I have had the pleasure of following Dave Ramsey and his organization for quite some time. Dave is well known for helping people get out of debt and also helping them to accumulate some wealth along the way. He uses financial concepts found in biblical scripture as well as plain common sense to help people reach their financial goals.
One of Dave’s most popular segments from his podcast/radio show is the “Millionaire Theme Hour” in which regular folks who are currently millionaires call in and explain how they reached this milestone. During one of these segments I was happy to hear from a lady who we would describe as a Surprise Millionaire. This particular lady related how she accumulated her wealth by living below her means and investing wisely. It is a rare chance to hear a Surprise Millionaire in their own words so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to introduce “Terry from Denver” to my readers. Enjoy!
I have always known it to be true but now there appears to be some proof. The more thrifty a person is has a direct correlation to their happiness and life satisfaction. At least according to this article and the poll they reference. Now we know why our Surprise Millionaires always seem like such happy and content people!
Pennsylvania mechanical engineer, Raymond Suckling, lived a modest life. Fond of White Castle hamburgers and the chipped beef served at his local diner, Mr. Suckling would not be described as a connoisseur of the finer things in life. That is unless you count the fine quality of his friendships and his sterling character.
Mr. Suckling’s life did start out with what one might think of as somewhat privileged. The son of a business executive, Raymond was afforded a good education even after his father’s death when Raymond was only a boy. But it appears that the “silver spoon” stopped there. Mr. Suckling’s adult life was characterized by hard work, sound investing and a frugal, unassuming character.
As you can imagine, it was quite a shock to his friends and associates when they learned that Mr. Suckling had left an estate totaling $37.1 million to a Pittsburgh area charity.
Who would have thought that the man who was fond of Velcro sneakers, drove a Subaru and loved White Castle hamburgers was the same man who accumulated $37.1 million? No one, apparently! While some reports state that the majority of Raymond’s wealth was inherited, those who knew him best indicate that it was a combination of inherited and accumulated wealth due to Ray’s unassuming frugal ways.
Regardless of the origin of his wealth, it was Mr. Suckling’s unassuming thrifty lifestyle which allowed him to make such a dynamic impact on his community and change lives for the better.
We are all aging. It is just a fact of life. However, many people react to this fact by withdrawing from daily life thinking that they have nothing to contribute to the world. This would never be said of today’s Surprise Millionaire Helen Yecny. This northern California lady recently passed away at the ripe old age of 99 and with the accolades and praise heaped upon her, you would think she was a young vibrant person half her age!
Frugal to a fault and always saving for that “rainy day”, Helen was quite the character. Content to live in the home and walnut orchard that she was born in, Helen could be seen most days tending to her yard and her orchard working to maintain the business that had supplemented she and her husband Lou’s income for decades.
However, don’t let it be said that Helen didn’t know how to enjoy life! After Lou’s passing, Helen became quiet the traveler accompanying friends to such places as Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii and Europe. She was also known for her quick wit and sense of humor which would liven up any conversation she was involved in.
Having not been blessed with children, Helen and Lou wanted to find a way to assist the children of the Central Valley region of California with obtaining a much-needed education.
This is why California State University, Stanislaus is the grateful recipient of $2.3 million from Helen’s estate. The funds will be used to sponsor scholarships through the university’s undergraduate honors program. But that’s not all, rumor has it that Helen left funds to some of the local high school districts as well.
I believe Helen’s obituary says it best, “Helen’s afterglow will be felt for generations to come.” What a wonderful statement and what a wonderful life!
A Surprise Millionaire in Georgia thought he was doing a wonderful thing by leaving his local church a staggering bequest of $60,000,000; his entire life’s savings. However, the momentous event seemed to be more of a burden for the small congregation instead of a blessing. Where to use the money and how to use the money were decisions left up to the congregation with no direction from their benefactor. For a house of faith who wanted to remain just that, a house of the faithful; this posed some major concerns.
Would greed rear its ugly head, would they make the right decisions regarding the use of the money when there were literally thousands of worthy causes and organizations that could benefit? These concerns were turning what was meant to be a wonderful thing in to a major stressor for the church and its congregation.
This brings me to my point for all of you potential Surprise Millionaires out there. When determining who you will leave your wealth to, it is best to divide that wealth between several organizations, individuals and worthy causes rather than placing the entire estate and all of the pressures it may bring on one entity. Secondly, please either stipulate or at least suggest what you would like the funds to be used for.
A little planning on your part could save some very grateful, but conflicted people a little angst in the future.
Here is a post from The Small Investor regarding the purchase of automobiles. Like our Surprise Millionaires, The Small Investor would never buy new when used will do! Just think of all the depreciation you will avoid and the interest you will save when you make the decision to purchase that gently used automobile!
Mrs. SmallIvy is truly wonderful and supportive when it comes to handling money. One area where that really shows is in car purchases. Early on in our marriage we made the stupid decision to buy …
Continue Reading: Buying a New Used Car
I recently became aware of a Surprise Millionaire who created quite a sensation a few years ago by the name of Matel “Matt” Dawson, Jr. more affectionately known around Detroit as the “forklift philanthropist”.
Born in Shreveport Louisiana, Mr. Dawson spent his formative years surviving the great depression and the inequality of that time. He wasn’t able to go to high school as he had to work to help support his family, but that didn’t mean he was opposed to scholastics.
On the contrary, Mr. Dawson believed that education was a tremendous thing and wanted young people to pursue their dreams without the worry of financial strain. This Detroit forklift operator who worked more than 60 years at his job gave a total of $1.25 million in scholarship money over his lifetime to deserving young people. He lived frugally, invested wisely and was able to help many others in the process. Another inspiring Surprise Millionaire story!
It appears that others are discovering the Surprise Millionaires phenomena. One financial institution is even attempting to educate its customers regarding the benefits of frugality and wise investing. The article is great and right on target but the statement that really grabbed me is one that expands on an idea I have spoken about at length here at the Surprise Millionaires:
“The correlation between being a millionaire and occupation is completely random. More than what you do for a living, the manner in which you live your life will determine your financial outcome.”
In other words, “anyone can accumulate wealth”! I say it much more simply but the message is the same. Consistent, long term, saving and investing will result in wealth accumulation. And just how do you maximize the funds you are able to invest? Frugality of course!
I think few would argue that Montana is a state called home by many rugged individualists. People who make their own way in life on their own terms. What a perfect place to produce a Surprise Millionaire!
LeRoy Beckman was just such a person. Raised in poverty by a single mother, Mr. Beckman went on to amass an estate totaling $3 million simply by virtue of his frugality and wise investing.
An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Beckman’s estate created a wildlife preserve to ensure that a large part of Montana’s vast terrain will remain unspoiled and accessible to the public for years to come.
Just when I thought I had read the most inspiring story ever (last post), I came across the story of Anna Kurzweil of Kansas City. A lifelong teacher and student of learning who put faith and others first in her life.
A world traveler (working in a leper colony!) gifted educator, writer, and poet, she counted her wealth in the friends she made, the family she loved and the faith she treasured, not in her bank book. But oh how her bank book told its own story!
Upon her death, the faith-based charities she honored were stunned to learn they would be the recipients of Anna’s $2 million estate!
Another amazing life well-lived and a benefit to mankind in general and their local community.