If wealthy people have the same 24 hours in a day, and work just as hard as others, how do they acquire such incredible wealth?
This was the question George Samuel Clason set out to answer in his timeless classic The Richest Man in Babylon. Since 1926, Clason’s book has sold more than 2 million copies and has been translated into 26 different languages.
Set in ancient Babylon, supposedly the wealthiest city in the history of the world, the book dispenses financial advice through a collection of short stories. The Babylonian financial gurus offer simple and common sense advice to managing your money — advice that’s still relevant today.
What I like most about this book is the simplicity of the storytelling. Although the book is not religious, the format and diction comes across as “Biblical,” making Clason’s advice seem infallible and sticky in your mind. While none of the lessons are likely to be earth-shattering, they cover the fundamentals of basic wealth building everyone should know.
Going back to the original question: Can wealth creation be taught?
Clason says it can and I have to agree. In the book, Clason tells the story of Arkad, a merchant and the richest man in Babylon. The king of Babylon asks Arkad to share his wisdom with 100 students in an effort to increase the collective wealth of the population.
Most of the people in Babylon are broke, or as Clason calls it, having a “lean purse.” To cure a lean purse, Clason teaches these seven timeless lessons through the story of Arkad:
1st Cure: Start Thy Purse to Fattening.
The streams of income flowing into your life at any given moment can be large. But the balance in your bank account will only grow if you’re disciplined enough to divert portions of those income streams.
Throughout the book, the “enlightened” characters stress saving at least ten percent of your income every month, without fail. Do this by setting aside ten percent before all other expenses are considered.
“But when I began to take out from my purse but nine parts of the ten I put in,” Arkad said, “it began to fatten. So will thine.”
2nd Cure: Control Thy Expenditures.
The amount of money you make is important, but it’s secondary to the degree to which you learn to control your expenses. Clason calls lifestyle inflation one of life’s “unusual truths.”
He writes, “That what each of us calls our ‘necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.” You must budget and plan your expenses earnestly. Demand value for the dollars you spend and, “…confuse not the necessary expenses with thy desires.”
3rd Cure: Make Thy Gold Multiply.
Your wealth should extend beyond your income. Make sure all saved monies are kept in the highest-yield interest-bearing accounts available. If you have experience and the know-how, invest a portion of your money in the stock market. Let time and compounding interest go to work for you.
“A man’s wealth is not in the coins he carries in his purse; it is the income he buildeth. That is what thou desireth: an income that continueth to come whether thou work or travel.”
4th Cure: Guard Thy Treasures from Loss.
Forget about the talking heads giving you their “hot tips.” If you’re going to take risks and invest your money, make sure you know how to guard and protect your assets.
Know your risk aversion and understand the risks in your portfolio. Your savings control your future – treat them like it.
“The first sound principle of investment is security for thy principal. The penalty of risk is probable loss. Study carefully, before parting with thy treasure, each assurance that it may be safely reclaimed. Be not misled by thine own desires to make wealth rapidly.”
5th Cure: Make of Thy Dwelling a Profitable Investment.
Clason’s argument is that it makes more sense to make payments that will eventually become equity rather than giving money to a landlord. We don’t need to get into the renting vs. owning debate today.
What’s important here is you should always be looking to build assets and equity with your money. If you don’t know how to invest in rental properties, learn the basics and scale as the equity you build starts paying dividends.
“Thus come many blessings to the man who owneth his own house. And greatly will it reduce his cost of living, making available more of his earnings for pleasures and the gratification of his desires.”
6th Cure: Insure a Future Income.
The future cannot be known, but you can take steps to assure a certain level of financial safety is met. Clason doesn’t really dive into this that much in the book but there are multiple ways you can safeguard your wealth.
Whether it’s a simple savings plan, outside insurance, or a combination of both, you should always be insuring the wellness of yourself and your loved ones later in life.
“No man can afford not to insure a treasure for his old age and the protection of his family, no matter how prosperous his business and investments may be.”
7th Cure: Increase Thy Ability to Earn.
The last “cure” to a lean purse is education. You should be a constant learner, always acquiring new skills, experiences and confidence.
These are the things that will attract more wealth as you become a more valuable asset to your company or business. Consider starting a second, part-time job, or freelancing your skills in your spare time to earn extra income.
“The more of wisdom we know, the more we may earn. The man who seeks to learn more of his craft shall be richly rewarded. Cultivate thy own powers, study and become wiser, become more skillful, and act as to respect thyself.”
At under 100 pages, The Richest Man in Babylon is a quick read. If want a how-to guide, this book is not it.
The advice might seem at times oversimplified, but it’s the same advice you read, rehashed in today’s bestsellers. The truth is the fundamentals to building wealth never change.
To a richer life,
— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap