From time to time I discuss the wider philosophies of finance with a view to helping to improve attitudes to money in Australia and with it our collective view of credit. Often I have said credit is not something that is given, it has to be earned. Well, today I came across the most amazing story of one highly successful Aussie entrepreneur who has chosen not to hand down his fortune to his kids, but to donate it. He believes in doing so he is giving a gift to not only 125 university students, but a gift to his own children. We look at this amazing story and how we might be able to apply these principles in our own lives:
Today the headline in the Daily Telegraph’s Business News was ‘Graham Tuckwell giving away $50m in largest donation to university students.’ I was gobsmacked – and of course read on.
Australian National University (ANU) Economics and Law Alumnus Graham Tuckwell will pour a whopping $50 million into the education of strangers in the largest donation ever made to Australian university students.
Twenty-five undergraduates will score scholarships worth up to $100,000 at Canberra’s ANU each over the next five years – creating 125 scholarships all up over that time – from Graham Tuckwell – one of the country’s most successful financial entrepreneurs.
The scholarships are set to run in perpetuity over the next 20 years.
Canberra-born Graham Tuckwell studied at ANU before his global successes led him to set up ETF Securities Limited, which issues exchange traded products and has about $30 billion in assets.
His reasons for his extremely generous donations are two-fold:
He told News Ltd he and his wife Louise wanted to change lives and did not think it was sensible for parents to give vast amounts of money to their own children.
“Lots of money is poisonous to have,” he said.
The second reason – is a hope to inspire other wealthy Australians to consider philanthropy rather than just passing their fortunes down.
“Generally speaking, if you look at the people in Australia that have got huge amounts of wealth, without naming any, they generally have not put the majority of their wealth behind strong philanthropic causes,” he said.
“And unfortunately in some cases they pass the wealth down to later generations who have behaved badly.
While the pair will put their four children through university and help set them up, Mr Tuckwell said he just wanted them to do what made them happy.
“And if they create things themselves, then it’s a sense of achievement,” he said.
“Where as if you just give them stuff, it almost destroys their desire to do things and you actually end up with kids that are a lot worse off.”
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young was “in a state of shock for quite a period of time about the generosity of the donation.”
The couple will be part of a selection panel looking for the “smartest people around” from different disciplines and will consider grades, natural ability, background and drive.
Tuckwell Scholars will receive $20,000 a year for living costs and on-campus accommodation and will socialise together at “Scholars House”.
It’s hoped a sense of altruism will be engendered in the Tuckwell Scholars, who will give back to society in their own ways.
“What we’re trying to identify is regardless of where they are now, innately how good are they, what’s their real desire in life and where do they get to?” Mr Tuckwell said.
“We would like nothing more than getting kids from different states, different cities, different country towns, different whatever.”
The program will be evaluated after five years before the Tuckwells decide whether to continue. People can apply for scholarships at tuckwell.anu.edu.au.
So how can most of us who don’t have a massive amount of money to give, still leave our own legacies for others?
Well I believe the first way, is to live smaller. Leave less of a footprint. Demand less and require less to be happy. In living smaller, then we have more time. The gift of time can be given to strangers through volunteering, and we can also give it to our loved ones and to our children.
Credit always has a place – but its place is to enhance our lives so that we can spend time with the ones we love, or to really improve our quality of life or that of someone else’s. Maybe we throw that long sought after holiday on the credit card and take the family away. Or take out repayments on an educational course that will change our working lives forever.
Or perhaps we buy a home, after years of good saving. One that fits all the requirements of what we need, rather than what we want. A home we don’t have to work 24/7 to pay off because it is priced within our means, so its a home we can enjoy and within its walls there’s a legacy of memories for our children to cherish.
What we shouldn’t do is spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, and ultimately find ourselves with what we don’t want – debt, unhappiness and a bad credit history.
I am reminded of a line from the book Affluenza:
“We aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and famous at the cost of family, friends and personal fulfilment. Rates of stress, depression and obesity are up as we wrestle with the emptiness and endless disappointments of the consumer life.”
But one of the richest men in Australia thinks that those aspirations to be rich and famous aren’t so worthy.
Tuckwell is leaving an important legacy that helping others is a great gift, to them and to ourselves. He demonstrates we should do what makes us happy, that’s what matters – and if we’re good we’ll get rewarded – but it should never be about the money.
Image: Kittisak/ www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net.