Sir John Templeton: How To Find The Road Map to Spiritual Wealth

By Alexander Green
2/8/2008
The Investment U e-Letter: Issue #761

Everyone has his heroes. In my eyes, none living stands larger than 95-year-old Sir John Templeton.

Templeton is not just a brilliant man, but a Rhodes Scholar. One of the world’s undisputed money masters,  magazines have described him as “one of the handful of true investment greats in a field crowded with mediocrity and bloated reputations.”

$10,000 invested in the S&P 500 54 years ago, with dividends reinvested, would have turned into $2.8 million. Not bad. The same amount invested in the Templeton Growth Fund would have turned into more than $10.75 million.

Templeton almost single-handedly pioneered the discipline of global equity investing. He believes any investor would be foolish to restrict his investments to his home country. Seek out the world’s best investments, he advises, wherever they reside.

In the 1950s, for example, he poured shareholders’ money into the German and Japanese stock markets. With the wounds of WWII still fresh, investing in Japan was about as popular with Americans then as the idea of funding the Taliban today. But as these battered economies were gradually rebuilt, his investment returns were substantial. Today he still favors the investment outlook for emerging markets, particularly China.

At the height of the Internet bubble, Templeton sold short dozens of young technology companies just before their shares came out of “lock-up,” the six-month cooling off period following an IPO. He made over $80 million in a matter of weeks. He still calls it “the easiest money I ever made.”

Sir John Templeton – A True Contrarian

John Templeton knows what it means to be a true contrarian. “To buy when others are despondently selling and to sell when others are avidly buying requires the greatest fortitude… and pays the greatest reward.” Wise words for those contemplating what to do in today’s volatile markets.

At one time, Templeton was one of the world’s richest men. But now he has given most of his fortune away.

His Templeton Foundation, with assets of more than $1.1 billion, awards over $60 million each year, including the $1 million Templeton Prize, the world’s single largest award. (In 1987, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his philanthropic efforts, including his endowment of Templeton College, Oxford.)

Yes, John Templeton has achieved more than most of us can dream of. But his accomplishments are not the only reason he’s a personal hero of mine. It’s also his philosophy of life.

As a young man starting out as a money manager, I idolized Templeton, devouring his books and lectures. In the process, he revealed a lot more than just successful investment principles.

Happiness Pursued Eludes, Happiness Given Returns

John Templeton is fond of saying, “Happiness pursued eludes, happiness given returns.” Templeton is a great believer that true wealth doesn’t come from making money, but from fulfilling a purpose outside ourselves, whether that’s exercising our talents, raising our kids to be happy, productive adults, or contributing to our communities in some meaningful way. As

In his book “The Templeton Plan,” for instance, Templeton quotes social reformer Henry Ward Beecher, “No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.”

Powerful words. (Yet how often do you hear that message on Wall Street?)

At investment seminars and conferences around the country, I’ve met hundreds of individuals who have taken this message to heart – and are busy living it.

At a conference in San Juan several years ago, for example, I met an older gentleman who began telling me how much he enjoyed being a member of The Oxford Club. “We’ve made you a few dollars?” I asked.

He touched my arm, smiled and said “Oh, I’ve been far too fortunate in this life for money to make much difference.” What a charming answer…

Spiritual Wealth vs. Material Wealth

We sometimes forget that there are two types of riches in this world: material wealth and spiritual wealth. Anything that can be measured in dollars and cents, I call material wealth. Everything else – the love of our families, the health we enjoy, the time we spend doing things we enjoy or working on things that really matter – I call spiritual wealth.

Over the last seven years, almost everything I’ve written has been devoted to increasing readers’ material wealth. Next week that will change…

I’ll still be writing my usual investment commentary here and with The Oxford Club. But I’m also launching a free, twice-weekly e-letter called Spiritual Wealth. And I encourage you to join me, for two reasons.

The first is that all of us grapple – or should – with the big questions in our lives. What matters most? How do we balance our priorities? How do we move beyond success to significance?

Of course, I’ll always believe that financial independence is one of life’s most important goals. It’s what gives you the freedom to do what you want, where you want, with whom you want. Money allows you to provide for your family, help other people, pursue your intellectual and artistic interests, and become an inspiration to members of your community.

Life Is Not Always About “More”

But life is not about just accumulating and spending more. I don’t believe anyone can be truly happy as long as he is a slave to his job, his circumstances, or his monthly overhead. There are plenty of things in life that are more important – and those are exactly the subjects we’ll discuss in Spiritual Wealth each week.

The other reason I’d like you to sign up for Spiritual Wealth – aside from the fact that I think you’ll profit from it – is because I need your input.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve learned many of life’s most important lessons the hard way. So whenever I write about a topic you know something about, please don’t be reluctant to hit the reply button.

In the weeks ahead, feel free to contribute your thoughts, your ideas, and your “two cents worth” whenever you’d like. We can all benefit from your experiences, but perhaps you most of all. As the old Chinese proverb says, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”