Thursday, June 22, 2017

Anne Scheiber, the Secret Millionaire


I first heard of Anne Scheiber from a magazine article about her in 1995, shortly after she passed away aged 101. Anne Scheiber was the first example I have heard of a hidden millionaire.  Hidden millionaires are low profile people who grew up in average circumstances and did not rise up very high in their careers, who lived very ordinary frugal lives. They are the sort that others never expect to be rich. But when they die, people with something to do with their estate are surprised to find out they were multimillionaires.

Scheiber died with a $22M fortune.

Because Scheiber was low profile and did not have any close relations, there isn't a lot known about her century of life. She got attention in the news because she donated her fortune to the Yeshiva school to help women like her. The school had never heard of her. What is known is that she spent her entire working life as a IRS auditor. She was great at weeding out corporate tax cheats. But despite her contributions, she never got promoted at the IRS. After she retired in the 1940's she lived a simple life in New York until her death. According to the article, she learned from years of auditing that the wealthy all invested. And that inspired her to focus on investing in retirement.  The articles described Scheiber as a miser and a recluse.

The part of the story that estimates her returns gets a bit fuzzy. The story is that she started with only $5000 in retirement and turned it into $22M which would give her a 17.5% rate of return!  That beats the like of Walter Schloss!  But after digging around in Wikipedia, I read that she probably started out with much more at retirement. And her return was probably around 13%. Her return is still phenomenal because out-strips the US market by about one percentage point. Incidentally, that's exactly the type of returns I want. Her investment style is the Warren Buffett style of buying quality companies and holding for the long term, like a lifetime!

I read about her before I had ever invested. And that article had a tremendous influence on my thinking towards investment. It helped me to start early down the investment path. Although value investing and stock picking didn't come until much much later.

I've thought about her many times since I first read about her, and my burning question is whether she was happy in her retirement years while she was accumulating her secret millions. My best guess is that she felt a tremendous sense of purpose and it was that purpose more than anything else that helped her to live to such a ripe old age.

Although Scheiber was the first secret millionaire I've heard of, she is not the only one. Every once in a while I hear of others. Like Ron Read of Vermont who was a veteran and who worked as a janitor and gas station attendant. He died at 92 worth $8 M. And I am sure there are many more that we have never heard of.


1 comment:

  1. There are many stories about millionaire and I really liked this one. You have done a great job by doing this article. Great work

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