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How $100 gave Perth woman a seat with Warren Buffett

Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and Perth woman Raihanaty Jalil
Warren Buffett and Perth woman Raihanaty Jalil. (Images: Getty and supplied)

Raihanaty Jalil is an ordinary woman from Perth who likes to dabble in shares.

But the 35-year-old could not have imagined a year ago that she'd land in the small city of Omaha in the most landlocked state in the United States, about to see investment celebrity Warren Buffett speak.

The journey started by chance, Jalil told Yahoo Finance.

"I was searching Google for a way to gift shares," she said.

"Because I wanted to gift a couple of shares to some friends – I wanted to help them get into the whole investing thing, get their head into that. Most people have a fear of it, don't understand it, but if I give them something, they have no choice but to learn about it."

That browser search led her to Australian startup Stake, which is best-known for allowing local investors to buy US shares for zero brokerage.

But Stake popped up in Jalil's search because it has a gift card feature, which is rare in the world of stockbroking.

Woodstock for Capitalists

Jalil, who works for Apple, had always admired Buffett and loved the way he could communicate to the market and his fans.

"Amazing communicator… this guy is a storyteller."

Buffett has a following akin to a rock star, and his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway's annual general meeting is known as "Woodstock for Capitalists".

Tens of thousands of people descend on Omaha, Nebraska each year to hear the 88-year-old speak. There was even a documentary titled Woodstock for Capitalists, depicting the remarkable phenomenon.

Upon finding Stake, Jalil realised that owning overseas shares was not difficult – and had a light bulb moment.

"I heard that I could attend the meeting through owning a class B share through a podcast. At the time it was $100, and thought oh my God, that's less than the price of a concert ticket."

And that small investment gave her the right to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual general meeting – and to be in the same room as the man they call The Oracle.

So she booked her flight to the US, reserved accommodation and landed in Omaha earlier this month.

An incredible experience

The city – with a population smaller than Adelaide – was buzzing with visitors from all over the world, said Jalil. And they were all there for one reason.

"Doors open at 7am and the meeting opens at 8:30am… but people were saying if you want a seat close to him I was told to be there at 5am."

But this year, the Perth woman found even that advice wasn't quite adequate. A large horde of Chinese investors had been queuing as early as 2:30am.

"I got there at 5:15am and I was already too late… I was lucky that I even got a seat. Even getting in was an experience."

Jalil described the long day inside as "a really incredible experience" – partly entertaining and partly educational. While the AGM itself is brief, Buffett spoke for many hours afterwards and answered audience questions.

The long queue already at 5am for the Berkshire Hathaway AGM. (Image: supplied)
The long queue already at 5am for the Berkshire Hathaway AGM. (Image: supplied)

A surprising memory she took away is of how many children attended an investment company's AGM. There were financial prodigies from all over the world with a genuine interest in what Buffett had to say.

"And the questions they were asking! One girl was 8 or 9 years old, literally questioning Warren Buffett about his recent purchases – I think it was Amazon, because it doesn't line up with his usual [investment] principles."

The next day Jalil joined thousands of other Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in a 5km charity fun run through Omaha.

The entire experience was an absolute thrill and Jalil will hold onto her $100 share in Berkshire Hathaway for future trips to the AGM.

"It was really fascinating. I got to meet lots of people and learn."

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