When it comes to amassing riches, who better to consult than the ancient experts of Babylon, one of history’s most affluent cultures? The Richest Man in Babylon is George S. Clason’s now-classic book, in which several stories are presented by Arkad, the wealthiest man in Babylon.
Though published in 1926, The Richest Man in Babylon follows the practices and advice as noted in Babylonian parables from over 8000 year ago.
A Brief Synopsis of The Richest Man in Babylon
In the tradition of Aesop’s Fables, the financial pointers in this book are set up as narrative stories. In the first, we meet Bansir, the chariot builder, and Kobbi, the musician. The two friends are puzzling as to why they are always out of money, despite their reputations for being the best in their fields.
The two friends chat in a warm, familiar, and historically-flavored manner that brings a smile to the reader’s face. In today’s day and age, who hasn’t met a friend over coffee and lamented that they aren’t as prosperous as they wished they could be?
The friends quickly devise that they should meet up with their mutual friend Arkad, who is the richest man in Babylon. Arkad received the same education, the same instruction, and like Bansir and Kobbi, is known as the best in his field.
Yet Arkad lives a wealthy life, while the other two men are struggling to make ends meet. The friends meet and discuss the “secrets” to Arkad’s wealth, which the man reveals are not secrets at all: simply helpful pointers and advice he received when he was a young man.
The Basic Advice
The advice Arkad shares with townspeople and the King of Babylon alike is really quite simple, and possible for any individual to follow to some extent.
Arkad’s first important tip is that “a part of all you earn is yours.” He encourages his fellow Babylonians to set aside 10% of each payment they receive as savings. At the same time, he explains how to budget properly.
He encourages putting food, charity, penance, and savings first. Then, he notes, any remaining money can be used to make other necessary payments.
While this may seem strict, and does not accommodate current expenses, like utilities or insurance, Arkad does bring up the importance of protecting wealth once earned.
First, he notes that budgeting is a learned process, and not something you can strictly set right away. He notes that you cannot manage what you cannot measure; therefore, he encourages his students to pay attention to where money goes, and to deeply evaluate whether those expenses are necessities or not.
He also notes that it is “better a little cuation than a great regret,” advising his friends to invest, not gamble, and to take only good advice. As Arkad’s own tutor notes, “Advice is the one thing freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having.”
The Seven Cures for a Lean Purse
Each story or parable offers a “moral” at the end, often spelled out succinctly. Together, these lessons create The Seven Cures for a Lean Purse:
The First Cure: Start thy purse to fattening
The Second Cure: Control thy expenditures
The Third Cure: Make thy gold multiply
The Fourth Cure: Guard thy treasures from loss
The Fifth Cure: Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
The Sixth Cure: Insure a future income
The Seventh Cure: Increase thy ability to earn
Together these “Cures” form the tenants of Clason’s collection of tales, and all of these lessons are reiterated repeatedly throughout the stories.
For example, early in the book, Bansir and Kobbi are commended for wanting to be the best in their field. They are well-respected for being the best at their trade; however, Arkad urges them to be more inspired, and to look further.
Aim for success beyond being the best in your field: aim for success and wealth. He also encourages furthering your education and continuing to be the best in your field.
Why I Recommended The Richest Man in Babylon
The Richest Man in Babylon is a series of helpful tales that will certainly get you thinking about your business strategy. We are all aware that success comes by being prepared, informed, educated, and innovativel.
Clason’s book reminds us that wealth and success are not guaranteed partners. In fact, one can be very successful without having any wealth.
Like many financial lessons, the Babylonians remind us that it’s important to be neither a miser nor extravagant. Arkad reminds his audience on many occasions to be grateful for talents, humble to your wealth, and not rest on your laurels.
In fact, Arkad encourages his audience to continue learning and growing, stating “That man who seeks to learn more of his craft shall be richly rewarded.”
Today, that’s an incredibly important lesson, with technology advancing faster than many people can track, and marketing trends and practices morphing and changing rapidly.
Though the book itself is over 100 years old, presenting advice touted as being ages old, Arkad and the Babylonian society still present valuable lessons for those who wish to not only succeed, but be wealthy, in today’s society.