Friday, March 23, 2018

The Prudent Millionaire: A short-short story.

Robert would always would rather save than spend. In the 1st grade, Robert had already started putting money into a piggy bank. In the 3rd grade, he opened a savings account. He loved watching the teller update his bankbook, seeing his balance increase and especially, the red entry for interest. He was amazed that the bank would pay him for safekeeping his money.

Robert started taking after-school and summer jobs starting in the 7th grade. He saved most of what he earned, only occasionally buying, for example, firecrackers for July 4. And for those, he bargained hard, usually walking away to test if he had negotiated the lowest possible price.

To save his family money, Robert went to community college and then transferred for his bachelor's degree to the nearby  public university, where he could live at home and, along with having taken a work-study job, be one of the rare students who graduated college with no student debt.

As an adult, Robert made a middle-class living as a librarian but remained unusually thrifty. He bought a studio condo in a "bad” neighborhood and furnished it from garage sales, Craiglist ads, and Ikea. He always drove an old, gas-stingy Toyota until it dropped. He bought his clothes at Wal-Mart or thrift stores. He mainly ate at home, and economically: chicken, vegetables, tuna, fruit, etc., and when he ate out, mainly at hole-in-the-wall restaurants. He bought most other items on Amazon, which, because of its Marketplace, enabled him to get the lowest price from among many vendors. His vacations were driving rather than flying ones, and he stayed at airbnbs or low-cost motels. 

He always paid the credit card bill in full, never paying a penny in interest. He invested 10% of his paycheck in his 401K and another 10% in the highest yielding bank CDs. (A master list is on When he was dying, he left instructions that he be cremated and inexpensively: “No fol-de-rol.”

So by the time Robert died, despite having only earned a librarian’s income, his estate was worth $1.5 million. He thought about leaving it the National Association for Gifted Children, which lobbies for more money for under-served high-potential kids. But his friends and family said even the $1.5 million would be only a drop in most nonprofits’  bucket, much would go to “administrative expenses,” and, because gifted education is out of favor, would probably result in less benefit than if he left the money to family. He didn’t quite agree but yielded to the pressure: He left his money to his brother and sister.

With the inheritance, his sister traded up to a larger house in a fancier neighborhood. His brother bought a Jaguar, added a recreation room to his home, and took his family on safari. He put the remaining inheritance in risky stocks. “After all, it's found money.” As of this writing, he lost 40%.

And so went Robert’s prudence. 

I read this on YouTube.

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