I have been thinking about writing this post since I started my blog. As you will read, Veterans Day might be the most fitting day to publish it. This post is about my Uncle Xavier. As the title suggests, Xavier was a veteran, millionaire, and mentor to me. Below is his story and a little bit about our relationship.
Like many members of the Greatest Generation, my Uncle Xavier had humble roots. He grew up in West Scranton, Pa during the Great Depression. His Father owned a small corner grocery store. His mother was home-bound because she went blind at an early age from diabetes.
After high school, there was not much opportunity for Xavier. He lived with his parents when he was in his early 20’s. Jobs were hard to come by in those days. He used to tell me about taking the Laurel Line Train from Scranton to Pittston to work at McCrory’s Department Store. He described the scenery as “the outskirts of hell” as the train would pass by the stripping pits where coal was once mined.
When Xavier was age 26, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. It was the early 1940’s and the world was at war. While in the Army, he served on 2 major theaters in Northern Africa and in Europe during World War II. Even though he saw horrific fighting, he spoke highly of his time in the service.
After the war ended, he returned home to Scranton, Pa. While the economy was booming for most of the country, the good times skipped Scranton as they always seem to do. He could not find a decent paying job. He decided to take advantage of the newly created Montgomery G.I. Bill and went to The University of Scranton where he earned a BS Degree in Economics. He then moved to New York City and went to graduate school at NYU.
My Uncle was a straight-laced guy. He did not enjoy living in Greenwich Village all that much. He said the bohemian crowd was not for him.
Following graduate school in New York, he decided to move to the Washington D.C. area. He said that there was a tremendous amount of job opportunity there. He had an easy time landing a government job because he was a veteran.
While in Washington D.C., he met and married my Aunt Ann. They both worked for the State Department. They settled into a townhouse in Arlington, Virginia. He said it was a great investment because it was near a new Metro Station. They also bought a weekend house at Bethany Beach in Delaware.
My Aunt loved to travel. She made my Uncle Xavier join a travel club. They took many trips to Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America. They were truly jet-setters.
Even though they lived the high life, my uncle was a great saver and investor. This was many years before index funds were available to individual investors. My Uncle invested his money in blue-chip stocks. He was a big believer in the consumer staples sector.
My dad would talk about Uncle Xavier from time to time, but I do not remember meeting him until 1998 when I was age 21. He moved back to the Scranton area because he had to move his wife into a nursing home and wanted to be closer to the family. One Saturday evening, he called my dad and said that he wanted him to come to his apartment to talk about money. He brought me with him for the visit.
It was a surreal meeting. My Dad was an Accountant and he wanted him to be the executor of his will. He also needed help picking out a PC because he wanted to track his investments online.
When we were at his apartment, he showed my dad his investment portfolio. He had $1.8 million dollars invested in stocks with Merrill Lynch, tax-free bonds with Fidelity, and mutual funds with Vanguard. I think my dad almost had a heart attack when he found out he was worth so much money.
I never met a millionaire before. I was taken aback. It felt surreal. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn more about the markets.
Moving forward, my dad felt obligated to spend time with Xavier. It was truly a pleasure to hang out with him. We went out to the local diner for breakfast almost every Saturday for many years. We took him to see a Notre Dame football game at FedEx Field in Washington D.C. and my parents took him to Las Vegas twice.
I was already saving and investing for over one year when Xavier came into my life. Meeting him enhanced my desire to become financially independent. He taught me so much about living below your means and investing. He was worth almost two million dollars and lived in a one-bedroom apartment. He spent his days reading the Wall Street Journal, watching CNBC, and taking two trips per day to the nursing home to have lunch and dinner with his wife.
Uncle Xavier was in my life for seven years. I spent a great amount of time with him. Other than going out to eat, I would take him to his appointments as he was getting older. I was in college, so I had some free time to do so. My Aunt passed away in 2001 and he passed away in 2004.
I have experienced death before, but never mourned anyone the way I mourned when he died. It hurt. I felt like I was punched in my chest. I remember crying for a good 10 minutes when he passed away from a heart attack.
I miss him. It has been a while since I gave him this much thought. He was my Uncle, but also my friend.
While other 21-year old kids were out messing around, I was learning how to live and be a man from a guy who truly was the millionaire next door. Spending time with Xavier has shaped my life. I am truly grateful for the time that we spent together.
I hope you enjoyed this special veteran’s day post. It is a tribute to my uncle, my father, as well to all the men and women who served in the armed forces. Thank you all for your service.