Today we are graced with a blog post by a dear and close friend of mine, Benjamin Franklin. Ben is legend in his financial advice, especially as it applies to frugality and debt. You might even say Ben is the father of the current FIRE (financial independence/early retirement) movement.
What may strike readers strange is that Ben Franklin also retired early. He avoided debt as much as possible and paid off what he borrowed as soon as possible. He invested his excess funds in what he understood: print shops. Ben made a fortune at a relatively young age which allowed him to retire to a life of service to his country.
In 1758 Franklin published in his Poor Richard’s Almanac a preface in what was called Father Abraham’s Speech. In this preface he brought many of the wealth maxims of the almanac over the years together. The writing was so powerful it was later published as a pamphlet with the title, Way to Wealth.
Never before or since has such financial wisdom been shared.
Unfortunately, Ben Franklin lived at a time when the English language was in flux. People just don’t understand anymore what, Many a Little makes a Mickle, means anymore. Caught between Early Modern English and Modern English, reading Ben Franklin is only slightly easier than reading Shakespeare at times.
The message is too important to leave to history unread and unstudied. Therefore, I have decided to translate Father Abraham’s Speech, aka, The Way to Wealth, from Early Modern English into Modern English. I hope you find Benjamin Franklin’s words as important to you as they have been to me. Enjoy.
The Way to Wealth
By: Benjamin Franklin (as translated by Keith Schroeder)
A government would be considered intolerable if it taxed people 10% of their time in service of the government. Yet idleness taxes many of us much more if we consider all the time spent checking email, our phone, social media and news feeds. All these activities add nothing of value to our lives or to those around us and is no worse than the government taxing you a percent of your time.
Idleness is harmful to good health. Medical research provides proof it absolutely shortens lives. Laziness, like Rust, destroys faster than Work wears things out. A used key is always shiny. If you want a long and fulfilling life, then do not waste time! From the richest to the poorest, all have the same amount of time in each day. Do not spend more time than necessary sleeping. The best did not become the best by sleeping in late. You will have plenty of time to sleep when you are dead.
If time is our greatest possession, then wasting time is our greatest crime. Wasted time is never returned. What we call “time enough” ends up as “there is never time enough.” And still we waste this precious gift.
Knowing the value of time, we should treat it as the precious gift it is. We need to do the things we were created to do, and with purpose. Our goals are attainable if we remain committed. Laziness makes our goals more difficult to achieve, while hard work makes them easier.
Greet each day early and with excitement. Starting your day late forces you to run hard all day, only to barely meet your day’s goals by late evening, if at all.
Laziness travels slow. Poverty soon overtakes the lazy. Work your business; do not allow your business to work you. Yes, early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. (That needs no translation.)
Hard work does not wish for success. Living on hope will ends in poverty. Stay motivated on the tasks set before you and you will achieve your goals.
There is no free lunch. Sometimes things will get very hard. There are no gains without the pains.
If you have a business, trade or side hustle you must diligently work at it. Planning is vital. Work the plan. Modify the plan when needed. The same applies to early retirement goals. Build a plan and work it every day.
Luck favors the prepared and those who work hard toward their goals. Do not dream of winning the lottery or an inheritance from a rich uncle. God favors those who work hard. Perseverance is the mother of good luck.
Today is more valuable than tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows. If you have something that needs attention tomorrow, do it today.
You would be embarrassed if the boss caught you sleeping on the job. Much more important, never catch yourself wasting time or sleeping on the job.
Persistence works like magic. No raindrop will weather a mountain. Yet, storms over the ages wither a mountain to a plain. One swing of the ax will not fell a tree, but a steady rhythm eventually will drop the mightiest of trees.
Do I hear you say that I have provided no time for leisure? If you employ your time well you will have time for leisure. If you do not know what to do this minute, do not throw away the whole hour as well. Plan and prepare! Leisure is time for doing something useful! Persistent people gain this leisure; lazy people never. A life of leisure and a life of laziness are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Work your business and financial wealth and your business and financial wealth will take care of you. If you have business to get done, do it now. If unable to do it now, hire qualified people to do it for you.
If you desire a faithful employee, one that you like; employ yourself.
Putting off your responsibilities leads to big trouble. Neglect routine maintenance on your vehicle and the vehicle is lost; without your vehicle the dream job offer is lost (or investment opportunity); without your dream job or the profitable investment opportunity, early retirement is lost, all because you neglected to maintain your vehicle.
Hard work is vital, but we must add frugality.
The cost of bad habits will cost you decades of retirement. You might think a $5 cup of coffee, or a soda, or a quick smoke is of no consequence. The latest gadgets, fancy clothes, cars and the latest iPhone may seem no big deal. But remember, many small expenses add up to one large one.
Be leery of small expenses. A small stone in a jet engine can crash a plane and the mightiest ship is sunk, even if slowly, from a small hole. Demand not luxury of everything or you will end up a beggar. Do not start building a home without a plan or you will make the investment and the wealthy banker will end up owning your home.
Buy things you don’t need and before long you will not have the money to buy necessities.
If you know the value of money, why do you beg for others to borrow you more?
Lying is only the second worst vice; debt is the first.
Lying and debt are partners. Honest people put their integrity on the line when they are dealing with debt. The bigger the debt load the greater the risk to your integrity.
Poverty drives meaning from a man’s life and destroys virtue. Even modern ears understand Ben Franklin when he said, “It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.” Where there is poverty, there is crime. Poverty does not bring the best out of people. Wealth is man’s true flowering. Mankind is designed for wealth. We shine brightest when in possession of wealth.
In conclusion, experience is the best schooling you will ever get, but the price is high. Only a fool refuses to learn from other’s experiences. If you can not take advice, you can’t be helped. Listening to the voice of experience is the surest way to avoid the painful lessons learned from experience.
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