The answer to this question is what this blog is all about. Reaching the financial freedom so that money becomes a helper, not a pooper on your financial health. I’ve stated in a past post that a JCPenny janitor in Vermont named Ronald Read was able to save and invest enough to leave an $8 million fortune to his family upon his death. If you look at the table below, you can see that the median janitor pay was $11.27 an hour while the top 90% of janitors made $18.91 per year. This comes out to be annualized salaries of $23,440 and $39,320, respectively. Well below the average American’s salary that comes out to be between $50,000 – 55,000 per year.
Analyzing Read’s Results
Ronald Read made below the average in earnings yet was well above the average in retirement amount. How did he do it? Was he a genius who got lucky and invested in the right companies at the right time? Far from it. His investment strategies, as highlighted in the article, are simple. They were so simple that you or I could have done the exact same thing and achieved similar results. He approached his investments with a classic buy-and-hold strategy, investing only in companies he understood and paid out dividends.
He lived a frugal lifestyle and invested any money that he saved. As I’ve said in an earlier article (linked above), there’s 3 keys to retiring comfortably. Investing, saving, and earning more. I don’t think Ronald Read focused on earning more but instead focused on the two most important characteristics, investing and saving. He patiently and consistently invested and saved and was able to bequeath a huge amount of money to his local libraries and hospitals.
Grain of Salt
Now, Read’s situation can be viewed as out of the ordinary. First, Read lived until he was 92 years old. The life expectancy in the USA, according to USA Today, is 78.8. This article was written 2 years ago so who knows how far the life expectancy is today! But the important fact is that Read lived above the average, giving him more time to save and invest.
However, it would all depend on when Read started planning for retirement and he might have started earlier or later than us. If he started later than us, then we can replicate his results going forward. If he started earlier than us we might not get to $8 million in retirement nut, but we certainly still get into the million mark. The optimism is real!
Another thing to consider is that the article doesn’t delve into Read’s specific situation. Maybe he was born with the genetic lottery and didn’t get sick at all in his life. Maybe he wasn’t born with the genetic lottery and was sick everyday in his life. Who knows?! I don’t know. But what I do know is that even if these out of the ordinary events happen, we can learn to manage them and smooth the unexpected costs out over an extended period of time!
Read wasn’t born with an insane amount of luck, wasn’t a trust fund baby, and did not earn even the mean salary in America (imagine how much more in retirement he would have had if he was above or at the average!). This is phenomenal. It means that we don’t have to be above average to have a comfortable retirement.
We don’t need to be born with genetic advantages or be born to a wealthy family. We just need to make the right choices and over time because those right choices will accumulate over years and years, everything will fall into place. Every person’s journey and story to financial freedom is different but they all hold the same 3 principles that I will preach. Investing, savings, and earning more.
If a janitor can be a multi-millionaire, so can us!!
My goal is to enable your success in personal finance so that you can realize the American dream. The first step is starting today!
Read more about me here.