Hetty Green – Wall Street Witch Or Wizard
Born in time when women were widely believed to be incapable of handling money, Henrietta Howland Robinson Green shrewdly invested in stock market and made a fortune on Wall Street.
A hundred years ago she was often called “the pride and pain” of Bellows Falls, and in New York City she was known as the “Witch of Wall Street” and the world’s richest woman.
Her simple Quaker dress, frugal lifestyle and astonishing wealth inevitably made her a unique and conspicuous person wherever she lived.
Hetty Green, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was the daughter of Edward and Abby Robinson. The family first made their fortune due to Hetty’s great-grandfather who went to sea as a whaler.
Within two generations, the family under the guidance of Hetty’s father and maternal grandfather amassed one of the biggest whaling fleets in North America, with her father increasing the family fortune twenty fold in his lifetime.
Green proved that the stereotypes about women’s math abilities were incorrect when she significantly increased her fortune through careful investing.
Green did not seek investment that would provide quick returns but instead invested conservately and with the long-term in mind. In addition to buying government bonds, Green primarily invested in railroads and real estate in places like New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.
What can we learn from Hetty Green
We can all learn a few things from Hetty Green. The first is to think longer than today, tomorrow or the latest monthly account statement.
Second, is to do the opposite of what the crowd does. Hetty waited many times for panic to ensue, for investors and business owners to be forced to sell, and then she stepped in with cash to scoop up the bargains.
She proved that patience and a cool head are investors’ best assets. She knew that taking advantage of opportunities required careful planning and she was never caught unprepared.
What happened to Hetty Green fortune after she passed away?
Hetty Green died on July 3, 1916 in New York from apoplexy and was buried in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Her fortune (between $100 million and $200 million) was divided equally between her two children, Ned and Sylvia.
While she had groomed her son to take over her fortune, teching him everything she knew about investing, he did not inherit her frugality or aversion to giving to charities.
Freed from his mother’s eagle eye, Ned spent lavishly but still managed to leave his sister a substantial fortune after his death. Since neither of Hetty’s children had children of their own, Hetty’s fortune ended up being dispersed after Sylvia’s death to 63 charities and financial institutions.