The Millionaire Next Door

Scholarships but No Rolls Royce!

I recently selected my top ten millionaire next door types.  Mr. W.W. Allan, aka Aly, was the first one I chose.  He was also the first that I chose to include in The Millionaire Next Door, pp. 109-112..   Aly was part of a focus group interview that I conducted of very affluent entrepreneurs.  Even among this rich crowd, Aly stood out.  In reviewing the content of the interview, I found that out of the 89 pages of transcript his comments accounted for more than one-half.  He really didn’t try to dominate the group interview.  But after 10 minutes the other respondents began asking him questions!  These questions centered on how they could enhance their own productivity.  Even the senior executives of the sponsoring trust company [who were listening in the adjoining room], took copious notes.

Aly spoke of his philosophy concerning building wealth, finding business opportunities, selecting advisors, the real purpose of money and more.  Ironically Aly never took a business course.  He was an honors physics major in college. I’m not sure whether his uncanny ability to leverage assets related to this training.  But he leveraged his thesis into patents and then licensed the rights to these and other innovations. Aly emphaszed that one’s work today should pay royalties well into the future.  This is one reason why he later became involved in initiating and operating a variety of commerical real estate ventures.

Aly is what some refer to as a cultivator.  In contrast, most people economically speaking are like their ancient ancestors who were hunters and gatherers.  They have little or no inventory of wealth, no stream of royalties, dividends or rental income.  They have to work, hunt every day to survive-to fund their immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter. 

Every business venture that Aly started was designed to produce fruit that would multiply over and over again.  But to him it was really not about the money.  It was the challenge and the excitement of starting new businesses.  According to Aly, “A successful man is someone who loves his work.  Even now I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and get to the office.  Money should never change one’s values.  It is a report card.  Money is a way to determine how you are doing.”

You may recall reading what Aly told me about an expensive gift that several of his close friends/business associates planned on giving him.  “… a surprise present.  A Rolls Royce….!  How do you go… and tell somebody you don’t want it?  There’s nothing the Rolls-Royce represents that’s important in my life.  Nor would I want to have to change my life to go along with [owning] the Rolls.  I can’t throw fish in the back seat of the Rolls, like I do right now when I go fishing. It is totally unimportant.  There are things that are more fun to do, more interesting to do.”

In a way Aly is still with us today.  At the very least his spirit survived him.  The content of his estate plan reflects his values about how wealth should be leveraged.  The bulk of his estate was distributed to his alma mater. In so doing Aly felt that he would be instrumental in producing perpetual fruit.  He hired a top estate attorney to write up an iron clad estate agreement with the university.  It detailed exactly how the proceeds were to be used: only for scholarships and not for convention travel, presidential quarters, walnut office furniture and the like.  Beyond being scholars, the recipients, like Aly once was, must be in need of financial support and must agree “to repay the university if and when it is possible.”  Aly’s generosity would live on in the productivity of countless physicists, scientists and engineers who received these scholarships. 

I am on the mailing lists of several foundations.  Interestingly, the same name shows up consistently on all of the major donor lists: Anonymous.  Like Aly, these people get more satisfaction out of giving than they might from being recognized for doing so.  This is the same reason why Aly was not interested in having a building with his name on it erected at his alma mater.   For Aly, his extraordinary success and contributions were by themselves his own internal badge of merit.

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