Leadership

How the same first job shaped Warren Buffett, Jack Bogle and Walt Disney's views and careers

Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., prepares to throw a newspaper as he tours the exhibition floor prior to the start of the Berkshire shareholders meeting on Saturday, May 4, 2013. 
Daniel Acker | Getty Images
Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., prepares to throw a newspaper as he tours the exhibition floor prior to the start of the Berkshire shareholders meeting on Saturday, May 4, 2013. 

Self-made billionaire Warren Buffett had plenty of side hustles as a kid, ranging from selling sticks of gum and used golf balls to launching a thriving pinball machine empire, but it was his job as a paperboy that may have left the longest-lasting impression on the entrepreneur.

Going door-to-door delivering newspapers in the 1940s not only helped Buffett earn $2,000 by the time he was 15 years old, it taught him the value of waking up early and working hard in order to advance.

Buffett’s longtime friend and legendary investor Jack Bogle, as well as celebrity animator Walt Disney, also worked as paperboys when they were young. Here's what they learned in the process.

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., right, and Bill Gates, chairman and co-founder of Microsoft Corp., participate in a newspaper toss event at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting on Saturday, May 5, 2012.
Daniel Acker | Getty Images
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., right, and Bill Gates, chairman and co-founder of Microsoft Corp., participate in a newspaper toss event at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

Warren Buffett

The Oracle of Omaha actually spent much of his childhood in Washington, D.C., where his father was a Republican congressman. Throughout middle and high school, Buffett got up every day before 5 a.m. — even during holidays like Christmas — to deliver the Washington Post. Notably, his route included six senators and one Supreme Court justice.

By the time he was 14, he had three paper routes and earned $175 a month. That year, Buffett had to file his first federal income tax return, having earned $592.50 in 1944 (the IRS required all U.S. citizens, even minors, who made more than $500 file a return.) And by 15, he had saved what the average American had earned in a year, according to economics reporter Barry Wood.

"I learned, frankly, that if you did a good job, you were gonna move up. The very fact that I did a good job in Spring Valley got me the Westchester routes later on," Buffett told Wood in a 2015 interview.

"I was fortunate in that I was here during probably the most interesting period you could probably be here in Washington, during World War II. I delivered the papers when Roosevelt died and when the atomic bomb dropped."

From 2012 to 2017, Buffett paid homage to his past with a newspaper-throwing contest at his annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. He currently owns the Omaha World-Herald and was once the largest shareholder of the Washington Post.

John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group.
Mark Peterson | Getty Images
John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group.

Jack Bogle

Vanguard founder and retired CEO Jack Bogle created the very first index fund in 1976 and has accumulated a net worth of somewhere in the low eight figures. But in the 1940s, a 9-year-old Bogle took on his very first job as a paperboy to help support his family, which had lost most of their money during the Great Depression.

That allowed Bogle, as he put it, the "staggering advantage of having to work for everything I got."

“When you have to earn money, you like to earn money. It’s not a job," Bogle said in 2014. "I started working at the age of 9, delivering newspapers and magazines around the neighborhood on my little bicycle and making money that way. I’ve been working ever since."

In high school, Bogle went on to be the editor of the yearbook and co-editor of the newspaper.

“I learned you work for what you get, and I feel sorry for people who haven’t had that upbringing,” Bogle said.

Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Walt Disney

While living in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1911, the future entrepreneur helped his father, Elias Disney, with his newspaper route, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum.

"My father had a newspaper route and I helped him, getting up at 3:30 every morning and delivering papers till 6:00, after which I hurried home for breakfast and went to school," Disney wrote in a 1965 article for Railroad Magazine. "This lasted for six years. During that time I missed a total of one month from the work, on account of illness. I was rather proud of my record, though."

Disney recalled how, at age 10, he had to plow through several feet of snow during winter mornings and had to sneak in naps before going to school. He persisted until he was 15, when his father sold the route, at which point he got a job selling soda and snacks to passengers on commuter trains. And Disney, like Bogle and Buffett, got involved in newspapers himself. He joined his high school paper and began dreaming up a career as a cartoonist.

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