Warren Buffett & the Perfect House Gift

Gift boxAll I wanted was three boxes of toffee sent to my daughter as a house gift. This was because my daughter, who has exquisite taste in many things including candy, is particularly fond of See’s Toffee-ettes. I discovered this on a visit to her house, when I was about to withdraw a toffee from the See’s box on the counter. “Watch it,” remarked her gentleman friend; “you don’t want to be taking the last one.”

My daughter, it seems, had brought a box back from a trip to San Francisco some time ago, and rationed them carefully out to herself. Down to the final toffee, she walked in from a long day and reached into the box. Turning upon her mild-mannered gentleman friend she said: “YOU. ATE. MY. LAST. TOFFEE-ETTE? I cannot believe you did that!! My LAST toffee-ette.” It was reportedly a very bad scene. But soon afterwards a package arrived from the See’s people (via the gentleman friend), containing three boxes of Toffee-ettes, and harmony was restored.

Back in San Francisco, the motherland of chocolate and toffee, I knew exactly what I wanted to send for a house gift. I went immediately to the store, found the toffee and placed the order; anyone who has ever found The Perfect Gift will know how supreme was my self-satisfaction.

Weeks later, curious as to why I hadn’t heard anything, I learned that no house gift had appeared. More weeks passed as I struggled to trace the order. Equipped with sales ticket, order number and a clutch of stapled-together slips of paper, I pleaded with the local store manager (“You’ll have to deal with the online order department”) and the online order department (“You need to go back to the store”) in an ongoing comedy of errors that was not funny at all. More days went by.Toffee-ettes

“Maybe you should call Warren Buffett,” my husband remarked.

“Warren Buffett?”

“Sure. The story is he bought See’s because he liked their candy.”

Well, this reporter was unable to confirm that story… but Buffett undoubtedly likes the company. Berkshire Hathaway bought it in 1972 for $25 million. Today it brings in more than three times that much every year in earnings. My daughter and I certainly do our part to help.

Whether or not Mary See – the smiling, bespectacled lady on the candy boxes – had the Toffee-ettes recipe in her collection when she helped her son Charles open the first store, in Los Angeles, in 1921, is also unconfirmed. But likely; Mary did know her candies.

Somebody, somewhere eventually found my order and started a new shipment, which reached my daughter approximately two months after my visit.

We want to believe the original shipment went to Warren Buffett.

Aging brains can still follow the $$

day in the life: lunch money

Image by emdot via Flickr

Balancing the checkbook isn’t as easy as it used to be? You can’t remember where you put the keys? OhmyGOODness, you say, I must be getting old.

The bad news is, age happens. The good news is, it does not necessarily bring a concurrent loss in cognitive ability. Get a new calculator, maybe one with a bigger keypad. Accept the fact that you’ve been misplacing the keys, occasionally, since you started driving.  And take heart in a new study from Duke University indicating that, all things considered, age is not a determining feature in the ability to make sound economic decisions.

Just because your mother has turned 85, you shouldn’t assume you’ll have to take over her financial matters. She may be just as good or better than you at making quick, sound, money-making decisions, according to researchers at Duke University.

“It’s not age, it’s cognition that makes the difference in decision-making,” said Scott Huettel, PhD, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Duke Center for Neuroeconomic Studies. He recently led a laboratory study in which participants could gain or lose money based on their decisions.

“Once we accounted for cognitive abilities like memory and processing speed, age had nothing to do with predicting whether an individual would make the best economic decisions on the tasks we assigned,” Huettel said.

The study was published in the Psychology and Aging journal, published by the American Psychological Association.

Working with 54 older adults between 66 and 76 years old, and 58 younger adults between 18 and 35, the Duke researchers assigned a variety of economic tasks that required different types of risky decisions, so that participants could gain or lose real money.

On a bell curve of performance, there was overlap between the younger and older groups. Many of the older subjects (aged 66 to 76) made similar decisions to many of the younger subjects (aged 18 to 35). “The stereotype of all older adults becoming more risk-averse is simply wrong,” Huettel said.

Getting to the heart — and brain — of the issue, PositScience blogger Ted Baxa says “this finding will come as no surprise to many.  Legendary investor Warren Buffett, 79, continues to outperform fund managers half his age.  The message to take from this article is that age by itself, as the saying goes, is just a number.”

When you finish with the checkbook, in other words, you might want to get busy on your brain exercises.

Cognitive Ability, Not Age, Predicts Risky Decisions – DukeHealth.org.