“The greatest miser” and “richest woman in America” during the Gilded Age, Hetty Green lived by the rule of “buy cheap and sell dear.” Known for her appalling personal hygiene and ragged dresses, Green inherited £4.5 million or the equivalent of £555 million today ($729 million, €651 million or درهم2.6 billion today) in 1865 from her Quaker whaling tycoon father. By the time of her death, she had increased her worth 3,300% to around £153 million or the equivalent of £18.9 billion today ($24.8 billion, €22.1 billion or درهم91 billion today).
A believer in the approach of “before deciding on an investment, seek out every kind of information about it,” Green married into a wealthy Vermont family in 1867 (but forced her husband to sign a prenup to prevent her own fortune being dissipated). After her cousins then tried to have her indicited for fraud, the couple then left America and moved into the Langham Hotel in London, where both their son and daughter were born. Returning to the US in 1873, the family settled in Bellow Falls, Vermont, but Green – a woman paranoid about being poisoned also – preferred to live in boarding houses and hotels herself.
“Financial genius” Hetty Green “spent her whole life in pursuit of money,” but “bought nothing for herself or her children.” She will forever be remembered as someone so consumed by money that she didn’t even bother to enjoy it.
Quotes attributed to Hetty Green:
“My father taught me never to owe anyone anything, not even a kindness.”
“I believe that woman is quite as capable as man in conducting business affairs… I do not believe woman to be inferior to man, save as she has become so by a mistaken course of training.”
“There is no great secret in fortune making. All you do is buy cheap and sell dear, act with thrift and shrewdness and be persistent… When I see a thing, going cheap because nobody wants it, I buy a lot of it and tuck it away. Then, when the time comes, they have to hunt me up and pay me a good price for my holdings.”
“[On why women don’t get rich] Because they try the wrong way.”
“I buy when things are low and no one wants them. I keep them until they go up, and people are crazy to get them.”
“I believe in getting in at the bottom and out on top. I like to buy railroad stocks or mortgage bonds. When I see a good thing going cheap because nobody wants it, I buy a lot of it and tuck it away.”
“In business generally, don’t close a bargain until you have reflected on it overnight.”
“A good business woman is often sharper than a good business man.”
“When the crash came I had money, and I was one of the very few who really had it.”
“[A bird] in the hand is worth the whole arithmetic in the bush.”
“[On men trying to take advantage of women in business] I have found this particularly so in the courts, where I have been fighting men all my life.’
“American women would be much happier, if they learned the principles of business in girlhood.”
“As for society, I believe in it… I don’t think society means what some rich people would have us believe, I should get very tired of living in one of the great houses in New York, going out all night and sleeping all day. They don’t have any real pleasure. It’s intercourse with people that I like.”
“I like to see everybody get along but the wrongdoers… I believe in discreet charity.”
“”Just because I dress plainly and do not spend a fortune on my gowns, they say I am cranky or insane.”
“I have been blessed in my investments, and that is all… I never worry about things.”
“If we live good lives here, clean lives, and are honest… we need not worry about the next world. I am not worrying.”