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!
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 word to all of you potential Surprise Millionaires out there. Remember, the key to wealth accumulation is long-term, consistent investing. Markets may rise and fall, but the long-term, consistent investor will achieve the goal of wealth accumulation by practicing these simple habits. Remember the mantra of the Surprise Millionaires, “anyone can accumulate wealth”!