Get Rich Slowly-reader D submitted the following story, which is typical of many similar that I’ve heard:
A few years back I was working in the city for a CPA firm when an associated legal firm brought in an interesting case. Their client had passed away, and the family had no idea where to begin. Money was never a topic the family discussed, and the kids were in the dark of their mother’s positions. This woman had lived like a pauper. Her home was in just as much filth as her finances. I was in charge of this particular case. It was indeed a treasure hunt!
When I was done, and presented my findings to the children, I will never forget their faces of disbelief.
My research uncovered that back when their mother was young, and just beginning her life with a new husband and child, she had started stashing left-over grocery money and change. She then started dabbling in the stock market. She had no experience or education, but had left journals saying…what the heck, maybe we will have a vacation some day.
She took the money and invested in companies that she didn’t really know if they were a sound investment. One was a little starter company (as she noted) called IBM. (She wondered why they would want to use an abbreviated name, how would people know who they were or what they did.)
She put the bulk of her money in Maytag. Why? Because she had their washer at home and knew everyone would want one.
Here is when it all starts to go crazy. You see, Mom didn’t know about or utilize the dividend reinvestment plans. She purchased stock and then for years kept receiving these dividend checks. She had no idea what to do with them. So she started stuffing them in boxes and drawers. Her husband handled the banking and she never told him about the investments or the checks. He probably would have helped her to the bank with them.
All was eventually made good with her uncashed checks, even though the majority had long since become no good and non-cashable. The kids were left with a healthy unexpected lump sum where they had been prepared to pay money to close out her estate and were trying to come up with enough cash.
There was more, but these were the highlights.
I’m always amazed at these stories. I wish I could find a copy of the one from a few years ago where the little old lady (in New York?) died and left hundreds of thousands (millions?) lying around her apartment in cash. I heard it on NPR, but can’t find it now.
[Don't try this at home.]