Bill Stovall at his home in Cumming, Georgia.
Every morning, Bill Stovall wakes up around 8:30 a.m. The first thing he does is talk to his wife’s ashes, which are in a pink urn on his fireplace mantel. It remains brief. “I say, ‘Hello. I miss you and I love you. I hope you have a good day,'” Stovall, 100, said.
Living for an entire century comes with challenges. Besides the death of his wife, Martha, in 2022, Stovall lost almost all of his friends. Days at his home in Cumming, Georgia, can get lonely. He is a survivor of colon cancer and skin cancer. He is now deaf.
But one subject that doesn’t cause him much stress is money. His nest egg still stands at around $1 million.
“I’ve always lived within my means,” Stovall said. “I’m not a player.”
Bill Stovall and his wife, Martha.
Like most stories with happy endings, Stovall was blessed with luck and privilege along the way. But he also attributes his healthy savings to a life of prudence.
Before retiring at age 65, Stovall worked for nearly half a century in the steel industry, including nearly 30 years at LBFoster. He has held many titles: sales director, marketing director, property manager.
“The middle managers bring all the money to the top,” Stovall joked. Prior to his professional career, he served during World War II as a staff sergeant in Belém, Brazil.
Bill Stovall, middle, photographed with his sister Janice and brother Bruce in the 1920s.
Even though his salary never exceeded $40,000, he consistently saved 2% of his income per year for retirement. He usually got an equal share from his employer.
“It’s gotten worse over the years,” he said.
Just as he stayed in the same profession throughout his career, Stovall also didn’t change homes much.
In 1957, he purchased a brick ranch in Atlanta that was not air-conditioned for about $16,000. At the time, he had already been married to Martha for two years and they had two children: a daughter, Kaye, and a son, Art. About a decade later, when the company he worked for moved to a new location, Stovall sold that house for $22,000.
By then, he and Martha had two more children – twins Toni and Robert, and they bought a larger house in Duluth, Georgia. The five-bedroom house cost him $45,000. They lived there for more than 50 years. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Stovall sold the house for around $350,000. The only debts he ever incurred, he said, were for his mortgages.
Stovall was in his 60s when his father died. He and his brother inherited two properties, and Stovall put the money he earned into his savings.
Stovall’s nest egg is split between stocks and cash.
“I’m heavily burdened with money,” he said. “That’s how you survive.” His monthly Social Security benefit is $2,200, and any additional funds he draws on come from his cash accounts, leaving his stocks intact.
Bill Stovall, far left, worked for nearly 30 years at LBFoster.
Today, he lives in a house on a 40-acre property owned by his daughter Toni and son-in-law Charles in Cumming. Charles had a difficult childhood, and Stovall let him move in with the family when he was in high school. He and Toni fell in love as teenagers. Since Stovall lives on his daughter’s property, he has few housing costs.
Still, he looks for discounts at the grocery store and cheaper items on restaurant menus. His children have to push him to replace his tattered shirts and torn jeans.
After speaking to Martha’s ashes in the morning, Stovall makes himself breakfast. It’s a place where he doesn’t hold back. He cooks his own eggs, sausages and biscuits, or even pancakes and waffles.
He likes to monitor the stock market throughout the day, but he rarely buys or sells individual stocks.
“Today I am more of an observer than a trader,” he said. “The stock market is shit.”
A few evenings a week, he treats himself to a cocktail. He loves Barton Vodka and Jim Beam. He rarely pours a second glass.
Before going to bed, he speaks once again to Martha, who died at 96. They were together for 72 years. “I say I love you. Good night.'”