At age 51, Anne Schieber was broke and disillusioned.
She had worked for the IRS for 23 years and was regarded as one of the agency's top auditors.
But she never got promoted and never earned more than $3,150 in a year.
With half her life already behind her, her retirement prospects looked bleak. But Schieber had learned a powerful secret from years of studying the tax returns of America's richest residents.
Over the next 50 years, it earned her a 449,000% return - making Schieber one of the most successful investors of all time.
The Investing Secret That Beat Berkshire Hathaway's Returns
During her 23 years at the IRS, Schieber saw firsthand how the stock market can create and compound wealth.
And she went on to experience it firsthand.
Starting at age 51 with just $5,000, Schieber turned it into over $22 million - a rate of return that beats the average annual gain of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.
This feat places her among the greats of investing lore. But beyond the rate of return, Schieber's story is amazing for another reason.
At age 41, Schieber had lost her life savings in the stock market. The loss caused a permanent rift in her family and lasting bitterness toward her brother, who had presided over the debacle.
Schieber seemed to take away two lessons from the experience.
One, she would never leave her portfolio to outside management again. In 1951, with her $5,000 in savings, she began building a portfolio on her own.
And two, she would never again bet the farm on a single opportunity, as she had on her brother's firm before disaster struck.
Beating Warren Buffett to His Greatest Investment - By 31 Years
Over the years, Schieber invested in a number of companies in industries ranging from entertainment to technology.
She made her last stock purchase - 100 shares of Apple Inc. and MCI Inc. - in 1985.
Schieber bought Apple stock 31 years before Buffett first acquired his shares in 2016.
She also bought Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) shares years before Buffett's famous 1988 investment.
Those two investments are regarded as perhaps the shrewdest investments Buffett has made in his career. Coca-Cola stock has returned over 2,000% since Buffett bought it 33 years ago. And in February 2020, Buffett called Apple "probably the best business I know in the world."
But an unassuming woman who stood at just 5 feet tall managed to beat him to both of those companies by years.
Finding the Next Apple
You may be thinking Schieber got lucky by striking gold on a few investments like Apple and Coca-Cola out of hundreds of different stocks she bought over the decades.
But that's exactly the point. By targeting hundreds of different companies over time, Schieber was able to maximize her chances of backing a company that would return 10,000% or more over the years.
Diversification is usually thought of as a defensive strategy. But Silicon Valley insiders use it as an offensive weapon that allows them to swing for the fences, knowing that a single 10,000% winner can more than outweigh any losers in their portfolios.
Today, any investors looking to emulate Schieber's strategy have one tool that was never available to her.
StartEngine is an equity crowdfunding giant that lets ordinary investors claim stakes in some of the most potentially explosive, if risky, disruptors in the world. And it recently inked a deal with another crowdfunder - Indiegogo - that brings its network of 800,000 investors to StartEngine's equity crowdfunding platform.
The nature of this platform allows investors to claim small stakes in startups that present potentially enormous upsides. Increased risk is part of the strategy. But as was the case with Schieber, investors can use the platform to manage risk through diversification.
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