investing

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) 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). 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, 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.

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 filings...as we already have. For example, we know that Buffett is a big fan of Apple (AAPL). 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). 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.

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