The Richest Man In Babylon

‘The Richest Man In Babylon’  is a book by George Samuel Clason,first published in 1926, which teaches simple lessons in financial wisdom through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon.

The book is well deserving of its status as a personal finance classic and is an extremely easy read both for adults and children.The parables have the power to make an indelible impression on the mind and teach lessons for life.I feel the book should join all the childhood classics such as Cinderella,Sleeping Beauty,Snow White, Aesop’s fables et al. After all it is so much easier and fun to learn financial wisdom from parables than through bitter experience.

Copies of the book can be bought online and in book stores easily and they make excellent gifts.It is also an excellent title for your personal library.Alsoyou can get free copies legally as it is off copyright.Here is the link to a free copy.

The following are my favourite excerpts from the book:

“…a man’s wealth is not in the purse he carries. A fat purse quickly empties if there be no golden stream to refill it. Arkad has an income that constantly keeps his purse full, no matter how liberally he spends.”

“Thou makest me to realize the reason why we have never found any measure of wealth. We never sought it. Thou hast labored patiently to build the staunchest chariots in Babylon. To that purpose was devoted your best endeavors. Therefore, at it thou didst succeed. I strove to become a skillful lyre player. And, at it I did succeed.”

“He was generous in his charities. He was generous with his family. He was liberal in his own expenses. But nevertheless each year his wealth increased more rapidly than he spent it.”

“Yet, once we were equal. We studied under the same master. We played in the same games. And in neither the studies nor the games did you outshine us. And in the years since, you have been no more an honorable citizen than we. Nor have you worked harder or more faithfully, insofar as we can judge. Why, then, should a fickle fate single you out to enjoy all the good things of life and ignore us who are equally deserving?” Thereupon Arkad remonstrated with them, saying, “If you have not acquired more than a bare existence in the years since we were youths, it is because you either have failed to learn the laws that govern the building of wealth, or else you do not observe them.”

“Fickle Fate’ is a vicious goddess who brings no permanent good to anyone.On the contrary, she brings ruin to almost every man upon whom she showers unearned gold. She makes wanton spenders, who soon dissipate all they receive and are left beset by overwhelming appetites and desires they have not the ability to gratify. Yet others whom she favors become misers and hoard their wealth, fearing to spend what they have, knowing they do not possess the ability to replace it.”

“I would not be content to clothe myself in the cheapest raiment that looked respectable. I would not be satisfied with the lot of a poor man.”

“….an old tongue loves to wag. And when youth comes to age for advice he receives the wisdom of years. But too often does youth think that age knows only the wisdom of days that are gone, and therefore profits not. But remember this, the sun that shines today is the sun that shone when thy father was born, and will still be shining when thy last grandchild shall pass into the darkness. “The thoughts of youth,’ he continued, ‘are bright lights that shine forth like the meteors that oft make brilliant the sky, but the wisdom of age is like the fixed stars that shine so unchanged that the sailor may depend upon them to steer his course.”

“I found the road to wealth when I decided that a part of all I earned was mine to keep. And so will you.”

“Every gold piece you save is a slave to work for you. Every copper it earns is its child that also can earn for you. If you would become wealthy, then what you save must earn, and its
children must earn, that all may help to give to you the abundance you crave.”

“Wealth, like a tree, grows from a tiny seed. The first copper you save is the seed from which your tree of wealth shall grow. The sooner you plant that seed the sooner shall the tree grow. And the more faithfully you nourish and water that tree with consistent savings, the sooner may you bask in contentment beneath its shade.”

“Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having. He who takes advice about his savings from one who is inexperienced in such matters, shall pay with his savings for proving the falsity of their opinions.”

“You do eat the children of your savings. Then how do you expect them to work for you? And how can they have children that will also work for you?”

“You first learned to live upon less than you could earn. Next you learned to seek advice from those who were competent through their own experiences to give it. And, lastly, you have learned to make gold work for you.”

“Wealth grows in magic ways. No man can prophesy the limit of it.”

“A small return and a safe one is far more desirable than risk.”

“Why should so few men be able to acquire all the gold?”
“Because they know how.”

“Thou hadst nothing to start with?”
“Only a great desire for wealth. Besides this, nothing.”

“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.”

“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.”

“That what each of us calls our ‘necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.”

“All men are burdened with more desires than they can gratify. Because of my wealth thinkest thou I may gratify every desire? ‘Tis a false idea. There are limits to my time. There are limits to my strength. There are limits to the distance I may travel. There are limits to what I may eat. There are limits to the zest with which I may enjoy.

“I say to you that just as weeds grow in a field wherever the farmer leaves space for their roots, even so freely do desires grow in men whenever there is a possibility of their being gratified. Thy desires are a multitude and those that thou mayest gratify are but few.”

“Study thoughtfully thy accustomed habits of living. Herein may be most often found certain accepted expenses that may wisely be reduced or eliminated. Let thy motto be one hundred percent of appreciated value demanded for each coin spent.”

“It(budget) is to enable thee to realize thy most cherished desires by defending them from thy casual wishes.”

“Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments and to gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more than nine-tenths of thy earnings.”

“Gold in a purse is gratifying to own and satisfieth a miserly soul but earns nothing.”

“I tell you, my students, a man’s wealth is not in the coins he carries in his purse; it is the income he buildeth, the golden stream that continually floweth into his purse and keepeth it always bulging. That is what every man desireth. That is what thou, each one of thee desireth; an income that continueth to come whether thou work or travel.”

“From a few sources at first, from many sources later, flowed into my purse a golden stream of wealth available for such wise uses as I should decide.”

“The first sound principle of investment is security for thy principal. Is it wise to be intrigued by larger earnings when thy principal may be lost? I say not. 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 romantic desires to make wealth rapidly.”

“Before thou loan it to any man assure thyself of his ability to repay and his reputation for doing so, that thou mayest not unwittingly be making him a present of thy hard-earned treasure.”

“If a man setteth aside nine parts of his earnings upon which to live and enjoy life, and if any part of this nine parts he can turn into a profitable investment without detriment to his well being  then so much faster will his treasures grow.”

“…it behooves a man to make preparation for a suitable income in the days to come, when he is no longer young, and to make preparations for his family should he be no longer
with them to comfort and support them.”

“Good luck can be enticed by accepting opportunity.”


“Gold is reserved for those who know its laws and abide by them.”

“My son, it is my desire that thou succeed to my estate. Thou must, however,first prove that thou art capable of wisely handling it. Therefore, I wish that thou go out into the world and show thy ability both to acquire gold and to make thyself respected among men.”

“..had I but sought wisdom first, my gold would not have been lost to me.”

I. Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family
II. Gold laboreth diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.
III. Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.
IV. Gold slippeth away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by  those skilled in its keep.
V. Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who followeth the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

“Without wisdom, gold is quickly lost by those who have it, but with wisdom, gold can be secured by those who have it not.”

“Who amongst thee can go to thy father or to the father of thy wife and give an account of wise handling of his earnings?”

“Wealth that comes quickly goeth the same way.Wealth that stayeth to give enjoyment and satisfaction to its owner comes gradually, because it is a child born of knowledge and persistent purpose.”

“In the front rank of the torments that do follow us are the memories of the things we should have done, of the opportunities which came to us and we took not.”

“If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend’s burdens upon thyself.”

“…humans in the throes of great emotions are not safe risks for the gold lender.”

“But if they borrow because of their indiscretions, I warn thee to be cautious if thou  wouldst ever have thy gold back in hand again.”

“His ambition, though worthy, is not practical and I would not lend him any gold.”

“The wise lender wishes not the risk of the undertaking but the guarantee of safe repayment.”

“Tis well,” he continued, “to assist those that are in trouble, ’tis well to help those upon whom fate has laid a heavy hand. ‘Tis well to help those who are starting that they may progress and become valuable citizens. But help must be given wisely, lest, like the farmer’s ass, in our desire to help we but take upon ourselves the burden that belongs to another.”

“I like not idle gold, even less I like too much of risk.”

“How many years hast thou labored as a spearmaker?”
“Fully three.”
“How much besides the King’s gift hast saved?”
“Three gold pieces.”
“Each year that thou hast labored thou has denied thyself good things to save from thine earnings one piece of gold?”
“Tis as you say.”
“Then mightest save in fifty years of labor fifty pieces of gold by thy self denial?”
“A lifetime of labor it would be.”
“Thinkest thou thy sister would wish to jeopardize the savings of fifty years of labor over the bronze melting pot that her husband might experiment on being a merchant?”

“I am a gold lender because I own more gold than I can use in my own trade. I desire my surplus gold to labor for others and thereby earn more gold. I do not wish to take risk of losing my gold for I have labored much and denied myself much to secure it. Therefore, I will no longer lend any of it where I am not confident that it is safe and will be returned to me. Neither will I lend it where I am not convinced that its earnings will be promptly paid to me.”

“If thou dost safely preserve thy treasure it will produce liberal earnings for thee and be a rich source of pleasure and profit during all thy days. But if thou dost let it  escape from thee, it will be a source of constant sorrow and regret as long as thy memory doth last.”

“Then be not swayed by foolish sentiments of obligation to trust thy treasure to any person. If thou wouldst help thy family or thy friends, find other ways than risking the loss of thy treasure. Forget not that gold slippeth away in unexpected ways from those unskilled in guarding it. As well waste thy treasure in extravagance as let others lose it for thee.”

“Therefore, be not swayed by the fantastic plans of impractical men who think they see ways to force thy gold to make earnings unusually large. Such plans are the creations of dreamers unskilled in the safe and dependable laws of trade.”

“Seek to associate thyself with men and enterprises whose success is established that thy treasure may earn liberally under their skillful use and be guarded safely by their wisdom and experience.”

“…to take good care of a faithful wife putteth self-respect into the heart of a man and addeth strength and determination to his purposes.”

“We mortals are changeable. Alas, I must say more apt to change our minds when right than wrong. Wrong, we are stubborn indeed. Right, we are prone to vacillate and let opportunity escape. My first judgment is my best. Yet always have I found it difficult to compel myself to proceed with a good bargain when made. Therefore, as a protection against my own weaknesses, I do make a prompt deposit thereon. This doth save me from later regrets for the good luck that should have been mine.”



About Keerthika Singaravel

2 Responses to The Richest Man In Babylon

  1. Alex Jones says:

    The shine of ancient wisdom never dims with time.

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