This blog post was originally published on May 10, 2018 on my previous website.
A recent article in the New York Times (linked here) tells the story of Ms. Sylvia Bloom, an unassuming 96 year old who had quietly amassed a fortune of nearly $10 million dollars and then gave it away. During her career as a secretary at a prominent Manhattan law firm, Ms. Bloom make small investments into the same funds that her bosses were buying. Over decades these small investments grew and grew, until they became millions of dollars. When Ms. Bloom passed away in 2016, her family and colleagues were shocked to learn that she had grown this fortune.
This story has a few lessons for us all. There are lessons about investing: even small investments like Ms. Bloom's made regularly over time can eventually become large sums; there is no thing as a too small investment. There are lessons about frugality and savings: Ms. Bloom lived modestly, taking the city bus and remaining in a rent-controlled apartment, even though she had the resources to take private cars or buy a fancy home.
Another lesson is the importance of creating a plan that reflects your wishes. For reasons that remain with Ms. Bloom, she didn't tell people about her savings and investments. Her money was split between three brokerage houses and eleven banks. Most of the accounts were in her own name, not in accounts that were shared with her late husband - Ms. Bloom's niece wonders if her uncle even knew about the money. But at the end, Ms. Bloom had an estate plan that directed her savings to good uses. "Ms. Bloom’s will allowed for some money to be left to relatives and friends, but directed that the bulk of the fortune go toward scholarships of [her niece's] choice for needy students." Ms. Bloom herself had been a student of modest means, attending public schools as a youth and then attending Hunter College at night while she worked during the day. One can imagine the satisfaction that Ms. Bloom secretly felt when she added more money to the accounts or saw their balances grown, knowing that this money would eventually go to scholarships for children and students.
Regardless of what your goal is - having a plan will bring two benefits. First, it will help you actually achieve the goal. And second, having a plan and sticking to it will make you feel more satisfied every day.