December 10, 2013
At the time of his death in 1937, American industrialist John D. Rockefeller was worth approximately $340 billion in today’s currency. That is a big number, especially when you consider how he built his fortune.
The son of a traveling salesman, Rockefeller’s first job was as an assistant bookkeeper. He lived frugally and saved scrupulously, yet always donated a portion of his modest earnings to his church and charity. In 1863, at the age of 24, he used his savings to purchase his first oil refinery outside Cleveland. Seven years later, he founded Standard Oil Co., which became one of the world’s first and largest multinational corporations.
Today, the Rockefeller family perpetuates its patriarch’s legacy via the Rockefeller Foundation, which John D. Rockefeller founded in 1913 to “promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world.” The fact that the foundation still exists after 100 years is proof Rockefeller didn’t just bequeath his fortune; he handed down his values, which his heirs maintain alongside the story of the legendary man who instilled them.
“Looking at a family’s history — especially the history of the wealth creators — encourages family members to connect with their vision and values and pass them on to future generations,” says Jenna Guenther, Director of Wealth Impact Planning for Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank. “Sharing their values and stories may encourage families to stay together, not only on a relationship basis but also to manage the family wealth and continue it for generations.”