John Templeton | Charlie Rose | 1997 | Summary and Q&A

November 30, 2020
Investor Archive
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John Templeton | Charlie Rose | 1997

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In this interview, Sir John Templeton discusses his journey from being a pioneer of global investing to his transition into philanthropy and spirituality. He shares insights on his upbringing, education, and career in finance, as well as his perspective on economics and Wall Street. Templeton also emphasizes the importance of spiritual growth, the principles outlined in his book "Worldwide Laws of Life," and his philanthropic endeavors, including the establishment of the Templeton Prize. The interview concludes with Templeton's thoughts on the stock market and the current state of the economy.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Sir John Templeton end up at Yale University?

Templeton shared that a farmer who lived nearby his hometown in Tennessee told him that Yale was the best university on earth, which sparked his interest. He decided to go there despite not knowing much about other prestigious universities.

Q: What did Templeton major in at Yale and Oxford?

At Yale, Templeton majored in economics with the intention of becoming a foreign missionary. However, he changed his plans after realizing that he could make a difference in the investment field. At Oxford, he initially wanted to major in business management but was encouraged to pursue a degree in law instead.

Q: How did Templeton's experience at Oxford shape his perspective on investing?

Templeton shares that his time at Oxford, where he had the opportunity to travel and observe different cultures and markets, opened his mind to the idea that Americans were missing out on international investment opportunities. He became determined to help Americans invest globally and saw that there were bargains to be found in markets around the world.

Q: Was Templeton successful in his global investment approach?

Yes, Templeton was successful in finding bargains and investing globally. He took advantage of the post-World War II market conditions and invested in countries like Japan, which he believed had a great future. Templeton recounts a story where he instructed a broker to buy almost everything on the market, including shares of bankrupt companies, with remarkable returns.

Q: Why did Templeton retire from the finance industry in 1992?

Templeton explains that while he was successful in helping people accumulate wealth through investments, he observed that wealth did not necessarily lead to happiness. He wanted to focus on spiritual growth and helping people find lasting happiness, which he believed came from giving rather than receiving. Therefore, he sold his financial empire and dedicated his time to philanthropic activities.

Q: What is the Templeton Prize?

The Templeton Prize is an annual award established by Sir John Templeton in 1972. It recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of spiritual progress. The recipient of the prize is selected by a committee of distinguished individuals from various religions and is awarded for bringing new positive ideas to their respective fields.

Q: Was Templeton religious throughout his life?

Yes, Templeton always had a religious inclination and even considered becoming a foreign missionary during his time at Yale. He believes that true wealth is not in money but in spiritual growth, and his desire to help people become happier led him to focus more on spirituality in his later years.

Q: What is Templeton's view on the nature of God?

Templeton believes that the proper way to define God is as the only reality, the ultimate creative and purposeful entity. He sees God as the source of all existence and believes that spirituality gives meaning to life.

Q: What are Templeton's thoughts on the current state of the stock market?

Templeton states that we are living in a period of rapid progress and growth, including in investments. He highlights that more people own shares now than ever before and that there are immense opportunities in the market. He believes that progress is speeding up and that people need to be more grateful for the blessings they have.

Q: If Templeton had his life to live over, would he do anything differently?

Templeton admits that there are many things he would have done differently, particularly regarding focusing more on the important things in life like spiritual growth at a younger age. However, he also acknowledges that he was given talents in the field of investing and believes he did what he was built to do.

Q: Who has been the most influential person in Templeton's life?

Templeton mentions Benjamin Franklin, who he admires for his simple yet impactful principles. He also mentions a friend who is the president of Notre Dame University and compares the principles discussed in the interview to Benjamin Franklin's almanac.


Sir John Templeton's interview provides insight into his upbringing, education, and career in global investing. His shift into philanthropy and spirituality sheds light on his belief that true wealth lies in spiritual growth and giving. Templeton's focus on progress and spirituality is reflected in his philanthropic activities and the establishment of the Templeton Prize. His perspective on the stock market highlights the opportunities and blessings of our current era. Overall, Templeton's journey serves as a reminder of the importance of both financial and spiritual well-being.

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