Gilbert Gutierrez, a very successful jewelry store owner, and close friend once told me, “James, I don’t love money, I love to make money.”
Now retired and very ill with crippling arthritis, I often marveled how Gilbert, though hardly able to walk at times, could have operated such a successful jewelry business almost all by himself (his wife, who assisted him died at a young age) for many years. Gilbert also revealed to me that though he made lots of money and could afford a house in any of Fort Worth’s most prestigious communities, he loved living in North Fort Worth (a middle class to poor neighborhood).
Though Gilbert didn’t indulge in alcohol or smoke, he loved to gamble. And that he did with a passion. “James, once a month I fly to Las Vegas with $800 in my pocket and I play those black jack tables. Sometimes I lose all of my $800 and immediately come home, and sometimes I come home with more than what I took. However, most often Vegas wins,” he said. Aside from this weakness, Gilbert was a good steward of his money.
All of us I can safely say, never have or make enough money. “Why is it?” I wonder. I read somewhere that if tomorrow everybody in our country would each received one million dollars, in a short while, almost everyone would be penniless and those business men who managed their wealth like my friend Gilbert, would reap everybody’s money.
Almost all of my life I’ve been real frugal with my money. When we had our first child, my wife got very sick. At that time (1960) a normal birth delivery was around $200, which I already had saved. However, my first child was born via a Caesarean sect. Caught with no savings, I ended up owing our doctor and the hospital around $1,000. Needless to say it was a trying time for my wife and me. To add to my woes, I was temporarily laid off.
Getting around $28 a week from Unemployment Compensation, I barely had enough money to pay our $11 weekly rent, and just enough to buy $7 worth of groceries which would last us about a week. Shortly, my work as a house builder picked up and I then got a part time job at a packinghouse cleaning corrals. Within time my wife went to work.
What can I tell you, “We were rolling in cash!” I remember how my wife detested my job at the packinghouse. “James, you smell like cow manure!” she constantly nagged me. “Angie, this part time job is going to get us out of this hell hole we’re renting,” I’d tell her. Young and naïve, my wife was skeptical of my promise to buy her a house. But, every week when I cashed my packinghouse check, I deposited it in my savings account. Within a year I saved a whopping $1,400. Back in the 1960s this was a lot of money for a 23-year-old Hispanic to have in the bank. Soon, my wife and I started to look for our first house. In 1963, at the young age of 23, I bought my first house for $7,200. I remember that the down payment and the closing cost was around $1,000. In a flash I was left with only $400 in the bank, and with a 3-bedroom house with no furniture. Luckily for me, there was a furniture store that offered a house full of furniture for $399. One must remember that back then there was no sales tax. Thus, my last $400 in the bank allowed my wife and me to feather our nest.
Sometimes I reflect on those difficult times in my young married life and wondered how I was able to survive without any welfare assistance as so many do today. Needless to say, though they were tough times, I learned a lot from that experience.
As the years rolled on, I kept saving as much as I could every week. Not having had money to provide for my family was something I didn’t want to experience ever again.
Funny, though I was making about $2.25 (and still working part time) an hour I considered myself doing well financially. My house payment was $62 a month. I remember I bought an almost new 1962 Super Sport Chevrolet for $1,400. Gas then was 24 cents a gallon, my grocery bill average around $10 a week, beer was 25 cents a bottle, Cokes a nickel, and a movie ticket was 35 cents. What can I tell you, I was in hog heaven.
In 1967 I went to work for a large printing firm for $3.00 an hour. “Man, I hit the jackpot,” I said to myself. However, by then Fort Worth taxpayers were saddled with a sales tax, supposedly a tax to end all taxes. Soon, almost every item one would buy inched up a few cents. Then Fidel Castro, the Cuban Communist leader, put an embargo on Cuban sugar to the United States. Cokes, candies, anything with sugar shot up in price. I soon began to realize that my $3.00 hourly wage really wasn’t enough. Luckily, the printing company I worked for reviewed our wages every year, which helped me to keep my head just above water.
After working 18 years for the printing firm I was offered a job by an aircraft defense company in 1984. Though the printing firm paid me well, the aircraft company far exceeded my hourly wage at the printing firm. By then my wife and I collectively earned close to six figures annually. However, kids in school, income, city, and county taxes, utilities, etc. took a huge bite out of our salaries. Nonetheless, through all this time I continued saving. Though I got a nice return on several Certificates of Deposit I had, my money was not growing like I wanted it to. I then went to get some advice from my old buddy, Gilbert, the jeweler. I can never thank Gilbert enough for his solid advice of how to make money. “James, I’ve made a lot of money in my jewelry business, but, I’ve made more in my Stock Market investments.” he said. Following Gilbert’s advice I cashed in several of my CDs and jumped in the Stock Market some 20 years ago.
Now retired, I get retirement checks from: Tarrant County, General Dynamics, and of course from Social Security. However, nothing compares to the money I have amassed in the Stock Market. “How much have you made James?” some might ask. Well, I’ll tell you, “it is more that I will ever need, but I’m like everybody else, it is never enough.”
James H. Reza
4204 Grand Lake
Lake Worth, Texas 76135
Phones: 817-237-6287 (H) / 817-454-3316 Cell