Ronald Read, a Vermont gas station attendant who worked in retail later in life, was a frugal man.
He died a multimillionaire at 92.
Read had stock holdings and property valued at almost $8 million, most of which was left to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, Vt., Howard Weiss-Tisman reported in the Brattleboro Reformer.
“Not only did he refuse to flaunt his wealth; his estate included a 2007 Toyota Yaris valued at $5,000, but his closest friends and family members did not know he had even a tiny sliver of the fortune he left behind,” Weiss-Tisman wrote.
Most of Read’s investments were found in a safe deposit box, Read’s attorney, Laurie Rowell, told CNBC. Those investments included AT&T, Bank of America, CVS, John Deere, GE and General Motors.
As reported by CNBC, Read’s attorney said: “He only invested in what he knew and what paid dividends.”
CNBC’s Michelle Fox explains how a man earning a modest income could amass such a fortune. Fox says one expert said, “Investors would have to invest about $300 a month at an 8 percent interest rate over 65 years.”
But slow your roll to any dreams of becoming rich like Read, Diane Garnick, founder and chief executive of Clear Alternatives, told CNBC. Garnick “cautioned that the environment these days is much different than when Read invested. He likely saved cash in the ’70s before moving into the stock market, and then caught the tech boom. On top of that, interest rates are literally at zero.”
Still, this is an example of what it means to live below your means and to invest for the long term.
“I think this shows what can be done if you have a plan and work at it,” wrote one reader, who alerted me to the article.
Please join me at noon Eastern time for my weekly live online personal finance discussion. Today’s main topic: Love, money and marriage — can they go together like a horse and carriage?
My guests today say they can, with some planning, including getting a prenuptial agreement. Do you agree? Let’s talk. I’ll be joined by the authors of “The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In or Moving On,” the Color of Money Book Club selection for this month. Here’s my review.
Join the conversation here.
“If love is free, why does it cost so much to express it?” asked Bankrate.com’s Chris Kahn. “Valentine’s Day can be ridiculously, unromantically expensive — especially for those of us who wait until the last minute to buy something. It’s the ultimate example of a demand-induced price spike. Everyone in America is searching for the same, relatively small set of gifts: chocolates, roses, greeting cards, ‘romantic’ dinners. And retailers know it.”
Good points. So, for last week’s Color of Money Question of the Week, I asked: What’s the best Valentine’s Day gift you ever got that didn’t cost a lot of money?
One reader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because her introverted husband wouldn’t want the publicity, said: “I have been married 33 years. The most romantic Valentine’s gift my husband ever gave me involved singing. He belongs to a choral society, and he talked three other men into meeting him at my job, where they came to my office and serenaded me with a loud rendition of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
Rebecca Fowler of Phoenix wrote: “The best V Day gift I’ve received that didn’t cost a lot of money was when my ex gave me a coupon for a full body massage. He included a toenail polish, it was very romantic and a feel-good gift.”
“Last year for Valentine’s day, I rented a book from the library for my then-fiance,” wrote Amanda Cogan of Arlington, Va. “He loved it. It was the next in a series of books he’d been reading.”
Michael Gold of South Riding, Va., wrote: My in-laws do this the old-fashioned way. They pick a card at the store and show each other! My wife and I are more tech-savvy. I took a picture of a card I like and show it to my wife! Voilà, you just saved $10 for 2 cards (or more).”
Love this idea from Lynada D. Johnson of Columbia, Md.: “After downsizing to move, we created a shoebox of cards, given and received, that we’d found. We categorized the cards by event: birthday, anniversary, and, yes, Valentine’s day. With each subsequent use, we wrote in the ‘new’ year, perhaps added a note, and made a celebration! It was fun to see what had appealed in the past, and what appealed now. We treasured what was chosen to be given, and we delighted in no added expense!”
Not that I have favorites, but this story of frugality really touched me. Kevin Murray of Elkridge, Md., wrote: “My wife and I met on eHarmony, and for her very first Valentine’s Day gift, I printed out our eHarmony profiles, questions and responses onto some nice stationery. I bound them in a clear folder with a cover page showing a romantic graphic of a man giving roses to a woman and the caption ‘Our eHarmony Journey.’ She loved it!
He went on to write: “We had dated for about nine months before getting engaged and then married nine months after that (we were 40-something adults, not youngsters), so I gave her this gift about two and a half years after our initial meeting. Having experienced the typical peaks and valleys of relationship/marriage, it was nice to go back to see how far we had come.
“We still pull it out and read about where we were, the things we said about ourselves and each other and what we hoped to become. I really think it helps us stay focused on the reasons we believe God brought us together and reminds us of our love for one another and the fact that our relationship was built on a rock solid foundation.”
He added: “We just celebrated our fifth anniversary last October and we’ve had a tremendous marriage. We’re really looking forward to the blessings God will continue to bestow upon our awesome union!”
See, you can celebrate on the cheap, and it can be totally place-your-hand-on-your-heart romantic.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.