Maybe you CAN Take It With You!

This gives a whole new meaning to the term “Surprise Millionaire”.  Twelve distant relatives have been notified that they are the heirs to a 100 million dollar fortune amassed by their lumber tycoon great-grandfather who died over 90 years ago.  It seems that the old gentleman didn’t think much of his family at the time and wanted them all gone before his estate was disbursed!   His great-grandchildren will inherit up to 16 million dollars apiece.  The video is attached below.

The Fabulous Baker Boys!

Harvey Baker was born in 1902 in less than opulent circumstances.  Being the oldest boy, he was expected to help out on the family farm located outside of Chilton Wisconsin and keep a watchful eye on his younger brother Theodore.  Theodore, who was two years younger and mentally disabled, depended on Harvey’s patience and guidance to make his way through life.

Harvey’s guidance would be needed more than ever when their parents made the decision to remove them from school in the eighth grade to work full-time on the farm.  It seemed that two boys who already had a strike or two against them in life were now saddled with another.  However, Harvey and Theodore dutifully toiled away on the farm for many years; long after their sisters married and started their own lives and even after their father’s death in 1936.  After all, who would take care of Theodore if Harvey left?

By the late 1950s the brothers had grown tired of eking out a living on the farm and longed for something different.  So the farm was sold and the brothers moved in to the big town of Chilton (population 1,500) to take unskilled factory jobs.  They bought a place in town still living together as always with Theodore under the watchful eye of his supportive big brother.

It was soon noticed by neighbors and others around them that the brothers had a curious habit of living well below their means.   They rarely ate out, were conservative with the electricity they used and didn’t even own a car for many years.  “But why would they do such a thing when they made such meager salaries to begin with?” the neighbors must have thought.  “Why wouldn’t they spend their money to buy a little happiness?”

What the people in town didn’t know was that Harvey was investing every penny that he was able to set aside for both he and Theodore.  Harvey was concerned about the future and most probably about the future care of his brother.  Living for today would just not be an option for these two.

The brothers continued to live frugally and invest the majority of their salaries for the next few decades always choosing blue chip stocks.  It was said that if asked, Harvey could quote the closing stock prices on any given day.

Their frugal lifestyle paid off for them when they were able to move into a nice retirement community in the 1980s; a place where they would be taken care of in their old age with no money worries to speak of.  By all accounts they were well liked and much respected members of the retirement community as well.Chess

So, does this end the story of Harvey and Theodore Baker; a nice little story of two brothers who saved their pennies and had a comfortable retirement?  Not by a long shot!  Upon Theodore and Harvey’s deaths in 1989 and 1994 respectively, the town of Chilton and surrounding area was astounded to learn that the brothers left a combined estate of approximately $6 million!  The brothers had earmarked the funds for scholarships to benefit local students who chose to study at the state university.

So do you think the neighbors finally got it?  Living below their means coupled with consistent investing had turned two local farm boys with eighth grade educations in to multi-millionaires!  It not only funded a pleasant retirement for the brothers but left a legacy within their community for generations to come.  Now that is a fitting ending to the story of the Fabulous Baker Boys!

A Bookworm Whose Study Habits Paid Off

Out of all the institutions created by man, I believe the local public library is the place where the most dreams have been dreamed and goals have been achieved.  It is an institution dedicated to knowledge and the love of learning; and it is the perfect place for a Surprise Millionaire to achieve success.

The Kirstein Business Branch of the Boston Public Library is where school teacher Thomas Drey dreamed his dreams.  Mr. Drey was the shy and retiring sort never marrying and living his entire life in the same home he grew up in.  He used public transportation having never owned a car and was happy to eat his sister’s home cooking.  He was a very ordinary person that probably went unnoticed as he went about his daily life.

However there was more to Thomas Drey than met the eye!   He was a very dedicated school teacher and counselor who also found time to write and publish articles on the stock market, serve as the associate editor of a stock market magazine and even wrote a book on investing!


And just where did our shy and retiring school teacher gain all of this investment knowledge?  At the Boston Public Library of course!   Mr. Drey spent much of his free time at the public library’s Kirstein Business Branch researching the market and planning out his investments.

Mr. Drey had received a small inheritance upon his father’s death and was itching to put all of his acquired investment knowledge to work.   But, would the self-taught investor be able to make something of the modest inheritance?  You bet!

Upon his death in 1997 at age 73, Mr. Drey chose to leave the Boston Public Library a little something to remember him by.  I don’t know if he had any unpaid fines but the $6.8 million left to the library should have taken care of it!  That’s right, Mr. Drey had amassed a multi-million dollar estate by applying the knowledge he had learned at the public library.  I would like to add that his donation was the largest received by the library in its 150 plus year history!

Remember, Mr. Drey was a school teacher.  He did not have an MBA or any advanced business training from a college or university.  This was a self-taught individual who acquired knowledge and put it to work!

I think the lesson to be gleaned from this gentleman’s life is that learning should be a life-long process and does not have to be acquired in a traditional classroom setting.  You never know what hobby or interest you may pick up later in life that could turn out to be your biggest legacy.  Thomas Drey, shy retiring school teacher and Surprise Millionaire, is a shining example of this principle.

Wealth Accumulation With A Purpose

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!