As reported in The New York Times, Sylvia Bloom spent 67 years working as a legal secretary in New York City at the international law firm, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. She retired at age 96 and died soon thereafter in 2016 with an estate of nearly $9 million. She had no children, and her estate gave $6.24 to the Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side, the biggest single gift the social service agency has received in its 125-year history.
As explained by her niece and personal representative, Jane Lockshin, Ms. Bloom
was a secretary in an era when they ran their boss's lives, including their personal investments. So when the boss would buy a stock, should would make the purchase for him, and then buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary's salary.
Ms. Bloom's will gave some small gifts to relatives and friends, but then left the bulk of the estate to be distributed as Ms. Lockshin chose for scholarships to needy children. It turned out that Ms. Lockshin was the longstanding treasurer of the Henry Street Settlement and chose to distribute the scholarships through that organization's Expanded Horizons College Success Program. Another $2 million will go to other charities.
Ms. Bloom joined Cleary Gottlieb in 1947, a year after its founding in 1946. It now has more than 1,200 lawyers.
So, where does the Margolies come in? Ms. Bloom was married to Raymond Margolies, who was a New York City firefighter. When he retired, he became a schoolteacher and part-time pharmacist. He died in 2002. It's interesting for the era in which they lived that Ms. Bloom kept her own name after getting married -- otherwise, there'd be absolutely no relation to our firm name.
What Can We Learn?
So, what's the moral of this story? Perhaps,
- Don't have children, so you can afford to sock some money away.
- Keep working until age 96 so that you don't use up your savings in retirement.
- Buy stock and hold it -- at least in retrospect, that's good investment advice. Who knows about the future.
In another era, Ms. Bloom may well have been a partner at Cleary Gottlieb. According to a colleague, she regretted never going to law school herself.
(As a personal note, I was offered a job at Cleary Gottlieb when I got out of law school, but decided to come to Boston instead.)