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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Simple Wisdom for Rich Living by Professor Bert Lorenzo

In her book Simple Wisdom for Rich Living Oseola McCarty outlines the philosophy that helped her through a lifetime of hard work, loneliness and hardship. Born into poverty in 1908 Mississippi McCarty worked almost 80 years as a washerwoman and amassed a $280, 000 fortune. In early 1995 she gave away most of it to the University of Southern Mississippi. In August 18-year old Stephanie Bullock received the first Oseola McCarty Scholarship. “Miss McCarty had made sure that others would have the education she was denied.” xiii

McCarty had to leave school at eight years old. Her father died and she had to help her grandmother, mother and aunt financially. She worked side by side with the three women. Shannon Maggio writes in the introduction, In her adult years, it was faith that sustained Oseola through the greatest trials of her life: the loss of her grandmother in1944, her mother in 1964, and her aunt in 1967. Those three women had been her nurturers, housemates, coworkers, and confidantes since her birth. Their absence left her alone in the world. xii

McCarty offers words of wisdom about work, money, faith, relationships and the good life. She wants to share the values and philosophy of simplicity that helped her live a full life without material things. About work she says, “I knew there were people who didn’t have to work as hard as I did, but it didn’t make me feel sad. I loved to work, and when you love to do anything, those things don’t bother you. I just loved the work.” 6 About money she says, “The secret to building a fortune is compounding interest. It’s not the ones that make the big money, but the ones who know how to save who get ahead. You’ve got to leave your investment alone long enough for it to increase.” 18 This summarizes her philosophy: work hard, save and invest and practice gratitude.

I have just one criticism of McCarty’s book. I wish it wouldn’t end. I don’t tire of her stories. The book’s strength lies in its timeless message. I recommend it to college students. Her message reminds me of Professor Keating in Dead Poets Society who asks his students, “Law, banking, medicine these are all important to sustain life but what do we sustain life for?” For McCarty work becomes her life. She works because she has to but also because she wants to. Her work gives her purpose. She always offers her best and because she does her job expertly she loves it.

College students have the opportunity to choose the work they will do. Not everyone gets that chance. They should choose carefully and work not just to sustain life but to define it. They should do their work with pride no matter what others in society may think of the value of said work. They should do their work well and then they will learn to love it.

McCarty teaches the reader about contentment and simple pleasures. She says, “It’s important to make special memories with the people you love… I remember Christmases spent with my mother, grandmother, and aunt… They worked most nights babysitting or serving at parties. They came home loaded with big plates of food. We would light the Christmas tree and sit down to a late dinner. We took joy in being together.”53

College students in debt should heed her message, “A smart person plans for the future. You never know what emergency will come and you can’t rely on the government to meet all your needs. You have to take responsibility for yourself.” 31 Her message of self-reliance seems foreign in 2008 supposedly capitalist America.

I read Simple Wisdom for Rich Living in 1996 at a crossroads in my life. I felt burned out as a teacher. I felt what I did and whether or not I did it well didn’t matter. McCarty’s philosophy helped reenergize my work. I changed a lot of what I do in my classes and rediscovered the importance of my work. I try to always do my best, respect my students and give thanks I can do what I do. I love what I do. I’ve also applied the wonder of compounded interest as I’ve worked to grow my small fortune. I live modestly and could probably afford to retire now at age 43 but I won’t. I choose to work. I need to work for the purpose and direction it gives me. Like McCarty I’ll probably work as long as my health allows it and each day I do my work I love it more.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” Financial freedom gives me choices a debt slave can’t imagine. Like McCarty I’ve learned to control my desires. My philosophy has almost a Zen quality to it. Desire breeds pain. Its absence breeds freedom and fortune. McCarty reminds the reader, “I try to keep things as simple and organized as possible.” 78 Mastery of simplicity rests in the art of no. I learned to say no to those things that complicate my life, those things others might deem important but I consider a waste of time or an obstacle to the goals I’ve set for me. Many in America have an obsession with debt. Their desires exceed their ability to pay and they wonder, “Why save? I could die tomorrow.”

McCarty writes, “Some people make a lot of noise about what’s wrong with the world, and they usually blame someone else. I think people need to look at themselves first.” 79 We can all take control of our lives. It just takes a wise, simple philosophy.

Copyright Professor Bert Lorenzo, 2008


  1. I enjoyed reading your posting professor,so i hope that you can post more about her in the future.


  2. I agree with you. Magnific article, easy to read, easy to understand too. I am going to read this book for personal interest because what this woman did was amazing.Very inspirational.

  3. I think this storie is amazing because her life is a good example of a happy life without money,and also she shows how to save money and a fortune.luisa

  4. I hope one day to love and enjoy my work as much as you and Oseola McCarty do. Right now I have chosen something that I think I will enjoy, and will also be a great challenge for me. I think that you have to choose something that you have an interest in and with time and hard work you will start to love it. If at the end you do not enjoy it you can always start over again.

  5. D/O/M/I/N/G/O V/A/L/L/EFebruary 21, 2008 at 10:23 AM

    I would really gives hands up to Oseola McCary because she ended her life and continues to give others. I honestly thought that I would give all my fortunes and accomplishments to my oun family. Oseola responce that if you give all to your family and their lifes would becomes meaningless in the future. One door close while another door opens and thats what McCarthy done. I wish I could that when my life is complete. A very wide -open person.

  6. he Qoutes "College students in debt should heed her message, “A smart person plans for the future. You never know what emergency will come and you can’t rely on the government to meet all your needs. You have to take responsibility for yourself". I feel that in this passage he actually trying to show a point,where you dont have to spend all ur money on what you need..when u could just save for the better,but I dnt know maybe im just theory is you only live life once;so u should blow it all.but hey dats my opinion...

  7. Simple and Clear....thats what I think. Its a great article, with a great message.
    Money buys the materials stuff but what really makes you happy is what you acomplish in your life.
    Sanabria V

  8. The part of why save you might die tommorrow I use to feel that way, But life has changed my point of view on that aspect. This story is very inspiring because I feel you should study a carreer that will fulfilled you not only for the money, But for yourself. By Lisette M.

  9. this blog is very inspiring. evev though i havent read the book, i feel like i know what its mostly about because of this article. i do know a lot of people that doesnt like to save.

    from Rose


    I believe that was so deep!!!! I agree with it because a lot of people believe that money makes everyone happy but everyone needs to realize that money doesn't bring happiness. We also need to realize happiness doesn't pay bills either. Everybody needs money but its not everything... like when I first told my mother i wanted to become a teacher she look at me and said "oh NO her first daughter not going to become a teacher, they don't make enough money." I told her I don't do it for the money I do it because I love to help people and I love kids. I believe the passion she had for working that’s the same passion I have for teaching. This is a great passage and it inspired me to know that I should do something I love and save for my further because I really can't count on anyone but my self.

  11. If you want to be something in life you shouldn't let other people do things for you that would mean you're just being lazy you just waisting your life i understand what she's coming through on the blaming situations don't blame others for your mistakes even though you think you might be right on something because of what you've been through you can sometimes be right but then again wrong at the same time i learned to only do things on my own and try hard to make a success every time i fall down i get back up on my feet and try again.

  12. Its a beautiful story, i really appreciate what she said every one attitude should be like hers. they should choose a career that they like, and work not just to sustain life but to define it. A smart person plans for the future.


  13. I really love Oseola McCarty story. Because how she talks about her faith and how you shouldn't live your life without material things. I love how she was a hard working woman and how she was willing to give back.

  14. I agree with Oseola McCarty philosophy. Some people beileve that money defines who you are. what you do makes you who are.Our careers gives us purpose. Its one of the reason why we live. I also agree with the pharse "desire is pain". There are so many things in this world that we dont need. Fast cars and hi-tech gadets items that we dont need. i think this was a great moviting blog

  15. It is amazing how somebody can make a big difference in this world. there is a lot of famous people with bunch of money, but they don't do anything to help our society they only care about themselves. What she did is Great Cutie =]


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