The Richest Man in Babylon is a 1926 book by George S. Clason that dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon. The book remains in print almost a century after the parables were originally published, and is regarded as a classic of personal financial advice.
The parables are told by a fictional Babylonian character called Arkad, a poor scribe who became the “richest man in Babylon”. Included in Arkad’s advice are the “Seven Cures” (or how to generate money and wealth), and the “Five Laws of Gold” (or how to protect and invest wealth).
Far and wide, Arkad was famed for his great wealth. Also, was he famed for his liberality. He was generous in his charities and with his family. He was liberal in his own expenses. But nevertheless each year his wealth increased more rapidly than he spent it.
And there were certain friends of younger days who came to him and said: “You, Arkad, are more fortunate than we. You have become the richest man in all Babylon while we struggle for existence. You can wear the finest garments and you can enjoy the rarest foods, while we must be content if we can clothe our families in raiment that is presentable and feed them as best we can.
“Yet, once we were equal. We studied under the same master. We played 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.
Curious to Know ‘How’
His friends besought him to explain to them how he had become possessed of so much prosperity, so he continued: “In my youth, I looked about me and saw all the good things there were to bring happiness and contentment. And I realized that wealth increased the potency of all these. “Wealth is power. With wealth many things are possible.
“One may ornament the home with the richest of furnishings, sail the distant seas, feast on the delicacies of far lands. “One may buy the ornaments of the gold worker and the stone polisher, even build mighty temples for the gods.
“And, when I realized all this, I decided to myself that I would claim my share of the good things of life. I would not be one of those who stand afar off, enviously watching others enjoy. Also, I would not be content to clothe myself in the cheapest raiment that looked respectable and would not be satisfied with the lot of a poor man. On the contrary, I would make myself a guest at this banquet of good things.
“Being, as you know, the son of a humble merchant, one of a large family with no hope of an inheritance, and not being endowed, as you have so frankly said, with superior powers or wisdom, I decided that if I was to achieve what I desired, time and study would be required.
“As for time, all men have it in abundance. You, each of you, have let slip by sufficient time to have made yourselves wealthy. Yet, you admit; you have nothing to show except your good families, of which you can be justly proud.
“As for the study, did not our wise teacher teach us that learning was of two kinds: the 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?
“Therefore did I decide to find out how one might accumulate wealth, and when I had found out, to make this my task and do it well. For, is it not wise that we should enjoy while we dwell in the brightness of the sunshine, for sorrows enough shall descend upon us when we depart for the darkness of the world of spirit?
Got the Mentor!
“I found employment as a scribe in the hall of records, and long hours each day I labored upon the clay tablets. Week after week, and month after month, I labored, yet for my earnings, I had naught to show. Food and clothing and penance to the gods, and other things of which I could remember not what, absorbed all my earnings. But my determination did not leave me.
“And one-day Algamish, the moneylender, came to the house of the city master and ordered a copy of the Ninth Law, and he said to me, I must have this in two days, and if the task is done by that time, two coppers will I give to thee.”
“So I labored hard, but the law was long, and when Algamish returned the task was unfinished. He was angry and had I been his slave, he would have beaten me. But knowing the city master would not permit him to injure me, I was unafraid, so I said to him, ‘Algamish, you are a very rich man. Tell me how I may also become rich, and all night I will carve upon the clay, and when the sun rises it shall be completed.’
“He smiled at me and replied, ‘You are a forward knave, but we will call it a bargain.’
“All that night I carved, though my back pained and the smell of the wick made my headache until my eyes could hardly see. But when he returned at sunup, the tablets were complete.
‘Now,’ I said, ‘tell me what you promised.’
‘You have fulfilled your part of our bargain, my son,’ he said to me kindly, ‘and I am ready to fulfill mine. 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 a 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.
‘Mark you well my words, for if you do not you will fail to grasp the truth that I will tell you, and you will think that your night’s work has been in vain.’
“Then he looked at me shrewdly from under his shaggy brows and said in a low, forceful tone, ‘I found the road to wealth when I decided that a part of all I earned was mine to keep. And so will you.’
“Then he continued to look at me with a glance that I could feel pierce me but said no more.
‘Is that all?’ I asked.
‘That was sufficient to change the heart of a sheepherder into the heart of a money lender,’ he replied.
‘But all I earn is mine to keep, is it not?’ I demanded.
‘Far from it,’ he replied. ‘Do you not pay the garment-maker? Do you not pay the sandal-maker? Do you not pay for the things you eat? Can you live in Babylon without spending? What have you shown for your earnings for the past month? What for the past year? Fool! You pay to everyone but yourself. Dullard, you labor for others. As well be a slave and work for what your master gives you to eat and wear. If you did keep for yourself one-tenth of all you earn, how much would you have in ten years?’
“My knowledge of the numbers did not forsake me, and I answered, ‘As much as I earn in one year.’
Pay yourself First
‘You speak but half the truth,’ he retorted. ‘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.’
‘You think I cheat you for your long night’s work,’ he continued, ‘but I am paying you a thousand times over if you have the intelligence to grasp the truth I offer you.
Men of action are favoured by the goddess of good luck- George S. Clason