Retiring Wealthy On An Average Salary: The Story Of The Persevering Parking Attendant

Over the last few weeks I’ve posted several stories of average folks who were able to retire wealthy while making an average salary during their working years.   There was an engineer who never made more than $50,000, but was thrifty and saved and invested regularly.  There was the teacher who was frugal, and always saved.   Then there was the social worker who helped a lot of people when she gave it all away at her death.  Finally there was the secretary who got a little lucky, and bought stock in her company when she was young, and was able to sell it later on for more than a million dollars.

As I continue looking around the web, I’m amazed at just how many of these stories I’m finding. Regular people who started saving young, were frugal and by the time retirement came around, they were sitting on a fortune.  Today I want to look at another inspiring tale, “The Story Of The Persevering Parking Attendant”.

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The Story Of The Persevering Parking Attendant

Earl Crawley, 69, is a parking lot attendant at the Mercantile Bank in Baltimore, Maryland.  Mr. Earl, as people call him, only makes $20,000 a year, but yet has been able to amass a portfolio worth over $500,000, have a paid off house and have no debt!  While it may not seem like a ton compared to some others we have profiled in this series, I think it’s pretty amazing to do that on a $20,000 a year salary, all while raising his 3 kids and sending them to Catholic school. 

So how did he do it?  Mr. Crawley explains in a Q&A he did for Kiplinger’s:

Soon after I started working for Mercantile Bank in Baltimore 44 years ago, one of the bankers took me aside and told me I didn’t have enough education to go very far at the bank. He suggested I invest in stocks.

How did you learn how to invest?

I really didn’t know enough to be scared. In school I was considered a slow learner — dyslexic, it’s called now. My true gift from God is my ability to listen, and that’s how I’m able to ask questions and use tips from the brokers, financial planners and bank customers I see every day.

Mr. Earl knew enough to know that he didn’t know enough about investing, and that he should get help from those who DID know.  He talked to the people in the know, and because he listened and learned well, he prospered.  So how did he get started, and where did he get the money to invest when he didn’t make a ton?

I did it with good old-fashioned nickels and dimes. My mother taught me how to budget, which made me appreciate how a little money can grow. I saved what I could from odd jobs, such as lawn cutting and window washing, that I did in addition to my day job. I used that money to buy one share of IBM stock back in 1981.

I really like what Mr. Earl did.  Despite making a small salary, he worked hard. He got side jobs that allowed him to create a little more margin – enough to invest.  In some respects that’s what we’re doing at our house, investing and saving the income from side jobs and side businesses in order to get ahead.

Since he’s been successful, Mr. Earl now finds  people are looking to him to get help.

We’ve heard that you’re helping others invest.

I started an investment club at my church. And I’ve been coaching a couple of young men, such as bar-and-grill cook Antawn Davenport and Dana Mouse Smith, who toured with the late rapper Tupac Shakur. They can help spread the message that people can do whatever they set their minds to do.

I love the fact that Crawley is now helping others of meager earnings, like the cook, to get ahead, and spreading the gospel of compound interest.  It’s stories like his that give me hope that others, including myself, can appreciate the power of compounding returns, and be successful – at any salary. 

Here’s a pretty well done story done on Earl Crawley for the PBS Show MoneyTrack:

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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: 15th November 2010


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  1. says

    This was such an inspirational story! Mr. Earl is officially my hero. How nice of him to start an investment club; I need to join haha. I’m definitely going to jump in and start investing. There’s no excuse anymore.

  2. Lawrence says

    You better believe the story man. Me neither have much education(no high school), but i keep plugging at it by reading up on financial and investments books. Of course free from my national library. Until today i am still reading these type of books. i started investing only at the age of 40 till now 63. You see you have got your ways i got mine. i am still investing. i believe in lifetime learning. Ha! Ha!
    “Temperament is more important than high IQ in investing”
    Who said that?

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