SSS #39: The Richest Man in Babylon


So I joined a book club a few weeks ago. Let’s mark this under the hashtag, #CoronaTivities.

Anyway, last week’s book was an oldie, but a goodie: The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason.

The Richest Man in Babylon is written in this Biblical / Shakespearean language, and it uses ancient Babylonian parables to make Personal Finance more interesting.

I checked my Amazon account and found out I originally ordered this book back in January 2015. How not surprising. I’m sure I ordered it on the heels of making some New Year’s resolution about saving money.


This book is only 72 pages. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you do.

In fact, if you want a copy, just reply to this email and let me know. I’ll email it to you.

*First 10 people only.*

If you don’t want to read the 72 pages, you can get by on reading my notes below.

Click here if you'd like to read this in your web browser.

Hope you enjoy it.



The Richest Man in Babylon

Quotable Text:

  • Our acts can be no wiser than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than our understanding.
  • 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.
  • It costs nothing to ask wise advice from a good friend.
  • 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.
  • Learning is of two kinds: one kind being the things we learned and knew, and the other being the training that taught us how to find out what we did not know.
  • I will tell you these things you wish to know because I am becoming an old man, and 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 only knows 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 they father was born, and will still be shining when thy last grandchild shall pass into the darkness.
  • 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.
  • Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared.
  • Without wisdom, gold is quickly lost by those who have it, but with wisdom, gold can be secured by those who have it not.
  • 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.

Three Laws of Successfully Handling Wealth:

  1. Live upon less than you could earn
  2. Learn to seek advice from those who were competent through their own experience to give it
  3. Learn to make gold work for you

Seven Golden Rules

1) Start Thy Purse to Fattening

For every ten coins thou placest within your purse, take out for use but nine. When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings, I managed to get along just as well. Also, ere long, did coins comes to me more easily than before. Him whose purse is empty gold does avoid.

2) Control Thy Expenditures

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

Like a bright light in a dark cave thy budget shows up the leaks from thy purse and enables thee to stop them and control thy expenditures for definite and gratifying purposes.

3) Make Thy Gold Multiply

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 of thee desireth; an income that continueth to come whether thou work or travel.

Put each coin to laboring that it may reproduce its kind even as the flocks of the field and help bring to thee income, a stream of wealth that shall flow constantly into thy purse.

4) Guard Thy Treasures From Loss

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.


Guard thy treasure from loss by investing only where thy principal is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable, and where thou will not fail to collect a fair rental.

Consult with wise men. Secure the advice of those experienced in the profitable handling of gold. Let their wisdom protect thy treasure from unsafe investments.

5) Make of They Dwelling a Profitable Investment.

I recommend that every man own the roof that sheltereth him and his.

6) Insure a Future Income

The man who, because of his understanding of the laws of wealth, acquireth a growing surplus, should give thought to those future days.

He should plan certain investments or provisions that may endure safely for many years, yet will be available when the time arrives which he has so wisely anticipated.

7) Increase Thy Ability to Earn

That man who seeks to learn more of his craft shall be richly rewarded.

Such things as the following, a man must ask himself:

  • He must pay his debts with all promptness within his power, not purchasing that for which he is unable to pay.
  • He must take care of his family that they may think and speak well of him.
  • He must make a will of record that, in case the Gods call him, proper and honorable division of his property be accomplished.
  • He must have compassion upon those who are injured and smitten to misfortune and aid them within reasonable limits. He must do deeds of thoughtfulness to those dear to him.

Luck Plays a Role

If a man be lucky, there is no foretelling the possible extent of his good fortune. Pitch him into the Euphrates and like as not he will swim out with a pearl in his hand.

To some men, good luck bespeaks but a chance happening that, like an accident, may befall one without purpose or reason.

On gambling: When a man playeth the games, the situation is reversed for the chances of profit are always against him and always in favor of the game keeper. The game is so arranged that it will always favor the keeper.

Now, suppose we consider our trades and businesses. Is it not natural if we conclude a profitable transaction to consider it not good luck but a just reward for our efforts? I am inclined to think we may be overlooking the gifts of the goddess.

On Procrastination: No man willingly permits the thief to rob his bins of grain. Nor does any man willingly permit an enemy to drive away his customers and rob him of his profits. When once I did recognize that such acts as these my enemy was committing, with determination I conquered him. So must every man master his own spirit of procrastination before he can expect to share in the rich treasures of Babylon.

To attract good luck to oneself, it is necessary to take advantage of opportunities. Therefore, in the future, I shall endeavor to make the best of such opportunities as do come to me.

5 Laws of Gold

1) 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.

2) Gold laboreth diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.

3) Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.

4) 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.

5) 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.

Advice From The Money Lender of Babylon

Gold bringeth unto its possessor responsibility and a changed position with his fellow men. It bringeth fear lest he lose it or it be tricked away from him. It bringeth a feeling of power and ability to do good. Likewise, it bringeth opportunities whereby his very good intentions may bring him into difficulties.

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

The safest loans, my token box tells me, are to those whose possessions are of more value than the one they desire. They own lands, or jewels, or camels, or other things which could be sold to repay the loan.

Some of the tokens given to me are jewels of more value than the loan. Others are promises that if the loan be not repaid as agreed they will deliver to me certain property settlement. On loans like those I am assured that my gold will be returned with the rental thereon, for the loan is based on property.

Humans in the throes of great emotions are not safe risks for the gold lender.

Youth is ambitious. Youth would take short cuts to wealth and the desirable things for which it stands. To secure wealth quickly youth often borrows unwisely.

Youth, never having had experience, cannot realize that hopeless debt is like a deep pit into which one may descend quickly and where one may struggle vainly for many days.

It is a pit of sorrow and regrets where the brightness of the sun is overcast and night is made unhappy by restless sleeping.

Yet, I do not discourage borrowing gold. I encourage it. I recommend it if it be for a wise purpose. I myself made my first real success as a merchant with borrowed gold.

Gold is the merchandise of the lender of money. It is easy to lend. If it is lent unwisely then it is difficult to get back. The wise lender wishes not the risk of the undertaking but the guarantee of safe repayment.

If thee wouldst lend it so that it may earn thee more gold, then lend with caution and in many places. I like not idle gold, even less I like too much of risk.

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.

Be conservative in what thou expect it to earn that thou mayest keep and enjoy thy treasure. To hire it out with a promise of usurious returns is to invite loss.

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.

‘E’re thou goest read this which I have carved beneath the lid of my token box. It applies equally to the borrower and the lender: BETTER A LITTLE CAUTION THAN A GREAT REGRET

The Walls of Babylon

The walls of Babylon had once again repulsed a mighty and viscous foe determined to loot her rich treasures and to ravish and enslave her citizens.

Babylon endured century after century because it was fully protected. It could not afford to be otherwise.

The walls of Babylon were an outstanding example of man’s need and desire for protection.

This desire is inherent in the human race. It is just as strong today as it ever was, but we have developed broader and better plans to accomplish the same purpose.

In this day, behind the impregnable walls of insurance, savings accounts and dependable investments, we can guard ourselves against the unexpected tragedies that may enter any door and seat themselves before any fireside.


Advice From The Camel Trader of Babylon

The hungrier one becomes, the clearer one’s mind works— also the more sensitive one becomes to the odors of food.

Being young and without experience I did not know that he who spends more than he earns is sowing the winds of needless self-indulgence from which he is sure to reap the whirlwinds of trouble and humiliation.

How can you call yourself a free man when your weakness has brought you to this?

If a man has in himself the soul of a slave will he not become one no matter what his birth, even as water seeks its level?

If a man has within him the soul of a free man, will he not become respected and honored in his own city in spite of his misfortune?

If thou contentedly let the years slip by and make no effort to repay, then thou hast but the contemptible soul of a slave. No man is otherwise who cannot respect himself and no man can respect himself who does not repay honest debts.

Thy debts are thine enemies who have run thee out of Babylon. My debts were my enemies, but the men I owed were my friends for they had trusted me and believed in me.

The soul of a free man looks at life as a series of problems to be solved and solves them, while the soul of a slave whines, ‘What can I do who am but a slave?’


Clay Tablets of Babylon

That man who keepeth in his purse both gold and silver that he need not spend is good to his family and loyal to his king.

The man who hath but a few coppers in his purse is indifferent to his family and indifferent to his king.

But the man who hath naught in his purse is unkind to his family and is disloyal to his king, for his own heart is bitter.

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.

The Luckiest Man in Babylon

On Working Hard:

Some men hate it. They make it their enemy.

Better to treat it like a friend, make thyself like it. Don’t mind because it is hard.

If thou thinkest about what a good house thou build, then who cares if the beams are heavy and it is far from the well to carry the water for the plaster.

Promise me, boy, if thou get a master, work for him as hard as thou canst. If he does not appreciate all thou do, never mind.

Remember, work, well-done, does good to the man who does it. It makes him a better man.’ He stopped as a burly farmer came to the enclosure and looked at us critically.

Life is rich with many pleasures for men to enjoy. Each has its place. I am glad that work is not reserved for slaves. Were that the case I would be deprived of my greatest pleasure. Many things do I enjoy but nothing takes the place of work.