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Alain Guillot Show

May 13, 2018

The formula is simple. There is no magic around it.

Spend less than you earn and invest the rest.

Many times we attribute wealth to a well-paying career: computer science, medicine, law, etc. We attribute wealth to being a genius in the stock market. We try to find the secret sauce of wealth. We try to find the reason why others can have what we can not.

The truth is that we live in North America, and people don’t have to have high paying careers to become millionaires. Everyone can do it, as long as you follow the formula: Spend less than you earn and invest the rest.

This article is not about me, this article is about Sylvia Bloom, the secretary who had a $9 million fortune when she died. But I just want to mention very fast, that I have been living in North America for 20 years, I made my money as a dance teacher (not a lot of money) and within 20 years, I paid for my education, and I live as a retired person, I work when I want to, if I want to. At the same time, I see people with huge salaries, my age (50 years old) still paying for their student debt.
Who was Sylvia Bloom

Sylvia was the daughter of Eastern European immigrants. She grew up in Brooklyn, attended public school and then studied at night while working during the day.

She was a secretary in a law office in New York City. She is no different from millions of other secretaries who live in big or small cities in North America. She did the typical things that secretaries do. Type some letters, book appointments, answer the phone, etc. No special skills. Maybe she had a nice personality, something sometimes difficult to find.

She worked 67 years in the same Wall Street law firm.

She was married to a firefighter. So neither she nor her husband had high paying careers. In addition, all the investments were under her name, which leads us to believe that she didn’t have much help from her husband to accumulate this fortune.

Sylvia Bloom retired at the age of 96 and then died shortly after in 2016. Only when the will was read did we discovered that she was a millionaire. None of her friends and/or family had any idea of how much money she had and of course, it was a big surprise to everyone.
How much Money did she earn?

We don’t know how much did she earn, but a quick Google search on “Average salary for a legal secretary in N.Y.C.” gave us these answers:

I can easily assume that she earned about $60,000. It’s not bad but is not the kind of salary you would associate with becoming a millionaire. I am sure that she earned much less than the lawyers she worked for, and I am sure the layers at her law firm don’t have $9 million dollars at their broker’s account.
How much did she spend

Sylvia lived in a rent-controlled apartment in N.Y.C. She didn’t leave in a big fancy building. She found a good price for her living, and she never gave it up.

How many of us let life inflation creep into our life? How many of us buy a big house or a fancy apartment only because the advertisers have told us so. How many of us buy a house or a condo when it’s not a wise decision to do so.

Related article: See how Kristy Chen decided NOT to become a property owner and is now a millionaire.

Sylvia didn’t own a car, she took the metro every day. How many of us are seduced by advertisers telling us to buy the latest car? True, many of us need a car but, we don’t need to buy a new car every 4 years. My mother does that and I get upset every time she does it.

In short, Sylvia was not a spender. How you live one day is how you live your whole life. People say, go out and drink your $7 coffee. Don’t worry about the little stuff. Worry about the big stuff, like your housing and transportation.

But we cannot separate the little stuff from the big stuff, we accomplish a lot by accomplishing little.

How she invested her money

She invested her money in the stock market. She didn’t have any investment education. Instead, she piggybacked on the knowledge of her bosses. When her bosses would purchase shares for their own portfolio, Sylvia also purchased some shares for herself.

Maybe, I can assume that she was a buy-and-hold kind of person. She didn’t day-trade, she didn’t have complex rebalancing strategies. She just bought and held.

I can also assume that Sylvia didn’t have bonds in her portfolio. Bonds is a booby trap. It offers you a false sense of security and in exchange, you lose a big chunck of your money-earning potential.

Related post: Bonds vs Stocks. Age is not the important factor, money is

Her legacy

Out of her $9 million, $8.2 was donated to charity organizations in N.Y. and the rest was distributed among her family and friends.
The Lesson

We learned through the life of Sylvia Bloom that anyone can become a millionaire. No matter if your family has money or not. Not matter if you have a high paying job or not. You spend less than you earn, you invest the rest, and that’s it. It’s as simple as that.

Thank you, Sylvia, for such a great lesson.
What I would have done differently

I have an aversion towards work. I don’t like offices, alarm clocks, bosses, schedules, etc.

If I was in Sylvia’s place, I would have stopped working after reaching $1.5 million. If we apply the 4% rule. 4% of $1.5 million is $60,000 per year, which is the same as her speculated salary. She could have been helping out, with her own hands, those charities organizations that she loved so much.

Related posts:

Are you House Rich, Cash Poor?
It’s your choice: You can be anything you want
Frugality lessons learned from a billionaire, Mr. Kamprad, the deceased founder of Ikea


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