This Massage Therapist Took a Low-Paying Job — And Became a Millionaire

bonnie brown
Image by Misha Erwitt for the New York Times
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What were you doing in 1999?

I was 10 years old, obsessed with the color purple and wanted a horse more than pretty much anything in the world.

“Fight Club,” “Office Space” and Disney’s “Tarzan” all came out in 1999, as did “The Blair Witch Project.” And the world nervously-ish awaited the turn of the century and the possible digital apocalypse known widely as “Y2K.”

But for massage therapist Bonnie Brown, 1999 was the year her career would take a drastic turn for the better. She just didn’t know it yet.

We came across this feel-good story from The New York Times — it’s an oldie-but-goodie we just had to share with you.

Bonnie Brown’s Life-Changing Decision

Fresh off a nasty divorce, Brown took a job with Google as the in-house massage therapist.

At the time, the startup had only 40 employees, and its doodle game was not yet strong. But Brown had just gone through a plethora of life changes and her future was uncertain anyhow… so she took the job, which started at $450 per week.

Brown’s compensation package also included a bunch of Google stock options. Which, at the time, were worth next to nothing.

Do you see where this is going?

Stock Market Millionaire

Today, Google shares — now bundled under the parent company Alphabet — are worth $710 apiece.

And that makes Bonnie Brown quite wealthy, indeed. Like, multimillionaire wealthy.

Brown took the windfall in stride — no Beverly Hills mansion or helipad, though she did spring for a private Pilates instructor. In 2007, she lived in Nevada in a 3,000-square-foot home, which sounds a little extravagant, but in actuality is only 500 square feet bigger than the average American home built today.

She also wrote a book about her experience, “Giigle: How I Got Lucky Massaging Google,” and traveled the world to manage the operations of the charity she founded with her earnings.

“I’m happy I saved enough stock for a rainy day,” Brown told the The New York Times, “and lately it’s been pouring.”

Even with the stock market looking a little scary for most investors, though, Google’s still pretty far in the green – as are its employees, who together hold $6.2 billion in options, $2.1 billion of which is available for immediate liquidation.

So while your startup’s stock might only end up being worth cents on the dollar, if you give it enough time, you might just get (very, very) lucky.

Your Turn: What would you do with your hypothetical Google stock earnings?

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Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes other stuff, like wine reviews and poems.