The Way to Wealth

Ben Franklin quote

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.

Ben Franklin quote

It has been understood for a long time that the second million is always easier than the first. And that money has a habit of growing faster than you think.

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.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here.

Blockfi pays high interest. (Currently 8%)

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Winning With Benjamin Franklin’s Virtues

$100 bill. Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin might be the most important of the Founding Fathers. His steady hand and silence shouted more than hours of oratory. When younger minds became heated at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin sat quietly until it was obvious the attendees were at an impasse. Franklin, silent during most of the proceedings, suggested a break. Gently, he spoke with several delegates during the pause in the debate. Cooler minds returned and a nation was formed. It is fair to say the United States of America owes its existence to the virtues of a single man. 

Ben Franklin knew he was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. As a young man he set out to make himself a better person. He learned and shared sage advice still relevant today. At the core he listed 13 virtues he felt were important to master. They provided the formula for happiness, wealth and success.

Long before the modern FIRE (financial independence/retire early) movement, there was Benjamin Franklin. I learned from Franklin that retirement is overrated if you find those things you love to do and keep a healthy level of curiosity in your life. Unhappiness breeds the desire for retirement.

Winning at life, in marriage, financially, in your health, spiritually and physically were covered by Franklin. It was simple to set up, yet difficult to follow. Franklin, fully aware of his shortcomings, listed the virtues he wanted to uphold. Then he held himself accountable each day; never beating himself up for failing, but gently encouraging improvement each and every day.

 

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues

The best place to start is by listing the 13 virtues Franklin considered so vital. After this I will share a worksheet you can print and use for your Virtues Journal. Then I will share some of Franklin’s wisdom before finishing by sharing a program that provides the framework needed to maximize your study of these virtues.

Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. (Author’s note: I take this to mean to stay focused on the task at hand. I doubt Ben would have been a fan of constantly checking email or smartphone.)

Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. 

Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing. 

Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if speaking, speak accordingly.

Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

Tranquility: Be not disturbed by trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Feel free to download or copy this Ben Franklin virtues poster.

It should be noted than Franklin fell short by his own admission most days. Temperance (drinking intoxicants) seemed to be a struggle. 

The goal is not perfection; the goal is to be aware of weaknesses and improve consistently over time.

Now to track our progress. 

Print out a page for each week. Place a dot in each location each time you go against the virtue. You can have multiple dots on a single day and virtue.

Print out a page each week for your virtues journal. Place a dot under the day of the week and the virtue when you fail to live up to the virtue.

Example: If you spent money foolishly on Monday, place a dot in the Monday column on the frugality row. You can accumulate more than one dot is a day under one virtue.

In a short time you can visualize where you are coming up short and where work needs to be done. Remember, this isn’t to belittle yourself! This exercise clarifies where you need improvement. Make a conscious efforts to improve in weak areas. Always be vigilant. Knowing where you tend to stray is a powerful tool in slowing down the negative behavior.

 

Wisdom From Ben Franklin

Franklin is an endless source of common sense and wisdom. His autobiography is must-read material for anyone serious about building wealth. Much of this wisdom was shared in his annual publication of Poor Richard’s Almanack. For 27 years Franklin built upon a solid foundation of wisdom, giving us arguably the greatest source of information on living a good and happy life, and on building financial wealth.

A good example of this powerful writing is the essay in the 1758 edition (the last year Franklin published the almanack), and included in his autobiography: The Way to Wealth. It is hard to fathom this was published 350 years before contemporary bloggers, podcasters and financial gurus. Ben Franklin put all us moderns, with our word processors and auto-correct, to shame centuries ago with a simple pad of paper and pencil. We can only aspire to such greatness.

I’ll share a few financial (frugal) quotes here. If you want more I highly recommend Franklin’s autobiography and biography by Walter Isaacson

Select quotes from The Way to Wealth:

Industry need not wish, and he who lives upon Hope will die fasting.

Keep thy Shop and thy Shop will keep thee; and again, If you would have your business done, go; if not, send.

If you would have a faithful Servant, and one that you like, serve yourself.

A little Neglect will breed great Mischief.

Buy what thou hast no Need of, and ere long thou shalt sell thy Necessities. 

Beware of little expenses; A small Leak will sink a great ship.

The second Vice is Lying; the first is running in Debt.

Lying rides upon Debt’s Back.

Of course there is much more. 

And when have you heard similar words in  modern English? From Warren Buffett? Charlie Munger? Dave Ramsey? the Wealthy Accountant!

Every nugget of financial wisdom is as old as the ages. This stuff has been known for millennia. We keep repeating it generation after generation because nothing is less common than common sense

That is why my work is never done. Every day another crowd of people struggle with financial issues and people like me try to spread the good word.

 

Benjamin Franklin Circles

It is easy to think Ben Franklin lived in a different time, a time alien to our modern world. In some ways this is true, but the differences are not as vast as you might think. 

Franklin understood the value of quality conversation, where ideas were exchanged and knowledge grown. Franklin frequented salons, where people gathered, socialized and built grand ideas, like creating a nation like none other in history. 

We can still meet in the same fashion. But, we also have the added advantage of virtual meetings. With Zoom we are no longer limited to those locally that can attend meetings.

There is a movement afoot that acts much like the salons of Europe and America in the early and mid eighteenth century. They are called Benjamin Franklin Circles. There are several ways to start your own circle. I’ll let you use the link to dig deeper into the topic. 

The Franklin Circle can be a local gathering or virtual event. The group is a year commitment. Once per month the group gathers to discuss another of Franklin’s virtues and how to best build that virtue in ourselves. 

The group can also enjoy the socializing and good conversation Franklin did in his day by extending the group into additional virtues and topics. 

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The link above is a beginning point if you are interested in starting a Circle.

There are also numerous guides to help with the process. (The guides are also useful as personal study materials.) Here are a few guides with links. All can be downloaded and printed out.

Ben Franklin Circle Toolkit

Meeting Guide for Franklin’s 13 virtues

Meeting Guide for an additional 12 virtues

Virtual Meeting Guide

Dinner Party guide

Use these guides to step back in time and into the future.

 

Final Words

It is impossible to give a proper review of Benjamin Franklin in a thousand words or so. Hyperlinks above expand the subject material greatly, and the two books mentioned and linked in the text do provide reasonable coverage of a remarkable man and his sage wisdom on health, living the good life and financial wealth.

I hope I whet your appetite enough to encourage a deeper drink from the well of knowledge Franklin brought us. You will find all successful people are, knowingly or not, using Franklin’s advice on some level as part of their success.

But more than that, these virtues can make us a better person. You don’t have to start a nation or build your financial empire as large as Charlie Munger’s to benefit from the time tested wisdom of Franklin. You do have to start taking accountability of yourself as Franklin did. 

A small amount of progress each day compounds to a massive amount of knowledge and wealth of all kinds. It is simple, yet requires the simple action of taking the next step. 

Begin today.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here.

Blockfi is currently paying 7.5%.

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.