Investing With Nickels and Dimes

Earl Crawley, 69, better known as Mr. Earl, earns $20,000 a year as a parking-lot attendant. But he has amassed a stock portfolio worth more than $500,000.

How did you get started investing?

Soon after I started working for Mercantile Bank in Baltimore 44 years ago, one of the bankers took me aside and told me I didn't have enough education to go very far at the bank. He suggested I invest in stocks.

Where did you get the money?

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I did it with good old-fashioned nickels and dimes. My mother taught me how to budget, which made me appreciate how a little money can grow. I saved what I could from odd jobs, such as lawn-cutting and window-washing, that I did in addition to my day job. I used that money to buy one share of IBM stock back in 1981.

How did you learn how to invest?

I really didn't know enough to be scared. In school I was considered a slow learner -- dyslexic, it's called now. My true gift from God is my ability to listen, and that's how I'm able to ask questions and use tips from the brokers, financial planners and bank customers I see every day.

Do you have a formula for picking stocks?

When I first started out, I had to be conservative and take my time because I couldn't afford to lose money. Now I look for companies with stability that pay dividends. I read the stock pages but don't claim to know everything about them. I have a broker, but many times I'll go where my spirit leads me.

Any stocks you're excited about now?

I've been buying shares of ExxonMobil.

We've heard that you're helping others invest.

I started an investment club at my church. And I've been coaching a couple of young men, such as bar-and-grill cook Antawn Davenport and Dana Mouse Smith, who toured with the late rapper Tupac Shakur. They can help spread the message that people can do whatever they set their minds to do.

Crawley is featured in the current season of the PBS TV show "MoneyTrack." Watch the video (opens in new tab).

-- Interview by David Benjamin