You could barely see the house when driving down the suburban Baltimore boulevard. The old two- story home had grass so high that it was nearly obscured from view. What could possibly be going on behind its rundown walls? Well, if you were in the know, you would know that a fortune was being made!
Olive Swindells was penniless when she married her husband in the late 1940s. But by the 1950s she was already telling neighbors that she had a plan to leave quite a bit of money to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. some day. But just what was Gallaudet University her neighbors had to wonder.
Gallaudet, founded in 1864, is an institute of higher learning for those who are deaf and hearing impaired. Neither Mrs. Swindells nor her husband Bertram had any direct relationship to the university. However, Mr. Swindells had been deaf since childhood and Olive herself contended with hearing loss as a result of aging. Thus, the mission of the university was probably close to their hearts.
Mrs. Swindells was a quiet woman who shied away from most people possibly due to her hearing loss. Not much is known about her background other than that she was born in upstate New York about 1901. Children would not be an option for the couple having not married until their late forties.
Neighbors say she was quite frugal and was able to run her household entirely on Mr. Swindells’ modest salary as a civil servant. Known as a pack rat, her small home was filled with newspapers, cans and other “treasures” that she just never seemed to get around to doing anything with.
This inattention to her home’s appearance was probably due to her all-consuming hobby; investing in the stock market. Yes, Mrs. Swindells was another unassuming middle-class American who had caught the investment bug. Because of her frugalness, she was able to set aside a little bit of money to invest. She invested consistently and often for the next forty plus years. Records indicate that she may have even acquired her own stockbroker’s license at one time. This was one fiercely independent lady!
At the time of their deaths in 1994 and 1995 respectively, the Swindells’ home was valued at $35,000 with the contents valued at about $11,000. This was the totality of their estate with the exception of a stock portfolio worth $4.4 million!
No one would have ever guessed that the little old couple with such meager physical assets would actually be multi-millionaires; not their neighbors, not the local merchants, and definitely not Gallaudet University. In fact, the university had never even heard of the Swindells and was as surprised as anyone to receive the very generous donation.
Once again, regular consistent investing pays off! As you can imagine, neighbors wondered why the Swindells “played poor” and didn’t flaunt their accumulated wealth. The answer to that question is simple; they didn’t feel the need to. Their wealth was being accumulated with a specific purpose in mind, to help people just like them. Now that is a goal worth obtaining!