The parking lot attendant worth half a million bucks

The parking lot attendant worth half a million bucks

In this week's installment of Get Rich Slowly Theater, we're going to look at a real-life money boss: Earl Crawley, a parking attendant from Baltimore. Mr. Earl (as he's known) was profiled on the PBS show MoneyTrack. Here's a six-minute segment about this super saver:

Mr. Earl has worked as a parking attendant for 44 years — at the same parking lot! He's never made more than $12 per hour. He's never earned more than $20,000 in a year, yet he has a net worth over half a million dollars.

Like many successful folks, Earl started working when he was young. At age 13, he got a job at a produce market to help pay the family bills. His mother took most of his income to help make ends meet, leaving her son with just a few cents out of every dollar. This forced saving plan was the start of a life-long habit.

Mr. Earl says he was a slow learner. He wasn't very good in school. He had dyslexia, so reading was a struggle. Growing up in the 1950s, there weren't a lot of opportunities for people in situations like his. He knew he was destined for a lifetime of low-wage jobs, so he decided he'd better save what little he earned.

He and his wife raised three children — and sent them to Catholic school instead of public school — despite their meager budget. (Mr. Earl took extra jobs in order to pay tuition.) Meanwhile, he started investing.

Mr. Earl's investing habit started small. At first, he put his money into savings stamps and savings bonds. He saved what might have seemed like meaningless amounts to other people, starting with pennies and moving up to dollars. For fifteen years, he invested $25 each month into a mutual fund. His balance grew. By the end of the 1970s, his net worth was $25,000.

Eventually, Mr. Earl decided he wanted to “play the stock market” himself. He began buying shares in Blue Chip companies like IBM and Caterpillar and Coca-Cola. He bought just a share or two at a time, but that was enough. (His first purchase was a single share of IBM in 1981.) His secret?

“Instead of taking the dividends and pocketing it, I let it set — or let it reinvest itself — and increase my shares. The more shares I had, the more dividends I had. And eventually, the more money I had down the road.”

Like any good money boss, Earl built a wealth snowball.

How did Earl become so savvy with money? It's not just because of habits he developed when he was young. You see, his parking lot is in the middle of a financial district. Over time, he picked the brains of the folks who passed his way. He picked up tips on how to save and invest.

“I talked to everybody and listened to the advice everybody gave me,” he says. Because he had trouble reading, he made a point of listening.

Today, Mr. Earl's stock portfolio is worth more than $500,000. He owns his home free and clear. He has no debt.

Mr. Earl is a prime example of a money boss. He made the most of the cards life dealt him. He found a way to turn a losing hand into a winner. And now he's paying it forward, teaching others how to save and invest.

The dude is awesome.

For more about Mr. Earl, check out this short interview at Kiplinger.

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Carissa Houston
Carissa Houston

This is such a great story; will show my kids. Thanks for sharing it.

dh
dh

Hero.

WantNotToWantNot
WantNotToWantNot

I love this story. It’s a great answer to those who get frustrated with some FI and FIRE people, saying they must have inherited money or cheated somehow. No. It just takes persistence in saving, patience and time. Humility helps too, which allowed this guy to learn from anyone he met—a great life lesson for us all.

Hustle Hawk
Hustle Hawk

Wow wow wow wow wow!

Thanks so much for writing about Mr. Earl’s story. Feeling super stoked. Now that is a textbook example of how to live your life and pay it forward.

Would be really interesting to look at how his portfolio would have performed had he bought index funds instead of individual stocks (to the extent such funds existed) and whether his portfolio would have performed as well had he started investing in another era.

HH

Jen
Jen

Love this story! No excuses to save!

freebird
freebird

Amazing story, if his career average annual income was ~10K, his lifetime wealth ratio is over 1.0. This feat is rare enough among those with high incomes, I had believed it would be impossible just barely above minimum wage (I see this story was 10 years ago but it’s still pretty close). Apparently not. He must have had unusually high returns from his investments because his savings rate, while certainly admirable, could not have gotten him this far alone. Too bad guys like him aren’t running the hedge funds rather than parking their cars; there’d be a lot more customer… Read more »

Go
Go

Writing from India. Thanks for the great work on the blog and for this fantastic story. The humility in the story just gets to you. This is something that I will show to a lot of people.

This just connects at so many levels. A lot of people tell me that am lucky to have got to a 60%+ savings rate and FI is not possible without a yawning income but this story shatters it all.

Teinegurl
Teinegurl

This is absolutely a cool story!

Sheila
Sheila

How great! I’d like to share this with my kids, but, sadly, they’re going to roll their eyes.

Mariele
Mariele

You need new kids. ;P I actually shared this one with my parents-incredible story! What most of us would blow on a candy bar or coffee he pinched and saved and invested. Very humbling.

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