On the 4th May 2024 I was one of around 30,000 people attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. The completion of a personal bucket list item.

For those that are not aware, Berkshire Hathaway is the company effectively run by legendary investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.

It’s a huge investment company holding stock in the likes of Coca Cola, American Express, Chevron and Apple.

For over 60 years Buffett along with Charlie have been running Berkshire with returns well over the US S&P 500 stock index.

With Buffett being age 93 and Munger 98 at the time of booking the trip I did say to my colleague, I hope they both stay alive long enough for me to see them.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Munger who died aged 99 in November 2023. However, Buffett made it and it was fascinating to see and hear from a man who at age 93 still provides so much wisdom and economic analysis.

 

What you need to do before attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

 

Attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting is a chance to hear from Warren Buffett and other members of the senior management team as they take questions from shareholders.

It always takes place at the CHI Health Centre in Omaha, Nebraska which is an indoor arena that feels more like a place you would watch a music concert.

Omaha may sound like an odd place to stage such a big investing event, but it is the place Buffett was born and has spent the majority of his life.

Interestingly, even though he is thought to be one of the richest people in the world, he has supposedly lived in the same modest home in Omaha for over 60 years.

The event itself is spread over two days but the main reason everyone attends is to hear from the man himself.

Buffett answers questions for around three hours in the morning and another two hours in the afternoon. Very impressive for someone who is 93!

Not just anyone can be attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting though. To do so you need to be a shareholder.

At the time of booking the trip last year just one class A share in Berkshire was costing $486,000. Enough to put off most people. Luckily you can still get in if you own a class B share which were priced much lower at around $320. So I bought one of those via my Lifetime ISA.

There are no tickets as such, just a special lanyard confirming you are a shareholder and you can’t book your place at the event. You just need to show up on the day and que to get your lanyard and be allowed in.

In order to get your lanyard and be allowed in you need to prove you are a shareholder. To prove you are a shareholder you will need to get a proxy form from your broker.

For me, I must say my broker Hargreaves Lansdown provided excellent service when requesting my proof of share ownership from them. They requested the lanyard for me and had it posted directly to me from Omaha weeks before the event. This saved a lot of queuing time.

Actually, it’s a bit of a myth that you need to be a shareholder as the more research I did for the event I found that you could in fact purchase the lanyards on eBay! Whether this will still be allowed going forward who knows.

Me and a few colleagues were travelling from London Heathrow to Omaha. There were no direct flights to Omaha, so we had to fly to Chicago first and then a connecting flight to Omaha.

We then stayed in an Air BnB just around the corner from Warren Buffett’s house. We were just going to walk past the house but when we saw others taking pictures outside, we couldn’t resist a quick selfie.

We only stayed in Omaha for five days and on our return trip home we had to fly to Dallas first and then on to London. All in all, we spent time in four US states. The extra one being the fact we walked across the Missouri River which separates the states of Nebraska and Iowa.

 

What I learned from attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

 

My main take away from attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting was the fact there was so much love in the room. Everyone I met spoke glowingly about Buffett giving the impression he was like everyone’s favourite grandpa.

They say don’t meet your heroes, but I can’t imagine Buffett being anything but one of the kindest people you will meet.

There was also a lot of love for Charlie Munger especially from Buffett. You could see and hear just how much admiration Buffett had for him.

There was a very poignant video planned at the start of the meeting which showed the history of Buffett and Munger. It included some very funny clips of times they have appeared in sketches for famous comedy shows like The Office and Desperate Housewives.

Buffett is a very humble man. He doesn’t really take credit for anything and puts most of the success of Berkshire down to Munger and the team.

At the event the format of the Q and A session involved a mix of questions that have been sent in by shareholders and questions asked live from audience members.

It was amazing to see the variety of different people asking the questions, some old, young and from all over the world.

Most of the questions asked are for Buffett’s view on life rather than the ins and outs of Berkshire.

Here are some key lessons I took away from Buffett’s answers:

  1. When it comes to investing, you really need to understand what the business does and identify whether there will be a growing demand for it over the long term.
  2. Company accounts can be miss-leading.
  3. Look for anecdotal evidence. Are lots of people using the product or services the business sells?
  4. Spend time with people you love and enjoy and who will make you a better person.
  5. Never stop trying to learn.

 

Unless you have a real desire to visit Omaha you don’t actually need to be attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders meeting in person.

Nowadays you can catch all that was said by Buffett online and he always produces a letter to shareholders which is packed full of wisdom.

There are exhibition halls displaying stands and shops from some of the companies Berkshire invests in, so it is a chance to see these companies up close and find out about their products. The See’s Candies area was a particularly popular stand.

There can be lots of networking opportunities around the event though if that is something you are interested in although I advise planning and booking these in advance as many were full when we got there.

At the end of the Q and A session Buffett received a standing ovation from the entire crowd which must have gone on for nearly five minutes. It really was like being at a rock concert. Which other CEO gets that?!

Finally, as a side point and using Buffett’s anecdotal evidence philosophy, we had a brilliant experience using services from Uber and Air BnB. So easy and quick to arrange travel and accommodation these days.

The same sort of service cannot be said for American Airlines and the dreadful experience that is air travel. An industry ripe for disruption.

If you would like to stress test your retirement plans or even to get a plan in place then please get in touch for a free no obligation 15-minute call. We would be happy to review your position, explain where you stand and what you need to do to get the outcome you desire. We have created hundreds of happy and protected retirements over the years. This could be you too.

Risk warning:

Stock market linked investments and any income from them, can fall as well as rise and is not guaranteed. Any figures quoted are for illustrative purposes and should not be taken as a forecast or guarantee. Past performance should not be seen as an indication of future returns and clients may get back less than they have invested.