Jimmy Buffett's Life Is Nothing Like It Seems

Times have changed for this sailor man. Jimmy Buffett, once a folk-singing busker playing for drinks and a place to stay, is now better recognizable as a brand unto himself. That brand is worth a whole lot more than name recognition, too. According to Forbes in 2016, the songwriter-turned-business magnate is reportedly worth $550 million — a truly epic number for somebody who came up espousing a lifestyle of tipping back beer bottles with your feet up while you're puffing on a joint. 

Rather than continue to be the character of Jimmy Buffett, the increasingly-wealthy musician compartmentalized, keeping the trappings of the beach bum in his businesses while moving on to a much more lavish life for himself. Turns out all of the people getting wasted away again in Margaritaville are financing quite the fancy lifestyle for the son of a son of a sailor. How extravagantly is Jimmy Buffett living now? It's much more extreme than he wants you to believe. Read on to find out why Jimmy Buffett's life these days is nothing like it seems. 

He's backed off the margaritas...

Jimmy Buffett has built his whole career around the mighty margarita — but would you believe he rarely imbibes them himself anymore? It's true — while the ambassador of the island lifestyle may have spent plenty of time at the bottom of a Cuervo bottle, he's mostly hung up the habit in his personal life. It's not because he's stopped drinking — he still will tip back a little tequila on occasion — but his relationship with refined sugar is permanently on the rocks.

"I don't do sugar anymore," he said in a revealing interview with The New York Times. "No sugar and no carbs. Except on Sunday."

...and the weed

In the past, Buffett has been associated with marijuana almost as much as the likes of Willie Nelson, Bob Marley, and Snoop Dogg, but it's not a habit he's kept up with as the years have gone on. Even in the '90s, he had started to change his mind on drugs in general, sharing with Rolling Stone that his thoughts on partying have changed as he's gotten older. 

"I had a great time," he said of his past years as a hard partier. "Then people start dying, you know. And having nervous breakdowns. And then you go, 'Wait a minute here.'"

As part of dialing back his overall drug dabbling, Buffett apparently retired marijuana from his rotation. He's not a total bummer, these days, though — while he's stopped smoking reefer, he still vapes oils every once in awhile, getting much more of a bang out of each little puff with less of the outlaw smell attached. 

He's chummy with Warren Buffett (no relation)

Tons of people worldwide share the same surnames, but the number of people who share vast wealth is a whole lot smaller. As it turns out, Jimmy Buffett and the billionaire investor Warren Buffett have both gotten curious about the possibility of being distant relatives, based solely on the facts that their names sound similar and they've both made a lot of money. They've been so curious, in fact, that they've actually indulged in DNA testing to determine whether or not they need to start inviting each other to family cookouts. 

According to the results of their testing, it turns out neither Buffett is related to the other, at least not closely enough for it to matter. Regardless, the two one-percenters stayed chummy with each other, with the elder Buffett imparting financial wisdom down to the wealthy guitarist. To this day, Jimmy refers to his same name peer as "Uncle Warren," with Warren calling his young protégé "Cousin Jimmy."

Traveling by air and sea

Buffett became famous for combining man with myth, singing songs about the seaside, beach bum lifestyle while literally residing in a boat. These days, Buffett spends his time on the open water purely at leisure, on one of the nine different boats that he's owned over the years. Since the '70s, he's gone from a 33-foot Cheoy Lee Ketch to a luxurious 124-foot yacht. That vessel, the Continental Drifter III, has been available for rent, six-man crew and all, for the low, low price of $65,000 a week. Apparently you don't get to a net worth of $550 million without seeing the financial opportunity in everything.

While Buffett doesn't get high as often anymore, he does get airborne, with a small fleet of planes available to him owned by his corporation Strange Bird Inc. His adventures in the sky are much more lavish now than they were in his outlaw days, when he was rumored to be a drug runner. Now he jets around with other millionaires and billionaires in the entertainment industry, a regular treetop flyer soaring in and out of paradise at a whim.

Where do you live?

When he's not out on tour singing songs from St. Somewhere, Buffett hangs his hat at a number of opulent residences around the country and beyond. Though he's secretive about the finer details of some of his properties, he owns an $8.25 million Beverly Hills estate, an apartment in New York City's Time Warner Center, a multi-residence compound in the Hamptons, and three homes in Palm Beach, Florida — two of which sit directly across the street from each other.

The first few properties are the sort of thing one would expect from someone in Buffett's financial position. Who wouldn't want to live right off Central Park, or live in an exclusive California zip code with a salt water pool in the backyard? No, what really raises eyebrows are the three Palm Beach houses, purchased by the singer in 2002, 2011, and 2013. According to local rumor, the third home is just for storing Buffett's surfboards.  

And these are just the mainland properties. Of course Buffett, an advocate of the island lifestyle, owns a home on the Caribbean island of St. Bart as well. 

He has his own Broadway musical

You know you've made it as a musician once Broadway comes calling.

Buffett is one of the very rare musicians who has a massive enough audience, a wide enough catalog, and an interesting enough life story-slash-legend to provide the book and score for a whole musical — in Buffett's case, Escape to Margaritaville

Featuring 25 songs from the songwriter's catalog alongside two new ones, Escape to Margaritaville tells the story of a charming bar singer in a ramshackle Caribbean hotel whose heart gets stolen by a tourist passing through. When the show made its preview debut in February of 2018, apparently the only kink that needed to be worked out was on the service side, because the sold-out debut show ran out of margaritas for the thirsty crowd.

He's growing older but not up

Another one of Buffett's latest business endeavors, and maybe the strangest of them, is launching a line of Jimmy Buffett-themed retirement communities. That's right — Margaritaville is now an old folk's home, and it's launching seemingly just in time for the fans who've been with him since the beginning to move in. The first community, intended for residents aged 55 and up, is set to open in Daytona Beach in 2018

As odd as it is to hear about, it starts sounding like a pretty sweet way to go out, the more you think about it. Plans for the communities include resort-style living with restaurants on the premises, live entertainment, fitness classes, and presumably a liquor cabinet located in every hallway between the first aid kit and the defibrillator.

According to Forbes, thousands of people have already registered for spots in the debut location, which is set to feature 7,000 homes. If that turns out to be true when it opens, it certainly sounds like we'll be seeing more than one Latitude Margaritaville on the coastlines of America by the time Buffet's story is through. And why not? It doesn't sound like the worst way to spend one's golden years. If you've devoted this many decades to living like a parrothead, you may as well take that ride to the very end of the line.

Plenty to drink

No one needs to be told what the primary export of Margaritaville is. In 1999, Buffett took control of his own supply chain, launching his own brand of tequilas in partnership with Seagram Wine & Spirits Group. His brand, Margaritaville Spirits, includes all the island necessities — dark, silver, spiced, and coconut rums, silver and gold tequila, triple sec, and some fruity liqueurs. 

On the beer side, Buffett is also the man behind Landshark Lager, a product of Anheuser-Busch sold as a product of the Margaritaville Brewing Company. When it comes to packing a cooler, Buffett now offers everything you need for a day at the beach up to and including drinking glasses — and naturally, he also sells plenty of leisurely flotation devices for your time spent just off shore.

Bringing his dreams to the real world

Of course, the biggest difference between the Jimmy Buffett of yesterday and the Jimmy Buffett of today is that the modern-day Buffett has brought all of his most fanciful dreams to life. 

Where the old Jimmy Buffett sang of Margaritaville as a destination of the mind, now you really can literally travel there — "there" being any one of the 20-odd Margaritaville locations across eight different countries. There are restaurants nestled on cruise ships, and landlocked locations with casinos and hotels. If you can't reach any of these destinations, there's always the SiriusXM Radio Margaritaville station, beaming good vibes and great tunes through the very air to you, wherever you are. 

Quietly and unassumingly, and while constantly touring, Buffett has built a business empire that will last, selling a dream to his customers that he's already long achieved. He's aware how strange his life story is, and despite the massive wealth he's gained, he's committed to keeping the illusion of low-key island living alive for his many fans. In an interview with The New York Times, he acknowledged the peculiar trickiness of his tightrope act. "The glue that holds this thing together is authenticity," he said. "People can smell it if it isn't real."