My father never had any money. He grew up in the streets on the wrong side of town. In his younger days, he was a Blackjack dealer in roadhouses. He liked to say, "I never gambled. I worked for the house."
But he didn't want that kind of life for his kids. He said to me, "Go to college, become an engineer and make five thousand a year."
But when the time came to go, there was a question of some up-front money that was needed. Tuition at Vanderbilt University in 1957 was $600 a year. It was in this connection that I found myself on campus, with my father, in the office of James Buford, the Registrar of the University. We sat across a large desk from him. My father seemed a little uncomfortable. For once in his life, he was on the wrong side of the table.
But he started out talking about what a good student I was and how I carried a paper route too, morning and afternoon. Buford listened politely with a pleasant smile, and when the subject of possible scholarships came up, he leaned forward and said to me, "Son, I think you'd better hang on to that paper route."
We thanked him for his time and left. I wondered what my father would say, but he didn't say anything. Not then, or on the way home.
So I kept my paper route and paid my bills. The tuition went up every year I was there. When I graduated, it was $900. All I did, the whole time, was study and throw papers. When I came out, I had over a thousand saved up.
Then I got married, had children and, for the next 40 years, I didn't save a nickel. But it was fine. I got as much money as I needed.
Now, for the past five years, I've been retired, but still working full-time. We're saving a lot of money now. Look at the chart. That's me.
I figured out, the other day, that I have made no money at all from my investments over the past five years. What I have is entirely from savings. I'd have been better off buying five-year CD's.
I don't know what my father would think about all this. He's no longer available for comment.
But I do know one thing: if there's a Heaven, then James Buford is in it, sitting at a Blackjack table, while my father deals him deuces and treys all day.