Every now and then, I get a letter from a reader that I must share with you (with the reader's permission). Some letters include wisdom that is memorable enough to revisit. This letter, from 2015, about the "secrets" of success, is priceless:
"My parents were high-school graduates, blue-collar, FDR Democrats -- married 63-plus years before they passed away. My dad was a machinist his whole life (except for World War II). The most he ever made was about $8.50 an hour, and that was after all of us kids (five of us) had left home. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and frugal shopper extraordinaire. After Dad's retirement they lived solely on Social Security, albeit in a paid-off home and a relatively cheap economy in western Pennsylvania. ...
"In today's definitions, we would have probably been considered lower income (or less), but we never thought of ourselves as such. Our parents were prime examples of frugality and thriftiness. Even though they were 'only' high-school graduates, education was primary in the home, and it was just expected that each of us would go to college. All five of us did; however, our parents did not and could not afford to help us out, so we all financed college on our own way."
The reader said that all five children went on to marry and have children of their own, and each of the five eventually had a net worth of about $1 million or more. Then he added:
"So what is the 'secret' of our success? The fact of the matter is that there is no secret:
"1. Get that college degree -- lots of ways to finance it, but get a degree. Get the degree in an employable field. Education is key -- not only in the field you will work, but in educating yourself about money and investing.
"2. Find a good spouse and stay married -- divorce is financially devastating. The five of us have been married a total of 178 years.
"3. Start investing early in your working life. We all did that. I started putting into a 401(k) when it was first offered by my company in 1984. Time and consistency are your allies.
"4. Six of us have or will have pensions from our employers during retirement -- unfortunately, that is a benefit that is quickly vanishing from the employment landscape.
"5. Live within your means -- don't 'try to keep up with the Joneses.' One of my favorite quotes is from Lee Eisenberg's book 'The Number': 'Want what you have, not have what you want.' We all buy automobiles, no leases. The youngest brother did lease a car once a number of years ago and vowed 'never again.' We drive our cars for years; no new cars every three years for us.
"6. Be as financially savvy as possible. The five of us have had a family 'mutual fund' since 1991. We each put in money each month, and it gets invested in individual stocks. It keeps us all connected, we learn from each other, and currently it finances the yearly 'meetings' we have. Each summer since about 1989, we have gotten together as a family for at least a week -- great times and memories.
"In looking to the future, what we achieved is not impossible -- maybe just a bit harder in today's economy. Of my parents' 11 grandchildren, five are married. Of those 16 in the next generation, 12 have college degrees, all 16 are employed in well-paying jobs, and the five married couples all have their own homes. None of the 12 college graduates has any college debt. All have followed our example and invested money toward retirement, although all are eventually destined to inherit various sums of money.
"No secrets; you just have to set ideals and ethics, learn from those before you, and don't be dumb."
What lessons. Can't be said any better.
DISTRIBUTED BY ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION