The Magic of Giving
James (Jim) Salamony '69 describes his Clemson degree as a "magic carpet - transporting him through a life of tremendous opportunities and happiness. Graduating from Clemson was the catalyst for everything great that has happened in his life. "It allowed me to get an all-expense-paid Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering at Purdue University. Later, I was able to get an MBA from Golden Gate University while working full time."
Jim has achieved wisdom and success, which he humbly shares with family and friends over the years, and he is prepared to share it with Clemson students - both today and tomorrow, by providing them with their own magic carpet.
Jim and his wife Jane have lived an enjoyable life - thanks in large part to discipline and his desire to understand financial and real estate markets, which has positioned his assets to "make them work for him."
Jim was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and lived in several cities across the state before attending Clemson University in 1965 as a Chemical Engineering major.
Jim says, "Clemson was our family university." His mother attended Winthrop College, and she had always talked about Clemson. Jim explains, "She picked out my desk at Clemson the day I was born, and from then on, I knew that's where I would go." An uncle and many cousins are also Clemson graduates.
While at Clemson, Jim recalls the impact various professors had on him. One who always comes to mind is Dr. Charles Littlejohn. Known for decades as the "Father of Chemical Engineering at Clemson," Littlejohn poured himself into his students, taking a personal interest in them. Jim says, "He taught us so much about Chemical Engineering; and about life, professionalism, and how to best represent Clemson." He adds, "He was a father figure for many of us, and we all wanted to make him proud."
Jim considers himself fortunate to have been mentored by Dr. Littlejohn, learning from the experiences and vast knowledge he graciously shared. Littlejohn was the catalyst to prepare Jim - and his fellow Chemical Engineering majors - for outstanding success, not just in Engineering, but also even in Medicine and Law.
Jim hopes by giving back to Clemson specifically to help needy South Carolina students within the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences (CECAS), he can pass on a similar impact that Littlejohn had on him. Through his generous support, Jim is ensuring future engineers and scientists will be prepared to help our world solve the grand challenges of today and tomorrow.
In addition to an annual scholarship, Jim has made a significant planned gift that will eventually give Clemson most of his net worth. As of today, the amount exceeds $15 million; however, Jim is hopeful that it will continue to increase between now and when his ultimate bequest is realized as his real estate and stock market investments continue to appreciate.
After completing ROTC at Clemson, Jim served in the United States Air Force for four years, during which time he was stationed in New Mexico, Korea and California. At his request, his time in the Air Force ended in the San Francisco area in 1975, and he has lived there ever since.
After the Air Force, Jim got a job as Plant Engineer at Airco Industrial Gases in Richmond, California and purchased his first home in Marin County just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. When he developed a low-cost method of purifying oxygen, Airco wanted to promote him to their engineering group at company headquarters in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Rather than transfer to the East Coast, Jim joined Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation, which was also in the Bay Area, and bought his second home closer to his new job.
Planning long-term, Jim had hoped to retire to his first home in Marin County. Coincidentally, he met a couple who originally had similar plans. The couple had sold their first home in Marin, and years later, the cost of the house had appreciated so much that they could no longer afford to buy it back. That information inspired Jim to keep his first house and turn it into a rental property.
After two years, Jim was surprised to learn that he was making more money on his two home investments (from appreciation and rental income) than he was working as a full-time engineer. Therefore, he devised a plan to purchase ten houses over ten years and after 20 years working as an Air Force officer and a Chemical Engineer, Jim's real estate investments allowed him to retire at the age of 44.
Jim and Jane like to be active and they enjoy travel and taking cruises all over the world- in fact, they recently went on his 78th cruise. The pandemic halted their travel for several years, then they made the decision to carefully resume their adventures. Jim says, "We have loved every trip. One thing we like about cruising is everything is included in the original cost of the cruise; therefore, we can relax and enjoy our time meeting other guests and experiencing local cultures without thinking about money." Jim and Jane are life-long learners and, with the Internet, they are able to find the best values in airfares, hotels, cruises and car rentals. Their latest cruise on a brand-new ship only cost $38/person/day. Jim said, "The food alone was worth more than that!"
The frugal habits Jim adopted which allowed him to purchase 10 houses stay with him to this day. "Once you realize how beneficial careful money management is, it never leaves you." Warren Buffett is one of Jim's role models and, in spite of his multi-billion-dollar fortune, he also lives frugally.
Jim is an inspiration for those of us who wish to continue to build our wealth for a secure retirement. He enjoys helping others and will share his personal plan for financial success which is now known as Financial Independence and Retire Early (F.I.R.E.). Jim shared: "Clemson, like all great universities, does an excellent job preparing students for their careers; however, more attention should be given across the U.S. to helping students learn how to save and invest their earnings along the way to provide a secure retirement. The concepts of saving and investing are simple, but not easy - it requires deferred gratification. This means spending less while you're younger so you will have much more when you are older. It takes discipline, planning, and good money management to achieve financial independence and it's best to start with your first paycheck. When you invest in good income properties, time is on your side. Property appreciation is tax-free, and I never sell my properties. You can also depreciate buildings like houses (but not the land), which shelters your earned income, so you pay less in taxes. You can also take advantage of financial leverage which means buying real estate with little or no money down (possible with a Veterans Administration loan) which dramatically increases the return on your investment as the property appreciates."
To Clemson students specifically, he shares advice that he garnered through his education, experiences and as a professional engineer and investor. Jim says, "A degree from Clemson will open doors for you to become anything you want to be, if you're willing to work at it. That is why I am enthusiastic about investing in scholarships for South Carolina students who cannot otherwise afford a Clemson education." While he encourages students to choose a career that will support them financially, he stresses the importance of choosing a major and career that they enjoy. "Work is easier and more enjoyable if you like what you do."
He describes Clemson "as the foundation upon which everything will be built for the rest of your life". As a graduate, you can begin a journey of lifelong learning in a world that is ever-changing. Jim says, "Today, it is easier than ever before to learn new things; communicate with people around the world; take online courses - everyone needs to stay connected and remain informed during this vibrant and fast-moving journey."
Jim is passionate and devoted to enabling as many students to graduate from Clemson's CECAS programs as possible. He wants students to have the ability to devote time to securing the best education they can and not worry about financial obstacles. "Scholarships will allow students who need financial assistance to devote their time and attention to their studies, instead of having to take on odd jobs to cover their expenses. CECAS courses are demanding and the more time you can devote to study, the better."
Jim says, "When I left Clemson, I didn't have a penny to my name." Everything he has today, he has made on his own - by working hard, lifelong learning, and making good financial decisions."
Jim encourages everyone to invest wisely and build a plan for a secure and comfortable retirement. "Then you can share your knowledge and wealth with others, who will make the world a better place for everyone." He stresses, "You cannot take your wealth with you, so you might as well invest in the next generation to help them handle the issues and challenges ahead. Giving too much to kids and family frequently causes more harm than good."
Jim sacrificed to make money early in his career, and today, that money is working for him - allowing him to enjoy a comfortable, secure and happy life while sharing it with others in a meaningful way.
Jim adds, "It truly is better to give, than to receive. Giving to a worthy cause makes you feel great."
And for Clemson Tigers, there is no greater feeling than giving back to support the next generation of promising Cubs at the place we so dearly love by funding their magic carpet ride to their destination.
We hope you will reach out to our team to discuss how you can also make a difference for future Clemson students through a planned gift. Our website features useful online resources to guide your thought process. For information about general estate planning, our free Wills Guide is available to help you make plans before visiting with your attorney. And of course, you are most welcome to contact us directly by emailing us at [email protected].