Welcome to Better Have My Money, my Monday(ish) night newsletter about investing in your future and the stock market.
This is just a short one, dipping my toes back into the Better Have My Money water, after work, overseas travel, illness and life changes kept me busy.
But there’s an investing story I’ve been dying to share.
Recently I visited the modernist Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Artist and architect Phillip Johnson designed the incredible house, as well as a bunch of other beautiful buildings on the property —a guesthouse, office and an art gallery and sculpture gallery — and used it as a weekend home.
The architect lived there until his death, when it was turned over to the National Trust.
But there was a key detail of his story that I could not get over.
Johnson self-funded the whole thing by owning stock in one single company.
His lawyer father decided to give his children their inheritance early, when they were teens. He gave his daughters cash and real estate because he figured as women they needed the safest possible investment since their careers could not be certain.
To his son Johnson, he gave the riskier investment: stock in Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). An old friend of his from Harvard had developed technology to make aluminum commercially viable and become one of the founders of Alcoa, and when he needed legal advice he paid Johnson’s father for it in Alcoa stock.
Johnson’s dad gave the Alcoa inheritance to his son knowing that there was a chance the stock could collapse.
Instead, the opposite happened. The stock soared in the 1920s.
By the time Johnson himself graduated from Harvard (being born rich and well-connected is really the best way to get rich!!!) he was wealthier than his father.
That independent wealth, of course, gave him options and meant he got to pick and choose which design projects he took on.
And it paid for the Glass House. (You can donate to support the preservation of the Glass House here.)
There’s an exhibit there right now called “Gay Gatherings.” It’s all about how a bunch of famous queer artists in the 1960s and 70s — Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Johnson’s longterm partner art curator David Whitney, composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham — would all escape New York to party, relax and make art at the Glass House.
I know, logically, that investing in individual company stocks is not the wisest financial way to invest long term (the answer is index funds!) but damn am I charmed by the story of a bunch of artists being able to create a secret beautiful paradise ‘cause one of them struck it rich off stocks.
And in the back corner of the sculpture gallery on the property, is a piece by Frank Stella called Raft of Medusa, Part I, 1990 that was apparently Johnson’s favorite artwork.
A hulking metal sculpture, it’s made up of steel pipes, beams and… aluminum!
Hope your week is also full of signs,
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