The lesson from Ronald Read

Ronald Who? Yes, Read was a janitor who lived below his means, saved and invested. He died a millionaire and gave away his money. Generous and frugal to the end

Brattleboro Reformer | AP Photo
Picture courtesy of Brattleboro Reformer | AP Photo
Who was Ronald Read?

If you have never heard of Ronald Read, you are not alone. This was a man that most people have never heard of until after his death in 2014. Why are we interested in Mr Read? Afterall he led an ordinary life by all standards.

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His life and our fascination

Mr Read was a military man in his younger days, he then became a janitor and petrol station attendant after that. You don’t get more ordinary than that, right? So how did he manage to become a millionaire? He did not have a fancy education or employed clever brokers. He simply invested his money over many years. For the rest of us, Read shows us that we can live well, doing ordinary jobs and amass wealth.  How did he do this?

Firstly, he lived well below his means, he then saved and invested the rest of his money. Ronald Read lived in the same house he bought for $12,000 and never moved. He invested in blue chips companies that he knew about. Companies like JC Penny, General Electric, Procter and Gamble, JP Morgan chase and many more.

Slow and steady

Read reminds me of the story of the tortoise vs the hare. Whilst most of us want to achieve great things in a hurry, the best way to win the race of life is through consistent investments over time and with a lot of patience.

A lesson in frugality

For the proponents of stock market to make people rich, Read became their poster boy. For those who want to tell us that we can become rich over night, they will point to Read as an example of people in the ‘slow lane’ of life. But Ronald Read was his own man.

Why Read captured our imagination

Read captured the imagination of the world by his simplicity and generosity. He saved all his life and then gave the money to deserving charities, not just his immediate family members. A library received $1.2m, hospital got $4.8m and his two stepchildren got $1m each.

To turn small savings into huge wealth and then give it all away shows an incredibly generous man. Most importantly though, Read read a lot (was that a pun somewhere).

Read deserves to be recognised and commended for his kindness to others.  A man who kept a simple life but came to prominence after his death is remarkable.

There is something about Read that will stay with us for a long time. He did not make any promises whilst alive, he was not flashy or selfish with his money, but to give it all away at a time when the receivers had no chance of thanking him is even more remarkable.


Get rich slowly and over time.

Ronald Read worked until he was 76, but his greatest asset is in the patience to hold his portfolio over many years and keep reinvesting his dividends.

Rather than get rich quickly, you can do it slowly and in your own time

You can read more about Read from

You may be interested in the blog below about how we build characters and that we are not born with these great characters

Built not Born. – Blogsoulfood