Billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes that the U.S. will emerge from the current economic recession "stronger than ever," but he said the behavior of the American consumer may be forever changed.
"We were on a binge before," the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview. "I mean, we are not saving extraordinary sums now but the savings behavior has changed. ... I don't necessarily think that we will go back to behaving the way that we were two years ago."
The man known as the "Oracle from Omaha" because of his history of successful investments, shared his top three pieces of advice for average Americans who want to grow their savings and keep their money safe.
Number one: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
Number two: "Always look at how much the other guy is making if he is trying to sell you something."
Number three: Don't go into debt.
"Stay away from leverage," he said. "Nobody ever goes broke that doesn't owe money."
The "binge," he said, was fueled largely by over-borrowing by both individuals and companies.
"The U.S. public as a whole has gotten into problems from leverage, financial institutions have gotten into problems through leverage," he said. "A long, long time ago a friend said to me about leverage, 'If you're smart you don't need it, and if you're dumb, you got no business using it.'"
At a time when many college graduates face uncertain futures and are struggling to find jobs, Buffett said he still believes that "investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents. And I always advise students to do that, high school students, college students and obviously investing in your children is, in some ways, investing in yourself."
No matter what happens in the economy, "if you have true talent yourself, and you have maximized your talent, you have a terrific asset."
Buffett showed some support for the idea of a second economic stimulus package, but cautioned that it should be handled differently to restore the American public's confidence.
The number of earmarks included in the bill were "part of what has affected the American psyche," he said. "When we go on and we talk about earmarks and that sort of thing, and then we get the kind of behavior we've got, I mean, that is not reassuring to the American public."
He called the first stimulus "like taking half a tablet of Viagra and having also a bunch of candy mixed in, you know, as if everybody was putting in enough for their own constituents."
He also cautioned that the American public will have to be patient and give the economy time to recover, particularly when it comes to the surplus of houses on the market that resulted from overbuilding.
"The American public will get disappointed, but it is going to take time to work through the overhang of houses, for example," he said. "You can't cure that in a day or a week or a month, so a stimulus doesn't cure that."
Buffett also expressed confidence in Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and dismissed rumors that the Fed chief may not return once his current term is up at the end of the year.