Book Review: The Way To Wealth by Benjamin Franklin

A classic book from over 200 years ago which still pertains perfectly to the present day

Each month, I read several personal finance books and have never come across such a short financial management story that packs as much of a punch as Benjamin Franklin’s “The Way To Wealth.”

In the practice of not spending money to gain this bit of wisdom, I found an online version you can read for free.

Of course, since this was written over 200 years ago, there’s a bit of old English language that dates the story, but the content is every bit as relevant today.

Ben Franklin, the ghost-writer of the yearly “Poor Richard’s Almanac” under the pen name Richard Saunders, tells a story of when he stopped his horse in a crowd that was gathering, waiting for an auction to begin. In response to a random question about feelings regarding taxes from a bystander in the crowd, a character called Father Abraham begins to address the crowd. To Richard Saunders’ surprise, Father Abraham begins speaking about finances, quoting passages of financial wisdom from the past 25 years of the Poor Richard’s Almanac, not knowing that “Poor Richard” was standing nearby in the crowd.

A few quoted gems of financial wisdom

The ones that struck me the most are the ones that pertain to buying things, credit and debt.

Silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out the kitchen fire.”

Have you ever bought things because they were such a “good deal” or because you felt you deserved them, but then not had enough money to purchase gas or food for your family without using a credit card?

“A ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees”

Have you ever had to ask family and friends to borrow money because you were spending and living above your means and had no savings of your own?

“If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some; for, he that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing.”

What sorrows have you experienced from borrowing money from friends or family or by continually charging up credit cards?

“The second vice is lying. The first is running in debt.”

Have you ever had to lie about your spending or debts to your family or to creditors or even to a family member or friend from whom you borrowed money?

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

Maybe you have heard the advice to pay bills on time, to keep an emergency savings fund, to keep small balances on credit cards and to keep a budget but you just keep spending away anyway. Or, do you complain about your bills and debts but adopt no new actions to change them?

Finally, just as the auction was about to begin, the old man ended his speech. What do you think the crowd did next?

The best part is what Richard Saunders decided to do when thinking about a new coat, which was the reason he stopped at the auction.

Since reading this short, fun story costs no money and contains all of the current day ideas for responsible personal financial management, it’s highly worth a read. Are you more like the auction attendees or more like Richard Saunders?

When you use your free Shopperfund account to buy your monthly necessities, you can earn PayOff Credits to help you pay down any debt or bill you choose.

The author is a paid contributor to the Shopperfund Blog.