The world's richest man, legendary investor Warren Buffett, tells VOA that despite a deep financial and economic crisis, he believes American stocks are cheap and he is optimistic about the longer-term future.

Warren Buffett is not your usual tycoon.

Two years ago, he announced he would give most of his fortune, over $30 billion, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds education and healthcare projects in the developing world.

In business, Buffett is also unusual. He remains a buy and hold investor.

"I never know. I don't predict stocks or business in terms of what it is going to do in the next month or year, because I don't know," Buffett said.

The 78-year-old Sage of Omaha, Nebraska speaks simply. For example, in a down or bear market, he says, the tide goes out and fraudulent investors are exposed as swimming naked. 

He mentions New York's Bernard Madoff, accused of masterminding the world's biggest investment fraud.

"Where people don't pay much attention during a bull [up] market, everybody is happy and they don't look too hard at things. And we now find out that we've had a nudist beach in Wall Street and some other places," Buffett said.

In Washington for a corporate board meeting, Buffett has no regrets about buying stocks three months ago when they cost more than they do today.

He says the secret to success is being fearful when investors are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.

"They're fearful. They're fearful. And they may be fearful a year from now, two years from now," he said.

Although he says there is nothing positive happening in the U.S. economy now, he remains optimistic about America's longer-term future.

Less than a year ago, Buffett replaced his friend, computer pioneer Bill Gates, as the world's richest man. How does it feel to be at the top?

"It doesn't change my life at all. Obviously, I can buy anything I want to buy," he explains. "I have an airplane, which makes my life easier. But leave that out of the picture, I'd probably live like someone who makes $150,000 a year."

Almost 10 years ago, Buffett announced that his three children would inherit only a small portion of his assets. "I see no reason why somebody that happens to win the ovarian lottery and come out of the right womb is entitled to fan themselves for the next fifty years..." he stated.

Buffett resides in the midwewstern city of Omaha, Nebraska, his home for over four decades.