On a whim, I decided to attend the Berkshire meeting this year. I’m not getting any younger (36). Buffett (87) & Munger (94) aren’t either.
I live in the Midwest, so this is an easy trip for me.
I created a Facebook account (which I’ve since deleted) for the sole reason to find out where the ChooseFI folks were going to meet up. It turns out they were meeting on Friday night. The Berkshire meeting was on Saturday.
The meetup was at a burger joint in Omaha. I walk in the door and I’m in personal finance geek heaven. Mr Money Mustache & Brad from ChooseFI were there with the entourage of groupies. I randomly sat down next to Michael who runs the blog https://uncommondream.com/ and had an hour long conversation with him. The dude is impressive. Co-owner of a successful business. FI at 37. Father of two kids. Learning Spanish. Has taken his family to Ecuador on two three month stints. About to take his family on a 15-18 month stint in Costa Rica / Ecuador so his kids can learn Spanish & learn a new culture. Wants to write a book & record an album in the next few years. Meeting him gave me a glimpse of what financial freedom means…the ability to manufacture one’s life how one pleases, in the pursuit of things far more valuable than material pursuits. Got to meet several other cool folks at that meetup.
Given that I attended on relatively short notice, my options for lodging on Friday night were limited. Airbnb produced the following results. The law of supply and demand can be a *(&$# sometimes.
I’m atypical. And by atypical I mean a stingy dude. After some quick googling, I found out I could sleep on the ground for $12 in Northern Omaha. So I did that on Friday.
After a couple hours of sleep, I awoke at 4:20am, cooked myself some oatmeal, then took off to the Superbowl for finance nerds.
To save myself a massive $8 parking charge, I parked in another state. Rationalizing this behavior, I calculated the future value of $8 in 50 years from now. Assuming a 7% return, the future value of $8 is probably infinity. I proceeded to run from Iowa to Nebraska at 5:30am. There were some drunks on the pedestrian overpass over the Missouri River and I briefly worried about getting stabbed to death and thrown over the bridge. Luckily that didn’t happen.
At 5:35am, I arrive to the arena and see perhaps the weirdest group of individuals I’ve seen in my life. A bunch of finance nerds willing to travel across the world to see the Oracle of Omaha in person. I struck up a conversation with a dude in his 50s and another in his 60s from Connecticut and Kansas, respectively.
After sunrise. Still waiting.
The doors eventually open, and I run into Mr 1500 himself. The hilarious blogger who is best known for being a spendthrift NSX purchaser, drawing mean cartoons of his angry wife, purchasing trailer parks, and posing nearly nude for the purpose of fitness tracking. After seeing him, I awkwardly invite myself to hang out with him and his entourage of friends including these awesome people who I had the pleasure of meeting. Everyone was a blast to hang out with. It was great seeing Mr 1500 diligently taking notes during the entirety of the meeting, his 6th consecutive annual pilgrimage to Omaha if I remember correctly. Mr Planting our Pennies is doing a bunch of interesting things this year, including headed to Patagonia, burning man, and building a race car.
The rare non-nude photo of Mr 1500.
After a disappointing experience at security in which they confiscated an empty water bottle and a perfectly good non-explosive apple (but luckily not my bag of pistachios or slices of bread, my old standby for when I’m too lazy to make a sandwhich), I was elated to see that I was more than compensated with upon entering.
I’m generally a pretty healthy eater, but some primitive region of my brain tells me that it’s a sin to turn down free food. I do the same for Costco samples.
Before the meeting formally starts, they show a bunch of videos. This one was my favorite by a mile.
Finally, the main act. Buffet (left). Munger (Right). Gates (hideous yellow green sweater in front row). Combined net worth of Buffett & Gates is a cool $175B.
At intermission I perused the Berkshire empire in the adjoining convention center.
Walking back to Iowa to retrieve my car, where I feared being murdered by drunks a few hours prior.
For anyone crazy enough to join me next year, I’ll likely do it again. The only prerequisite is that you 1.) get yourself to Omaha, 2.) bring the pass (each shareholder is entitled to 4 passes or you can simply buy one on ebay for $5), and 3.) stand in line at around 5:30am.
Random thoughts from meeting:
- Buffett opened up the meeting reiterating the merits of index investing for most people.
- Buffett & Munger are incredibly witty.
- Munger is funny as hell.
- It’s evident that Buffett & Munger love what they’re doing and will work until the day they die.
- Reminds me of the quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
- Buffett did some on-the-fly mental math in his head several times. It was impressive. Maybe it would have been less impressive had I not been so sleep deprived.
- Despite having a difference in net worth of $83.5B, Buffett & I have similar consumption patterns. We live in relatively modest homes in the midwest. We drive old cars. We have computers that connect us to the internet. We have food on the table. We have access to the same medicine.
- Buffett pointed out that most people in the room lived like kings relative to John Rockefeller, the richest person in modern history.
- The quality of questions asked to Buffett & Munger was impressive.
- Buffett & Munger repeatedly owned up to making mistakes in the past, such as passing on Google. Buffett repeated the fact that there is no penalty for passing on a strike in investing. They can take as many pitches until they find the optimal investing opportunity.
- Berkshire owns 1% of Costco. Munger LOVES Costco. Buffett says Costco is unique in that it delights its customers. Wise men, I tell you.
- Buffett told the story of the Nebraska Furniture Store CEO (which Berkshire acquired) who retired at 103, then died at 104. He noted that current CEOs of his subsidiary companies should avoid early retirement, lest they face an early death shortly thereafter.
- Buffett spoke of Wells Fargo’s woes as people responding rationally to bad incentives and emphasized the importance of having the right incentives in place.
- Buffett mentioned repeatedly the importance of honesty & character.
Notes from meeting with smart FI people:
- Having money & freedom opens the world of opportunities.
- The FI crowd is dang impressive.
- Post FI, it’s nice to have large and meaningful goals to work towards.
I may put in a request for the next Berkshire FI meetup to be held at the Omaha Costco. Ample seating. Great parking. $1.50 hot dog and soda, $10 pizza, $5 rotisserie chicken, and $4 chicken caesar salad.