ARBOR WEALTH: Forty-two years of living within your means

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Margaret R. McDowell

“Who is gonna’ make it?

We’ll find out … in the long run…” from “The Long Run” by Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Bob Seger

Please allow me to introduce you to David and Rose, who have been married for 42 years.

Like many young couples, David and Rose began their married lives with virtually no assets. Throughout their marriage, though, they lived on 80 percent of their combined salaries. The other 20 percent was invested, saved and tithed.

As young adults, the couple used part of their savings as a down payment and bought the least expensive home in a nice neighborhood. Each month, they paid extra toward principal and eventually paid off the mortgage in 20 years. They still make their residence there. 

David earned over $100,000 annually only in the latter part of his career and Rose’s pay grade never reached that level. The couple raised three children, took an annual family vacation, and paid for braces for two kids. All three children attended college, but they all worked during school. 

David drove an older, dependable car, a mid-size sedan and the odometer eventually passed 300,000 miles. While he kept his auto spotless, it was surrounded in his office parking lot by more attractive, newer models, and his affinity for his older car became a subject of mirth for his co-workers. David, who wore a coat and tie to work, always bought his suits on sale. Rose and David also bought needed household items on sale throughout their marriage. 

What’s the point? The couple now enjoys an investment account with a value of well over a million dollars. And they have no debt.  When Rose retired, David asked her if she wanted anything special to celebrate that milestone. Rose asked for a trip to Ireland. The couple spent four weeks touring Europe, returned exhausted but fulfilled, then resumed their relatively frugal lifestyle. It’s a happy habit they can’t seem to break. “I’m still a coupon clipper at heart,” says Rose. “I can’t stand wastefulness.”

David bought a new BMW convertible recently, but only takes it out on weekends. Rose says he really prefers driving his old, dependable sedan, the one with 300,000 miles.

The couple is the prototypical millionaires next door, and while they are completely fictional, their story rings true. In fact, you may recognize parts or all of your own lifestyle and history in this fictional portrayal.

You would never recognize them as millionaires while waiting in line at Walmart, where they did much of their shopping. Rose and David never attempted to emulate the lifestyles of those whose wealth seemed more obvious. The importance of saving and investing wisely can only be evaluated over time. It’s not fancy, but it still works.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, chartered financial consultant and accredited investment fiduciary, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” and fiduciary registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.