.

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It's most assuredly a worthy charity, but the winner of the auction presumably gets more than just a meal at Smith & Wollensky steak house in New York and a sense of self-satisfaction. He or she gets a chance to pick the Oracle of Omaha's brain for stocks to buy at a time when markets are notching all-time highs. If anyone can find bargains in today's pricey market, it's the world's greatest value investor.

But you don't need to spend millions to get stock tips from Buffett over lunch when you can glean his wisdom from publicly available regulatory we already have. For example, we know that Buffett is a big fan of Apple (AAPL (opens in new tab)). If that weren't enough of an imprimatur, the iPhone maker also happens to be one of the five favorite stocks of millionaires.

We also know that while Buffett is by no means a dividend investor exclusively, he does have a penchant for dividend stocks. Additionally, it's clear that he prefers big, stable companies that command substantial market share in their respective industries. That's partly why Buffett has been keen on the blue-chip stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The bottom line is you don't need to break bread with a billionaire -- or a millionaire for that matter -- in order to invest like a millionaire. Buffett himself has extolled the virtues of passive exchange-traded funds that track Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, such as the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF (VOO (opens in new tab)). And then, of course, you could just hand your money over to Buffett and let him take care of it. After all, there's no shortage of reasons to like shares in Berkshire Hathaway.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.