Anyone can do it. Anyone includes you.
How do I support my bald assertion?
I support it with the spectacular investing success of Ronald Read.
You may be massaging your forehead in frustration trying to conjure the name Ronald Read from memory. Don’t bother; it’s not there.
Ronald Read was “an anyone.” He was also “an anyone” who had less than most.
You could politely say that Ronald Read was “occupationally challenged.”
Read earned a living in two primary occupations: gas-station attendant and janitor. Commit yourself full-time to either occupation, if so inclined, but keep the salary expectations low.
Salary.com pegs $20,600 as the median annual income for a full-time gas-station attendant. Janitors earn considerably more scratch, relatively speaking. Salary.com reports $25,900 as the median annual income for a full-time janitor.
Let’s go high. Let’s assume that Read earned an average of $25,900 annually. We can’t confirm. Read died in 2014.
As for lifespan, Read fared better than most. He lived to age 92.
Read’s death shocked those who knew him.
That a 92-year-old died was hardly shocking. The shock was the fortune Read left behind.
Read left with an estate valued at $8 million. Read’s stock portfolio accounted for the large majority of the estate value.
Read unlikely earned much through his labor. Nevertheless, what he earned he parlayed into an $8 million fortune.
How did Read do it?
Let’s first clear the table of what he didn’t do.
Mr. Read employed no bet-the-farm exotic trades. He wasn’t exceptionally prescient; market timing played no role in his oversized success. He appears to have used no leverage.
Surely, then, it was luck. Perhaps Mr. Read was a ground-floor investor in Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), or some other IPO rocket shot?
No, the answer is much more pedestrian. Read amassed his fortune with frugality, patience, and a favorite investing strategy of mine – dividend-growth investing.
Patience and frugality are closely aligned.
Read might have low career ambitions, but he certainly appreciated the potential of intelligent frugality and patience. Read also understood how frugality and patience amplify the returns and income checks in dividend-growth investing.
As the dividend goes, so goes the share price: dividend growth equals share-price growth, which equals wealth accumulation. It’s a formula for success.
Mr. Read exploited the formula with aplomb and with big-cap dividend growers that flew under no one’s radar.
According to his attorney, Read’s portfolio included AT&T (NYSE: T), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), CVS (NYSE: CVS), Deere (NYSE: DE), and General Electric (NYSE: GE) (before Jack Welch set up GE for the mess it is today).
The most encouraging aspect of Mr. Read’s legend is that he achieved multi-millionaire status by investing, not by the business of investing. The distinction is worth highlighting.
Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn, and Bill Ackman are billionaires, but they became billionaires by managing huge sums of money and taking a cut of the profits. They didn’t become billionaires by investing their own money and patiently and passively reaping the rewards and the income checks like Read.
If you’re a pure investor who wants to emulate investing success, pick your models accordingly. Pick someone who is a pure investor, not a business owner/investor.
Mr. Read was a pure investor. He was also an “anyone” because anyone could have emulated his investing formula.
Motivation speakers inspire passion by asserting that the listener can replicate the speaker’s success. “If I can do it, you can do it.”
Maybe, but the truth is more unlikely than not.
The assertion rings true with Mr. Read. After all, if an attendant/janitor — someone as “anyone” as you can be — can turn $25,900 into $8 million, you can too.
Ronald Read proved that the right dividend stocks combined with a little patience and frugality can go a long, long way.