I am very interested in knowing what all of you think of the video below. The financial commentator’s idea sounds okay on the surface, but in my opinion, “test driving” a lifestyle of living large for a few months could quickly trap you in to living that lifestyle forever – and depleting your nest egg – your thoughts?
In my last post we learned about Albert Ravenholt, a poor Wisconsin farm boy who started out life with nothing until he said “yes” to opportunity. As we learned, Albert and his wife Marjorie lived what only can be described as an interesting and fulfilling life just by embracing the opportunities that came their way.
As Albert was aging and found himself a widower, he began to reflect on his large extended Wisconsin farm family and how distant they had all become. He and Marjorie had no children of their own and Albert cared deeply for his 25 nieces and nephews scattered about the country. However, Albert realized that his large family rarely got together anymore and many of them were virtual strangers to one another. This is when Albert decided that it was time for his family to say “yes” to opportunity in the same way that he had so many years ago.
Upon Albert’s death in 2010, his family learned that his trust contained a very unusual codicil. He had indeed left money for all of his nieces and nephews provided they meet for a family reunion once every two years. That’s right, Albert gave his family a two-fold opportunity. The opportunity to inherit a part of his estate (remember, Albert was a Surprise Millionaire) and the opportunity to get to know or become re-acquainted with extended family.
Since Albert’s passing, the extended Ravenholt clan has gotten together back in little Luck Wisconsin, the site of the family’s most unluckiest event to celebrate the life and times of Uncle Albert Ravenholt; the loving and generous man who cared enough to give them the chance to say “yes” to a great opportunity.
The family and their story is featured below:
As you have probably realized, many of our Surprise Millionaires started out in life with very little, often times nothing at all. There were definitely no silver spoons for these folks. While our first thought may be to sympathize with their plight, I challenge you to think about their circumstances from a completely different viewpoint.
Have you ever considered that when you start out with nothing, you have nothing but possibilities? Instead of saying “no” to opportunities that come your way, you can say “yes” because there is nothing holding you back. There are no pressures from family to conform to a specific norm and there are no expectations from a particular social class to conform to its prescribed patterns of behaviors. In many ways, you are “free”. Free to see where you can go in life with the possibilities being limitless!
My next Surprise Millionaire exemplifies this point and his story is so good I will need to write about it in two segments. But as always, we must start at the beginning.
Albert Ravenholt grew up the oldest of ten children on a farm in Luck Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the town of Luck was not a very lucky place for the Ravenholts. After years of barely getting by working the land and surviving the Great Depression, the family lost their farm to foreclosure and was unceremoniously evicted by the local sheriff. For Albert, it was a forgone conclusion that his first semester at the state college would probably be his last.
Albert was left with nothing. But as I have said, starting with nothing leaves the door open for great opportunities and that first opportunity came along right away. Albert got the chance to go to New York City and work at the 1939 World’s Fair. This led to a cross country hitchhike to California where he signed up as a cook on a Danish freighter heading for Asia. After traveling to several countries he was left by the freighter in Shanghai where he decided to take a chance and see what would come next.
Well, “next” turned out to be delivering medical supplies to the interior of China for the International Red Cross followed by a stint as a war correspondent with United Press International! It was in Shanghai that he met and married Miss Marjorie Severyns, a relief worker and Seattle Washington native.
After returning to the United States, events conspired to allow Albert to continue his education, at Harvard University, of all places! This led to more world travel, university lectures and reporting on events taking place all over the world. During this time, he even published a book! Albert and Marjorie were also very involved with the cause of eradicating world hunger. Albert began and was on the board of several organizations that promoted this objective.
Albert and Marjorie had many other achievements that if listed, could easily fill up an entire book. In short, let’s just say that Albert became someone that the “movers and shakers” of the world came to for advice and counsel. What an amazing life for a poor Wisconsin farm boy who started out with nothing!
But there is a catch, you see: none of these honors and accolades were responsible for making the couple wealthy. That achievement was all due to Albert Ravenholt, the Surprise Millionaire! It appears that in addition to his many other talents Albert was also a shrewd real estate investor. It was said that he got in early on some real estate deals that paid off big. So big that he was able to endow a chair at the local university and to leave quite a bit to his and Marjorie’s favorite charities upon his death in 2010 at the age of 90 (Marjorie had passed away in 1992). Oh, and he was able to leave money to his family as well, but that is a story for next time.
So, starting out with nothing can be a blessing and not a curse if you learn to say “yes” to the opportunities that come your way. If you have nothing, the only place to go is up, right? Albert certainly thought so and was able to make an amazing life for himself just by saying “yes”.
[Stay tuned for Part Two]
I haven’t heard of this gentleman, his radio program or his book but his example of how compound interest works is spot on! It’s the secret our Surprise Millionaires know and have embraced …
The town of Koontenai Idaho (named for the Native American tribe) is just a small wisp of a place boasting less than 500 people at last count. It is also remote, situated about an hour and a half north of Spokane Washington in the Idaho panhandle bordered by the great Koontenai National Forest and not far from the Canadian border.
This most unlikely of places became the setting for a riddle that has yet to be fully unraveled. It concerns a mysterious stranger who came to town and more importantly what she left behind. Back in the 1990s a newcomer moved to Koontenai from of all places, Malibu California (can you say culture shock!). The stranger’s name was Dorothy Adler.
Far from being a fish out of water, the sweet little lady quickly made many friends in the community and endeared herself to all. However, for all of her friendliness there was one topic that remained strictly off limits; her past and what her life was like before coming to Koontenai. This was fine with her new friends. Not being the nosy types, they accepted Dorothy for who she was and just enjoyed her company.
By all accounts Dorothy enjoyed her time in Koontenai until her death in 2012. Friends were left with the difficult task of going through her things and settling her estate. This is where the mystery really deepened.
It didn’t take long for them to discover some very strange things. Dorothy had kept many mementos from her childhood such as certificates and prize ribbons presented to her during her school years in … Koontenai Idaho! That’s right, Dorothy was no stranger to Koontenai; she had lived there during her childhood but was not what you would call a home town girl.
As best as can be pieced together, Dorothy, whose maiden name was Beck, moved to Koontenai sometime during her grade school years. Her father worked for the state which may account for the family’s move to such a remote locale.
Right after high school graduation, Dorothy left Koontenai far behind for the bright lights of New York City. There, young Dorothy met and married of all things a concert violinist. The couple lived in New York City and later southern California.
It also turned out that Dorothy had a secret hobby that she kept from everyone including her husband. Dorothy had caught the investment bug and had it bad. Just how bad do you ask? Well, to the tune of about $1.5 million dollars!
Yes, the little lady who was so full of secrets had yet another shocker for her friends. She was a millionaire, and a frugal one at that. Dorothy could never be bothered to pay for the cups of coffee she drank at the local diner nor would she do more than window shop at the local stores. Her friends never judged, they thought money was probably tight for the sweet little lady. After all, they didn’t want to pry.
Dorothy’s friends were left with one question; why? Why had she not told them that she had grown up in Kootenai? Why had she not talked about the interesting life she had lived? Why was she so frugal when she was a self-made millionaire? The answers to these questions we will never know.
Dorothy left her estate to several charities and causes around the area but no one is for sure just what her connection was to any of them … she never talked about it.
So that is the story of Kootenai’s mystery (and Surprise) millionaire. I don’t have any parting thoughts on this one. It’s a mystery; let’s just leave it at that!
Now that I have your attention; no, this is not the title of the latest horror flick at the box office. This is the story of a former janitor, gas station attendant and wood-cutter who was not only handy with an axe but handy with picking stocks as well.
Ronald Read was born in Dummerston Vermont in 1921 to a family of modest means. Ronald displayed a hard-working and dedicated attitude from the start. Determined to be the first in his family to graduate high school, Ronald would walk or hitch hike the four miles to and from school each day not letting rain, snow, sleet or hail deter him from his mission. As a result, in 1940 Mr. Read was the first person in his family to graduate high school.
He next received a free tour of Italy, Africa and the South Pacific thanks to Uncle Sam and the Second World War returning to Dummerston just before Christmas 1945.
Not one to let grass grow under him, Mr. Read took a job as an attendant at a local gas station; a position he held for the next 25 years. He followed up with semi-retirement and a janitorial position at a local department store for several more years. Oh, and there was always the woodcutting.
Mr. Read loved to chop wood for his home stove and did so well into his nineties. He would also pick up broken limbs to use for kindling. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Read sold a little bit of that wood for a profit as well! His frugalness was legendary. He would not spend money unless he absolutely had to.
Looking at Mr. Read’s life on the surface, one would assume that he was not a person of great financial wealth. Since this was a man fond of wearing old flannel shirts and a coat held together by safety pins, it comes as no surprise that Mr. Read caught the attention of and benefited from the charity of those around him from time to time. People were known to give him clothing and he was a regular at the free holiday meals provided around the community.
Mr. Read died in June of 2014 at the age of 92 leaving a well-stocked wood pile in his garage and a well-stocked bank account as well. It was reported that upon his death Mr. Read’s stock and property holdings were valued at $8 million, most of which was left to the local library and hospital. Mr. Read enjoyed reading books at the library and was always treated kindly by the staff at the local hospital whenever he went there for treatment. (Am I the only one who finds it funny that Mr. READ left money to the library?)
As it turns out, those who were close to him said that Mr. Read had two great hobbies, investing and woodcutting. It appears that he was great at both. No one in his life knew that he had that kind of money and I believe that is just the way he wanted it.
I believe the thing we have to learn from Mr. Read is dedication. You can’t get an education, accumulate wealth or accomplish much else in life without the dedication to see things through. Mr. Read displayed this wonderful quality and a small town library and hospital will be reaping the benefits for some time to come.
Youtuber Tim Schaefer recently profiled a family friend who I would categorize as a Surprise Millionaire. Tim states:
“A friend is a frugal saver. She and her husband worked hard. They lived frugal. And saved a lot. Since she is retired, she did not touch her investments. She is just spending her pension. She stays out of stores. She has a strict budget. And avoids expensive restaurants.”
They appear to be outside in a park so sound quality leaves a little to be desired but the message is great!