[Book Review] The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

‘A part of all I earn is mine to keep’. Repeat and remember this sentence: it is the first advice revealed in the book “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason. Now, read the rest of it yourself.

This best-seller book is a delight to read. When I first borrowed it (and I count on buying it some day), I thought it would be a documentary type of book where the author would list a series of advice with examples. Instead this short book reads itself like a novel. With fictional characters sharing their advice and experiences with money, the whole book just feels more real. In one of the first chapters, the following advice sums up what is to come:

“Arkad’, he continued, ‘you have learned your lessons well. Your first learned to live upon less than you could earn. Next you learned to seek advice from those who were competent through their own experiences to give it. And, lastly, you have learned to make gold work for you.”

To develop on the last point, Arkad’s mentor mentions:

“Then learn to make your treasure work for you. Make it your slave. Make its children and its children’s children work for you.”

Now, let us learn more about Arkad. The King of Babylon is a wise person. He wishes to see the city prosperous and realizes that this can be accomplished when a high number of its population is rich. He hence gets the help of Arkad the Richest Man in Babylon to teach his ways to others. Arkad is a man of humble beginning and is glad to list his seven cures. Notice the old “Babylonian English” writing style. Note also that “thou” stands for “you” and “thee” for “your”.

  1. Start the purse to fattening: For each ten coins I put in, to spend but nine.
  2. Control the expenditures: Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay for the necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments and to gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more than nine-tenths of thy earnings.
  3. Make thy gold multiply: to 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 purses.
  4. Guard the treasures from loss: Guard thy treasure from loss by investing only were 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 advice of those experiences in the profitable handling of gold. Let their wisdom protect thy treasure from unsafe investments.
  5. Make of the dwelling a profitable investment: Own thy own home.
  6. Insure a future income: Provide in advance for the needs of thy growing age and the protection of thy family.
  7. Increase the ability to earn: cultivate thy own powers, to study and become siwer, to become more skillful, to so act as to respect thyself.

The following chapters keep on going with more stories and conclusions about what creates richness. It discusses about luck and actions that bring it; the five laws of gold; the importance of caution, protection and determination. The book itself was written eloquently and with good understanding of life. Money is fertile and, with proper knowledge, can be grown. However, it also has to be spend. Working, owning, spending: these are all part of what makes life good. The author himself mentions that what made Babylon rich was not its location or luck: it is because of the hard working and diligent people that built it. Sharing your knowledge on how to become rich is part of the whole cycle.

Let me end this book review with one of my favorite quote from the latter chapters.

[…] 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.

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