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If Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson all stood still long enough for you to pick their brains about money, what would you get? Susan Burchill sifts their words for clues to their wealth.

WARREN BUFFET

Investment guru, frugal old bloke; net worth $73 billion

  1. Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.

Take-away for us mere mortals: Research your financial decisions, don’t jump into things on a whim. Whether it’s signing up for a credit card or deciding how much to invest in a property or stock, read everything you can about your options. Find out what you could gain; and also what the worst possible outcome could be, and whether you could deal with that.

  1. It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.

Take-away: We all have friends who are good with money, and friends who are financial disasters waiting to happen. Spend as much time as you can with the savvy ones: buy them lunch, grill them mercilessly, watch and learn.

OPRAH WINFREY

Media mogul, actor, potential next president; net worth $3 billion

  1. I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.

Take-away: We’re all responsible for our financial futures. If we’re not good at money, we owe it to ourselves to read, consult experts and get better at it. (And never be embarrassed to ask questions.)

RICHARD BRANSON

Entrepreneur, Virgin founder, owns his own island; net worth $4.9 billion

  1. Material things are delightful, but they’re not important.

Take-away: If you can focus less on the material goods (those things the ads tell us will bring happiness and symbolise a “successful” life), you’ll have more savings as a buffer for a rainy day; and eventually, more money to put into making more money. And hard as it might be for some to believe, relief from money worries could make you happier than a new gadget.

  1. My philosophy is that if I have any money I invest it in new ventures and not have it sitting around.

Take-away: Once you have your emergency fund set aside for a rainy day/month/s, look at taking the excess out of your savings account and putting it into your offset account for your mortgage, to save on interest. Or you could ask your employer to salary sacrifice a monthly amount into your super. Or talk to a financial planner about investment options.

  1. I’m a bit like the Queen in that I don’t carry much cash.

Take-away: Limiting how much cash you withdraw each week is an essential part of a personal budget. And it’s harder to spend on things you don’t need if the cash isn’t in your wallet (and you leave the credit card at home).