Thursday, July 10, 2008
John Templeton…a tribute
John Templeton has passed away at the age of 95. Born into a poor Tennessee family, Mr. Templeton was a Yale graduate, Rhodes scholar, obtained a law degree, and quickly moved to a career on Wall street in the late 30s. He grew up and remained a unique “Presbyterian” Christian. Unique in that he was quite conservative socially and believed in high moral values and faith, yet theologically he was quite liberal and spent his whole life in pursuit of further enlightenment and truth beyond the dogma of traditional religion. He was not a Biblical literalist, and spent millions on research and grants pursuing connections between science and religion. Of what I have read and known about him, he was a “thinking mans” believer. In many ways he was the predecessor of investment gurus like Warren Buffet and others. His family of mutual funds was ground breaking and some of the first and most successful funds to date. He was one of the first on Wall Street to push into global and international markets…preaching diversification of risk. He sold out of his investment group in 1992 to focus on his philanthropies and continued pursuits of knowledge and spirituality even into his 90s.
From his values and example, I pull the following lessons from his life and writings:
John Templeton was the original “buy low, sell high” evangelist on Wall Street. In many ways this made him a contrarian to the usual ebbs and flows of stock market gyrations. The Templeton Growth Fund averaged a 14.5% annual return from 1954 to 1992 making a $10,000 investment, with dividends reinvested, worth $2,000,000.
Even though he was an elder in the Presbyterian church, he maintained a broad view and scope of spirituality. He saw God and spirituality as a mystical, life long study…while espousing a shared divinity between God and humanity.
Mr. Templeton was a person who backed his beliefs with action…and money. I personally believe he was one of the finest examples of a smart, rich man who was able to honestly pursue his faith…and based on his successes both financially and spiritually was able to affect our globe impacting literally millions of people in providing support for independent thinking and living. Though creating great wealth, he lived simply and without pomp and circumstance even though he held the honors of knighthood from Queen Elizabeth and was one of Wall Streets first Billionaires. The business and management school at Oxford bears his name.
John Templeton also gained notoriety for his views on fallacies and shortcomings of America’s government and tax system. He renounced his citizenship on principle in the 1960s and moved to the Bahamas, a Commonwealth nation that has much lower taxation with respect for privacy and individual sovereignty. This gave him more control over his wealth…and an objective view of global investment opportunities uncommon in the USA.
So in summary, John Templeton was a self made man financially, a brilliant and independent mind that rose above the tapestries of religion and government to pursue his own revelation in faith and liberty. He then used his wealth for many human causes without submitting to the forces of statism or organized religion to limit his scope of discovery. He led the charge to global investment without losing his identity as a man and spiritual being. This is perhaps a very rare example of a “rich man getting through the eye of the needle”… (alluding to my other blog at http://panamaconnections.blogspot.com/2008/07/getting-camel-through-eye-of-needle.html )
Rest in peace Sir John.
Favorite quotes by John Templeton…
“The main focus in my life now is to open people's minds so no one will be so conceited that they think they have the total truth.”
“If we become increasingly humble about how little we know, we may be more eager to search.”
“The four most dangerous words in investing are 'This time it's different.'”
“It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.”
“It's self-centered to think that human beings, as limited as we are, can describe divinity.”
“I wouldn't call it radical; I would call it enthusiasm for progress.”
“If you want to have a better performance than the crowd, you must do things differently from the crowd."
"I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian Church — I am still an enthusiastic Christian. But why shouldn't I try to learn more? Why shouldn't I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn't I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more."
"The other boys at Yale came from wealthy families, and none of them were investing outside the United States, and I thought, 'That is very egotistical. Why be so shortsighted or near-sighted as to focus only on America? Shouldn't you be more open-minded?'"