I found the following story very inspirational; a story about creative thinking and personal power.
Unsung Fortune: A rich man’s secret
March 26, 2007, Philadelphia Enquirer
Hal Taussig wears baggy jeans and fraying work shirts that Goodwill might reject. His shoes have been resoled three times. At age 81, he doesn’t own a car. He performs errands and commutes to the office by bicycle. And he has given away millions. Given the fortune that Taussig has made through Untours, his unique travel business, and has given away through the Untours Foundation, you could call him the Un-millionaire. If he so chose, he could be living in a Main Line mansion and driving a Mercedes.
But he considers money and what he calls “stuff,” beyond what he needs to survive, a burden, an embarrassment. In many respects, he’s a 21st-century Thoreau. “Let your capital be simplicity and contentment, ” the sage of Walden Pond wrote. “Those are my sentiments precisely,” says Taussig, who has three children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren .
He directs the Untours Foundation, into which he pours all his profits – $5 million since 1992. The money is used to make low-interest loans to ventures and projects that help the needy and jobless – from a craft store in Hanoi to a home-health- care cooperative in Philadelphia. “I invest in entrepreneurial efforts to help poor people leverage themselves out of poverty.”
“In America, we worship success,” he says. “It’s a shoddy ethic that leads us to value who we are by what we are.” The motto of the Untours Foundation is “a hand up, not a handout.” It provides low-interest loans, here and abroad, to create jobs, build low-income housing, and support fair-trade products: goods such as coffee that are sold at a price that guarantees producers and workers a fair wage and decent livelihood.
In 1999, they won an award from Paul Newman and John F. Kennedy, Jr., for having the Most Generous Business in the United States.
The Untours Foundation provides low interest loans here and abroad. Loans are issued to individuals and organizations in order to create jobs among disenfranchised populations, build low-income housing, and support Fair Trade Certified products all through the most environmentally friendly means possible. (Fair Trade certification guarantees a comprehensive form of development including fair prices and wages to producers and workers, land farmed in sustainable ways, women holding key decision making roles, and the list goes on.) We look for projects that are innovative and replicable.
The foundation’s interest rate on loans is one of the lowest in the world: normally the U.S. inflation rate. Most loan recipients have no collateral or track record necessary to borrow money through conventional lending institutions. By giving loans and not grants, the foundation provides a “hand up” and not a “hand out”.
Paul Newman said of the foundation: “Untours’ giving is creative in every sense of the word. Their low-interest loans literally create jobs among the hard-core unemployed and housing in decaying urban centers.”
Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has said of Hal Taussig and the foundation: “What makes Hal so special is that he combines real kindness and compassion with that practical business side, and that, I think, is the key to making a difference.”
The foundation’s portfolio is quite eclectic. Most loans are under $50,000.