Retiring Wealthy On An Average Salary: The Story Of The Altruistic Educator

Last week I published the first post in a series I’m calling “Retiring Wealthy On An Average Salary”. The series is intended to give us a brief glimpse into the lives of some average people who made average salaries, but still managed to retire with a net worth that we would say makes them wealthy. My intention in writing the series is to help people realize, you don’t have to be a celebrity or a doctor in order to retire comfortably. Instead, you just have to work hard, have a plan, and save and invest diligently.

Last in this series, we told the “Story Of The Thrifty Engineer“. This week I want to talk about the story of a thrifty teacher who was able to save a fortune on a teacher’s salary, and later give it all away to help others.

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The Story Of The Altruistic Educator

Edna Diehl, was a Davison, Michigan woman who spent almost 3 decades as a teacher and counselor at the city’s high school.  She was known to be a serious educator that didn’t take any nonsense from her students.  She pressed them to succeed and do well in whatever careers they pursued.  Former students have also stated that she had a soft side, and showed how she cared deeply for them and wanted them all to do well in their lives.

Edna and her husband (who had no children) were also careful with their income, and made sure to save and invest their money regularly over the years. The result was that they had amassed a fortune of well over a million dollars by retirement.

Instead of spending all of that money as some might have done, Edna decided that once she passed her fortune would be used to fund college scholarships for the district she had taught in.

DAVISON, Mich. — A woman who spent 29 years as a teacher and counselor at the city high school has left $1.3 million to the school district.

Edna Diehl died in July at 88. The Davison Educational Foundation will hold the money in trust, with the interest to be used to fund scholarships.

The district expects the interest will generate about $60,000 a year, paying for two years’ worth of college for five students every year, said Kevin Leffler, a school board member and foundation president.

Diehl and her husband, Ben, who died in 1997, had no children.

She was known as a serious, sometimes even strict, teacher at Davison High School. Former students said she cared deeply and wanted them to succeed in life.

“She was pretty serious most of the time. But she could also be fun outside of school,” Connie Olejniczak, a student during the mid-1960s, told the Flint Journal.

Diehl was known for her ability to raise money for student trips, colleagues said.

“I remember her having to count money all the time,” said Dick DeLoge, a retired teacher who worked with her for about five years.

Davison is 50 miles north of Detroit.

I’m sure it must have been a wonderful feeling for Edna to be able to give such a wonderful gift to the students of her district as she did. Being able to give $60,000 a year in scholarships is no small feat, and her hard work and forethought will mean a college education for many hard working students in her district.

How Can Even A Teacher Become Wealthy?

So how does someone become wealthy on a teacher’s salary?  Education experts Mark C. Schug and William C. Wood offer their advice to teachers in an article on Their 3 rules for teachers:

  • Start Early:  When you start saving early you have the benefit of having more time to enjoy the wonders of compound interest.
  • Buy And Hold:  Spend less than you earn, and don’t go into debt.   Save your money, and purchase investments, and then don’t touch them.  If you withdraw your money you short circuit the gains you might have made due starting early and the wonders of compound interest.
  • Diversify:  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, in other words, don’t have all your money invested in one – or only a few stocks.  Instead diversify your holdings via low cost mutual funds.

They say that since teacher salaries start lower than some other professions, it is doubly important that they start earlier than others.  I think their advice would be applicable to most of us, however, not just teachers.  Start early, invest regularly and make sure you are diversified.

What do you think?  Does the example of the altruistic teacher give you hope that you could do the same?  Do you think it’s possible to become wealthy on an average salary? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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I’m a thirty-something Christian Midwestern father of one son, and have been happily married for 9 years to my beautiful wife. I love playing tennis, shooting hoops, or taking part in the occasional flag football game. Of course, I love writing and financial topics as well, and that's how this site came into being! Check me out on Google +!

Last Edited: 18th October 2010


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