Talia Jane is an off-putting person.
Ms. Jane (last name unknown) may vaguely ring a bell. A former Yelp (NYSE: YELP) employee, Jane achieved 15 seconds of fame earlier this year on social media. Jane took to social media to publicly complain to her ultimate boss, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, that she couldn’t afford to buy groceries on her Yelp salary.
Jane was promptly (and rightly) fired. Jane’s rude awakening to reality sparked a lively dialogue on living wages, corporate responsibility, and human rights. Unfortunately, most of the commentary was supportive of Jane’s plight. Sympathizers (enablers, really) even ponied up cash to donate to her personal PayPal account.
Jane will remain an off-putting loser as long as she retains her entitlement mentality. The sooner she realizes that no one owes her anything, the sooner she’ll realize that responsibility for honing skills that demand higher compensation is her responsibility.
Stop whining, start doing; live within your means and leverage your abilities to the best of your ability. Those abilities can be leveraged to remarkable success, regardless of how pedestrian they may be.
A Secretary Worth Millions
Gladys Holm is a glowing example of how much can be done with so little. Holm died in 1996 at age 86. Holm was a bon vivant – enjoying big rings, vivid red clothing, good scotch, and lively dinner conversation.
Holm was no heiress. She lived alone in a tiny apartment in suburban Evanston, Ill. She worked most her life as a secretary, never earning more than $15,000 a year. Despite possessing no exceptional work skills, Ms. Holm created a multi-million dollar fortune. In her will, she left $18 million to the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
So, how did Ms. Holm do it?
I can assure you that public whining wasn’t a variable in the calculus. On the other hand, patience, frugality, and an alert mind were.
Holm worked most of her life for medical firms. Her first secretarial job was for American Hospital Supply Corp. When the company went public in 1951, she was given stock options. American Hospital eventually became a giant in the industry. The value of Ms. Holm’s stock soared. The company was eventually bought by Baxter International (NYSE: BAX) in 1985.
But Ms. Holm’s good fortunes weren’t the result of only fortuitous stock options in a promising start-up. Ms. Holm leveraged her knowledge of the health-care industry to buy other stocks. Unlike Warren Buffett, she really did buy and never sold, thus allowing dividend growth and share-price appreciation to work their magic.
Janitor Leaves a Fortune
Ronald Read was likely unaware of Holms’ existence, but they were kindred spirits nonetheless.
Read, a Vermont native, died in 2014 at age 92.
Few people would conflate type-A personality with Read’s occupations of choice. Read earned his living as a gas station attendant and as a janitor. Salary.com reports $20,611 as the median annual income for a full-time gas-station attendant. Janitors earn considerably more, though hardly enough to puff your chest. Salary.com reports $25,900 as the median annual income for a full-time janitor.
Nevertheless, when Read died, he left a fortune valued at $8 million.
Read saved whenever he could. He was known to wear a coat to the point it required safety- pin reinforcement so that that it could cling to his diminutive frame. He practiced a long-time habit of foraging for firewood to heat his home.
With the money saved, he learned to invest wisely. Read invested across a variety of sectors, including railroads, utilities, banks, health care, telecom, and consumer products. Read’s portfolio included AT&T (NYSE: T), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), CVS (NYSE: CVS), Deere (NYSE: DE), General Motors (NYSE: GM), and High Yield Wealth recommendation General Electric (NYSE: GE).
Because perfection isn’t of this world, Mr. Read had his failures. Most notably, Lehman Brothers Holdings, which famously collapsed during the financial crisis in 2008. I suspect that unlike Talia Jane, Read was stoic about his Lehman Brothers investment. Learn and move on was the likely response.
Talia Jane (as well as many others) could learn an invaluable life lesson from Read and Holm: Do what you can with what you have got and get on with it. I suspect it’s a lesson Talia Jane will never learn.
How to Sleep Easy at Night
Is the economy keeping you up at night? Do you worry there’s another crash just around the corner? If so, you can stop worrying right now. All it takes is a few minutes. Find out how right here.