Who is this Oseola McCarty?
What does she have to do with investments?
Probably an American investor nobody knew of?
No! She was not a multi-millionaire either. She was not even a businesswoman.
As strange as it may sound, she was none of it. She never had the “job security” as we know today.
Yet, Harvard University honoured her with a Doctorate.
The then President of the USA, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal—the second-highest civilian award in the USA.
You might be wondering why. Or why are we even talking about her today?
The coronavirus outbreak triggered a chain reaction and nobody is left unaffected.
The outbreak led to the health crisis. It led to isolation. It led to the stock market crash. Now we’re facing possible layoffs, big pay cuts.
For a majority of the investors, the financial future that seemed very possible is now starting to fade away.
And there’s a question in the back of their head.
“How can I invest for my future if I don’t make enough money?”
You probably are facing a serious income crunch already. Your job could be at risk, too.
You might have the same question in your mind, waiting to be answered.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if you are at home thinking,
“I can’t save money because I don’t make enough!”
“My savings is practically nothing, what difference is it going to make?”
Should these thoughts be fed with pessimism?
No. I believe these should be attended and taken care of rationally. And I hope you believe the same.
Meet Miss. Oseola McCarty, the… washerwoman.
Yes, you read that right.
She was born in 1908 to a single mother. Her Mother, Aunt and her Grandmother were the only family she knew. All of whom were washerwomen.
Young Oseola’s mother always told her,
“Save money, Oseola!”
These words were etched into her mind.
She would go to school in the morning and help her aunt with ironing clothes.
Coin after coin, her savings grew. An amount of money a child could save. After a good number of days, her savings doll was filled to the brim with coins.
On a fine day, the little girl walked into the First Mississippi National Bank.
Imagine an African American girl child walking into a bank to open a savings account alone in the early 1900s. It was a small step but a progress.
Her mother’s words made her do it. The faith she had in that teaching made her do it.
“Save money, Oseola!”
Life started to look bright for little Oseola. But it didn’t last long.
On a fateful day, she was forced to quit school while in her sixth grade when her aunt was left immobile because of an illness.
Young Oseola, to support the no-man family, quit school. She picked her aunt’s washboard to financially support the family.
She washed dried and ironed clothes all day—up until 11 at night, every day. Whenever she had the chance, she would walk to the bank to deposit her savings—always as a small pile of coins.
Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Months became years. She washed, saved, deposited through all of it—like clockwork.
She did it through her tragedies as a kid. She continued to do it through some of the worst economic crises in American history.
First, it was the Spanish flu pandemic that ravaged the USA. People lost lives, people lost jobs. Oseola McCarty endured.
She endured World War 1 in which the USA was a part.
She endured the Great Depression of America.
She endured World War 2, in which the USA took a big hit.
She lived through the USA’s space race against Soviet Russia where the two-nation poured money into making rockets than people welfare.
She lived through the cold war that lasted more than 3 decades. As the USA piled up nuclear missiles, she piled up coins to save.
And who was Oseola McCarty then? No one!
Oseola McCarty was not an advocate, not a doctor, not an investor.
All she knew was wash, save, deposit. She did just that over and over for decades.
Do you know what happened after decades?
By the time she retired in the year 1995, she had a whopping $280,000 in her bank account.
She was not a millionaire. But to a washerwoman, even to a white-collar professional that is a very big sum to have in their retirement account.
“I commenced to save money. I never would take any of it out. I just put it in…”
“It’s not the ones that make the big money, but the ones who know how to save who get ahead.”
“You got to leave it alone long enough for it to increase.”
Investment wisdom right there!
It comes from a woman who never went to college. She did not even finish her sixth grade.
Not only that, when Oseola McCarty’s aunt died she inherited some money. She didn’t use it to get her first car or a better house.
Guess what she did? Yes, she deposited it in her bank account.
No business schools taught her this. But a very fundamental lesson that her mother taught her.
“Save money, Oseola!”
Oseola McCarty was a washerwoman who made the impossible possible.
Whenever we speak of making money, getting rich we look up to the legends.
We look up to people like Warren Buffet, John Templeton, even Bill Gates. They are inspiring and insightful.
Very often, their knowledge and their success are so big that we feel like it’s a too distant dream to reach.
But then there is a little girl who made getting rich look very simple with her flawless consistency.
Oseola McCarty washed dirty clothes to save more money she could ever spend.
She made so much that she kept enough for her and used $150,000 of her savings to set up a scholarship fund for the underprivileged students.
Imagine, if anyone walks up to a little girl washing dirty clothes and getting wage in coins and tell her she should earn more than she could ever spend, people would laugh.
People would say “But that’s Impossible!”
Was it impossible for Oseola McCarty?
Miss McCarty earned what she could—she saved what she could, regardless of the magnitude.
In a nutshell, Oseola McCarty learned one right thing and practiced it all her life. She never faltered for what was beyond her, but was mindful about what she can do.
Today it’s you!
There have been hundreds and thousands of people who have faced adversity like this. A few of them made it through, many of them did not.
Today, it’s your turn.
You’re in the position to make a choice—just as Miss Oseola McCarty did in her life.
Are you worried about reduced pay?
Does it feel like your job is hanging by a strand?
Does it make you worry about your financial future?
Ask yourself why?
If a young girl in the middle of adversity with no real educational or job opportunities can do it, why can’t you?
You can make it, too—probably even better.
You can think long-term. No one can stop you from having a vision. Above all, you have access to unlimited financial information and tools to make t through any financial crisis.
Oseola and others alike have had it worse. They have seen worse adversity than you and I will probably ever see. Yet, they climbed out of them all.
They won because they were stubborn. They were stubborn to give in to the tough times. They were stubborn in following their plan. They were stubborn in being consistent, regardless of whatever they went through.
Miss Oseola was stubborn in not letting her worries take control of her.
“My secret was contentment. I was happy with what I had” —revealed Oseola McCarty
Indeed, the times are dark and gloomy. It is probably tougher than ever in your lifetime. But the life of Oseola McCarty has given us some serious personal finance wisdom,
- Your essentials needs for a quality life are very less and cheap to afford—the coronavirus crisis has proved it.
- Lifestyle expenses will make no difference for a content mind, but a huge difference in your savings.
- The intent to save is always much valuable than how much you save.
- You will face a series of crises in your lifetime, with resilience you can win them all.
- Like Oseola, make friends with time and invest enough time in your investments.
- On any day, choose consistency over intensity.
A better financial future is not going anywhere. It’s like your shadow; you just can’t see it when it is dark. You only have to keep moving towards the light.
Believe in the process, not the turbulences.
You cannot save in lakhs? Do it in thousands.
You cannot save in thousands? Do it in hundreds.
Keep your faith in your financial plan as you have so far. Follow it religiously and keep moving forward.
Here’s a naked truth about success (or failure) by Jordan Belfort,