Warren Buffett urges investors to get an early start

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday morning, and he urged people to start investing in the first 10 years of their working life.

For nearly everyone, he said, the best choice today is a low-cost mutual fund that mirrors the U.S. economy through a stock index.

His advice came two days after Berkshire shareholders held their annual meeting in Omaha.

Buffett said the reported misuse of personal data on Facebook was “a very, very important issue,” saying trying to suppress voting by people was “counter-democratic.”

He also said Wells Fargo was working to resolve problems and likely will out-perform its competitors in the next 10 years.

Berkshire owns 9.9 percent of Wells Fargo and, as a passive investor, does not control the bank’s operations, Buffett said.

That’s true of Berkshire’s other stock holdings, he said.

“If you’re having trouble with your Apple phone, don’t blame me,” he said.

Buffett reiterated his distaste for crypto currency, saying its price is determined only by whether someone else is more excited to own it.

The same thing happened with tulip bulbs and could happen with sharks’ teeth or seashells, he said.

Answering a question from interviewer Becky Quick, Buffett said he hopes the price of Apple stock drops so Apple will buy back more of its stock. That would make Berkshire’s ownership share, now about 5 percent, even bigger.

“I clearly like Apple,” Buffett said. “I’d love to own 100 percent of it.”

Buffett said Berkshire would buy a $100 billion business if he liked it.

Buffett said packaged food companies are still a good business, but not as good as 10 or 15 years ago.

That’s partly because people are trying new foods and partly because retailers are gaining strength compared with brand name companies like Kraft-Heinz, which is about 26 percent owned by Berkshire.

“You’ve got to win with the consumer,” Buffett said.

Also scheduled to appear on the program later were Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a member of the board of directors.

Gates said he doesn’t own other technology stocks to avoid conflicts with the Microsoft stock he owns, but he has a “fantasy portfolio” to determine if he still has his “predictive powers.”

Asked about the appointment of Ajit Jain and Greg Abel as vice chairmen of Berkshire, Gates said: “You just have three great business minds managing 50 business entities.”

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