The 2023 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting occurred on May, 6 2023, and while there are articles offering highlights (including this one), it’s never the same feeling as watching/listening to the actual thing. I always find a few things that mean something to me, even if just a small side remark, that don’t make it into the financial news headlines. Warren Buffet (92) and Charlie Munger (99) continue to impress with their amazing mental acuity and stamina.

CNBC again has the rights to record and host the full video and transcripts (morning session, afternoon session) and they did a nice job with syncing the text and sound on the afternoon session (the morning one didn’t work for me). Here are a few personal takeaways and notes.

Overall, I am reminded that Buffett regards Berkshire Hathaway as his life’s work and masterpiece. He may not have much time left to paint, but it is already beautifully constructed. It is built to prosper in the long-term, but also to withstand anything thrown at it in the short-term. This is how I wish to build up my family’s finances as well. A large engine of productive investments that create growing profits and cashflow. Always having a sizable cash holding as well, never having worry about market crashes or liquidity needs. Berkshire sells insurance to cover the rare events, and I buy them to protect us from those types of events (life, home, auto liability, umbrella).

Autopilot. Buffett points out that it will be hard to judge how well his successors are doing, as by design, Berkshire will operate very well even mostly on auto-pilot. The subsidiary companies all have their own managers. The stocks are bought with the intention of holding for a long time if not forever. This reminds me that I should make our finances more auto-pilot as well. I may enjoy the micro-management now, but I worry that I am making things too complicated in a situation where I’m not around.

The benefits of being financially independent. No boss above telling you what to do, but also no direct customers to please.

[Warren Buffett speaking about Charlier Munger] He didn’t want to sell his time, maybe at 20 bucks an hour or something, to people he thought were making the wrong the decisions. And he knew more about it than they did. And that just did not strike him as a good way to go through life. And I think he’s probably right on that.

I think he’d have really gotten to be miserable if he had to keep doing that. It’s just no fun. It’d be like me giving investment advice to somebody that — or taking it from somebody. I just wouldn’t want to do it. And Charlie figured that out. And so, we decided to work for ourselves. And this worked. Been happy, happily ever after.

Charlie Munger was a successful lawyer, but he didn’t want to give advice to people who often wouldn’t take it. Warren Buffett could have been a investment manager or financial advisor, but he also didn’t want to give advice to people who often wouldn’t take it. I have thought about becoming a financial advisor of some sort, but I think it would be very difficult to spend your time carefully crafting advice and then seeing someone just do the opposite. As a self-directed investor, I enjoy the fact that I can do my own research, make my own decisions, and implement them as I wish. It takes a while to build up your first $100,000, but there is a reason why his biography is called The Snowball.

Berkshire shareholders as the frugal millionaires. I have to admit, I enjoy the stereotype that Berkshire Hathaway shareholders tend to be frugal, practical, and not focused on outward appearances. Here’s a funny anecdote that speaks to that (even though Munger now flies NetJets, a Berkshire subsidiary).

CHARLIE MUNGER: I used to come to the Berkshire annual meetings on coach from Los Angeles. And it was full of rich stockholders. And they would clap when I came into the coach section. I really liked that. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

How to live a good and successful life. Buffett has said this quote before, but it’s a good one:

…you should write your obituary and then try and figure out how to live up to it.

Charlie Munger expands:

CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, it’s so simple to spend less than you earn, and invest shrewdly, and avoid toxic people and toxic activities, and try and keep learning all your life, et cetera, et cetera, and do a lot of deferred gratification because you prefer life that way. And if you do all those things, you are almost certain to succeed. And if you don’t, you’re going to need a lot of luck. And you don’t want to need a lot of luck. You want to go into a game where you’re very likely to win without having any unusual luck.

… the toxic people who are trying to fool you or lie to you or aren’t reliable in meeting their commitments. A great lesson of life is get them the hell out of your life. […] And do it fast. […] I don’t mind a little tact. Or even a little financial cost. But the question is getting them the hell out of your life.

Again, my favorite way is to listen to the audio track of the CNBC or YouTube videos in the car like a podcast over multiple days. If you’d rather read more detailed notes, check out the CNBC Liveblog, Kingswell and Rational Walk.

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2023 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting Video, Transcript, and Notes from My Money Blog.

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