The Richest Man in Babylon (for Americans). Part One

in #life3 years ago

Because "for Dummies" is probably copyrighted.

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OK, written by George S. Clason and first published in 1926, The Richest Man in Babylon is a fictionalized account that tells the story of how a lowly scribe by the name of Arkad became; well, The Richest Man in Babylon.

One reason you may not have read it, if you've even heard of it, is because it reads like the Bible.

For example:

"Such a lyre thou shouldst have. No man in all Babylon could make it sing more sweetly; could make it sing so sweetly, not only the king but the Gods themselves would be delighted. But how mayest thou secure it while we both of us are as poor as the king's slaves?"

Fear not, for thou art fortunate enough to have such a scribe as myself to translate for thou.

This work is in the public domain so you can go ahead and do a search to find a free version online and read it yourself.

The first part of this short book is dedicated to telling the story of how Arkad was tasked by the King of Babylon to conveying to his teachers how money works.

The idea was that the good King Sargon (not Sauron you LOTR fans) wanted everyone in Babylon to be able to grow wealthy, so he asked the richest man among them to teach people his methods.

Arkad agrees to teach the methods he had used to go from virtually nothing to being the wealthiest man in the kingdom, even more wealthy than the King himself.

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His principles are called, "Seven Cures For a Lean Purse" and they are summed up by this Forward:


  1. Start thy purse to fattening
  2. Control thy expenditures
  3. Make thy gold multiply
  4. Guard thy treasures from loss
  5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
  6. Insure a future income
  7. Increase thy ability to earn

I'll give you a brief description of each of these principles and some updated examples taken from the original text in this and the following posts.

Without further ado, here's the first cure:

Start Thy Purse to Fattening

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Long story short, acknowledge the fact that at least a part of the money you earn (earn doesn't mean you found it or won it in the lottery or inherited it from your rich spinster Aunt who never had kids and didn't want to leave it to her lesbian partner) is yours.

So put aside at least 10 percent, right off the top.

Nearly everyone pisses away a decent amount of their income so 10% taken right off the top is a doable thing.

Trade your Starbucks coffee for McDonalds.

Go ahead and keep the Starbucks cup and hide you McCafe in it.

If you can do more without being miserable, go for it, but 10% is the minimum.

The story is told as though it's being related by someone who was there so the author gives a few examples:

Arkad turned to a humble man who had declared himself an egg merchant. "If thou select one of thy baskets and put into it each morning ten eggs and take out from it each evening nine eggs, what will eventually happen?" "It will become in time overflowing." "Why?" "Because each day I put in one more egg than I take out." Arkad turned to the class with a smile. "Does any man here have a lean purse?" First they looked amused. Then they laughed. Lastly they waved their purses in jest. "All right," he continued, "Now I shall tell thee the first remedy I learned to cure a lean purse. Do exactly as I have suggested to the egg merchant. For every ten coins thou placest within thy purse take out for use but nine. Thy purse will start to fatten at once and its increasing weight will feel good in thy hand and bring satisfaction to thy soul. "Deride not what I say because of its simplicity. Truth is always simple. I told thee I would tell how built my fortune. This was my beginning. I, too, carried a lean purse and cursed it because there was naught within to satisfy my desires. But when I began to take out from my purse but nine parts of ten I put in, it began to fatten. So will thine.

Or, as Gordon Shumway put it so eloquently, "Spend Less Than you Make."

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Clasen also salts additional tidbits of knowledge into the story, like this one:

"Now I will tell a strange truth, the reason for which I know not. When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings, I managed to get along just as well. I was not shorter than before. Also, ere long, did coins come to me more easily than before. Surely it is a law of the Gods that unto him who keepeth and spendeth not a certain part of all his earnings, shall gold come more easily. Likewise, him whose purse is empty does gold avoid.

It's no coincidence that Fortune avoids poor people.

And just so you don't think this book will be leading you to a life of denial and self imposed poverty, he adds this:

"Which desirest thou the most? Is it the gratification of thy desires of each day, a jewel, a bit of finery, better raiment, more food; things quickly gone and forgotten? Or is it substantial belongings, gold, lands, herds, merchandise, income-bringing investments? The coins thou takest from thy purse bring the first. The coins thou leavest within it will bring the latter.

In today's terms he might ask, what do you want most?

Is it the latest iPhone, another pair of designer shoes, a bigger flat screen TV, an even newer Lexus?

Or do you want something more substantial?

The security of owning your house and only needing to put money aside for the taxes?

Knowing that if you stopped working tomorrow, you wouldn't be homeless next month?

Spending money now brings the first set of things, saving it pays for the second.

This is such a simple thing, and so easy to forget to do.

The next Post will be about Cure number 2, Control Thy Expenditures.