Our prosperity as a nation depends upon the personal financial prosperity of each of us as individuals.
Lo, Money is plentiful
for those who understand
the simple rules of its accuisition.
Start thy purse to fattening
Control thy expenditures
Make thy gold multiply
Guard thy treasures from loss
Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
Insure a future income
Increase thy ability to earn
– George Samuel Clason
George Samuel Clason was born on November 7, 1874, in Louisiana, Missouri, USA. He attended the University of Nebraska and served in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War. After the war, he became a businessman and writer.
Clason launched two companies: the Clason Map Company of Denver Colorado, and the Clason Publishing Company.
The Clason Map Company was the first to publish a road atlas of the United States of America and Canada. However, the company did not survive the Great Depression that began on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 – the day the stock market crashed in the United States.
George Clason is best known for writing a series of informational pamphlets on thrift and the ways and means to achieve financial success. In 1926, he published the first of a renowned series of pamphlets using parables set in ancient Babylon. The pamphlets were given away to the public in large quantities by banking institutions and insurance companies and became well-known to millions of men and women. These Babylonian parables have become a modern inspirational classic. The most popular parable being “The Richest Man in Babylon.”
Here is the discourse on “Seven Cures for a Lean Purse“ from the book “The Richest Man in Babylon.“
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse
The Royal Chancellor of Babylon tells Sargon of Akkad, the King of Babylon, that the kingdom is poor. There are not enough jobs for everyone, people don’t have sufficient money to buy what they want to buy, and farmers cannot make enough selling their produce to continue farming. A few very rich men of Babylon possessed of all the gold.
The King asks why so few men would be able to acquire all the gold and the Chancellor says because those few men know how to. He adds that one may not condemn a man for succeeding because he knows how, neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less ability. But why, the King demands to know, should not all the people learn how to accumulate gold and therefore become themselves rich and prosperous?
After further consultation with the Chancellor, the King summons Arkad, the richest man in Babylon, to teach people how to become wealthy. Arkad then delivers a series of lectures to a class of one hundred men, teaching them “the seven cures for a lean purse.”
1. Start thy purse to fattening
Arkad addressed a thoughtful man in the second row. “My good friend, at what craft workest thou?”
“I,” replied the man, “am a scribe and carve records upon the clay tablets.”
“Even at such labor did I myself earn my first coppers. Therefore, thou hast the same opportunity to build a fortune.”
He spoke to a florid-faced man, farther back. “Pray tell also what dost thou to earn thy bread?”
“I,” responded this man, “am a meat butcher. I do buy the goats the farmers raise and kill them and sell the meat to the housewives and the hides to the sandal makers.”
“Because thou dost also labor and earn, thou hast every advantage to succeed that I did. possess.”
In this way did Arkad proceed to find out how each man labored to earn his living. When he had done questioning them, he said: “Now, my students, ye can see that there are many trades and labors at which men may earn coins. Each of the ways of earning is a stream of gold from which the worker doth divert by his labors a portion to his own purse. Therefore into the purse of each of you flows a stream of coins large or small according to his ability. Is it not so?”
Thereupon they agreed that it was so.
“Then,” continued Arkad, “if each of you desireth to build for himself a fortune, is it not wise to start by utilizing that source of wealth which he already has established?”
To this, they agreed.
Arkad instructs the men to begin by continuing to work hard at their current occupations and tells them: “I, too, carried a lean purse and cursed it because there was naught within to satisfy my desires. But when I began to take out from my purse but nine parts of ten I put in, it began to fatten. So will thine.
“Now I will tell a strange truth, the reason for which I know not. When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings, I managed to get along just as well. I was not shorter than before. Also, ere long, did coins come to me more easily than before. Surely it is a law of the Gods that unto him who keepeth and spendeth not a certain part of all his earnings, shall gold come more easily. Likewise, him whose purse is empty does gold avoid.
“Which desirest thou the most? Is it the gratification of thy desires of each day, a jewel, a bit of finery, better raiment, more food; things quickly gone and forgotten? Or is it substantial belongings, gold, lands, herds, merchandise, income-bringing investments? The coins thou takest from thy purse bring the first. The coins thou leavest within it will bring the latter.
“This, my students, was the first cure I did discover for my lean purse: ‘For each ten coins I put in, to spend but nine.‘ Debate this amongst yourselves. If any man proves it untrue, tell me upon the morrow when we shall meet again.”
2. Control thy expenditures
“Some of your members, my students, have asked me this: How can a man keep one-tenth of all he earns in his purse when all the coins he earns are not enough for his necessary expenses?” So did Arkad address his students upon the second day.
“Yesterday how many of thee carried lean purses?”
“All of us,” answered the class.
“Yet,” Arkad responds, “Thou do not all earn the same. Some earn much more than others. Some have much larger families to support. Yet, all purses are equally lean. Now I will tell thee an unusual truth about men and the sons of men. It is this: That what each of us calls our necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.”
“Each of you, together with your good families, have more desires than your earnings can gratify. Therefore are thy earnings spent to gratify these desires insofar as they will go. Still thou retainest many ungratified desires.
“All men are burdened with more desires than they can gratify. Because of my wealth thinkest thou, I may gratify every desire? ‘Tis a false idea. There are limits to my time. There are limits to my strength. There are limits to the distance I may travel. There are limits to what I may eat. There are limits to the zest with which I may enjoy.
“I say to you that just as weeds grow in a field wherever the farmer leaves space for their roots, even so freely do desires grow in men whenever there is a possibility of their being gratified. Thy desires are a multitude and those that thou mayest gratify are but few.
“Study thoughtfully thy accustomed habits of living. Herein may be most often found certain accepted expenses that may wisely be reduced or eliminated. Let thy motto be one hundred percent of appreciated value demanded for each coin spent.
“Therefore, engrave upon the clay each thing for which thou desireth to spend. Select those that are necessary and others that are possible through the expenditure of nine-tenths of thy income. Cross out the rest and consider them but a part of that great multitude of desires that must go unsatisfied and regret them not.
“Budget then thy necessary expenses. Touch not the one- tenth that is fattening thy purse. Let this be thy great desire that is being fulfilled. Keep working with thy budget, keep adjusting it to help thee. Make it thy first assistant in defending thy fattening purse.”
Hereupon one of the students, wearing a robe of red and gold, arose and said, “I am a free man. I believe that it is my right to enjoy the good things of life. Therefore do I rebel against the slavery of a budget which determines just how much I may spend and for what. I feel it would take much pleasure from my life and make me little more than a pack-ass to carry a burden.”
To him, Arkad replied, “Who, my friend, would determine thy budget?”
“I would make it for myself,” responded the protesting one.
“In that case were a pack-ass to budget his burden would he include therein jewels and rugs and heavy bars of gold? Not so. He would include hay and grain and a bag of water for the desert trail.
“The purpose of a budget is to help thy purse to fatten. It is to assist thee to have thy necessities and, insofar as attainable, thy other desires. It is to enable thee to realize thy most cherished desires by defending them from thy casual wishes. 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.
“This, then, is the second cure for a lean purse,” says Arkad, “‘Budget thy expenses’ that thou mayest have coins to pay for thy 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
“Behold thy lean purse is fattening. Thou hast disciplined thyself to leave therein one-tenth of all thou earneth. Thou hast controlled thy expenditures to protect thy growing treasure. Next, we will consider means to put thy treasure to labor and to increase. Gold in a purse is gratifying to own and satisfieth a miserly soul but earns nothing. The gold we may retain from our earnings is but the start. The earnings it will make shall build our fortunes.” So spoke Arkad upon the third day to his class.
“How therefore may we put our gold to work? My first investment was unfortunate, for I lost all … My first profitable investment was a loan I made to a man named Aggar, a shield maker. Once each year did he buy large shipments of bronze brought from across the sea to use in his trade. Lacking sufficient capital to pay the merchants, he would borrow from those who had extra coins. He was an honorable man. His borrowing he would repay, together with a liberal rental, as he sold his shields.
“Each time I loaned to him I loaned back also the rental he had paid to me. Therefore not only did my capital increase, but its earnings likewise increased. Most gratifying was it to have these sums return to my purse.
“I tell you, my students, 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 one of thee desireth; an income that continueth to come whether thou work or travel.
“Great income I have acquired. So great that I am called a very rich man. My loans to Aggar were my first training in profitable investment. Gaining wisdom from this experience, I extended my loans and investments as my capital increased. From a few sources at first, from many sources later, flowed into my purse a golden stream of wealth available for such wise uses as I should decide.
“Behold, from my humble earnings I had begotten a hoard of golden slaves, each laboring and earning more gold. As they labored for me, so their children also labored and their children’s children until great was the income from their combined efforts.
“Gold increaseth rapidly when making reasonable earnings as thou wilt see from the following: A farmer, when his first son was born, took ten pieces of silver to a money lender and asked him to keep it on rental for his son until he became twenty years of age. This the money lender did, and agreed the rental should be one-fourth of its value each four years. The farmer asked, because this sum he had set aside as belonging to his son, that the rental be added to the principal.
“When the boy had reached the age of twenty years, the farmer again went to the money lender to inquire about the silver.
The money lender explained that because this sum had been increased by compound interest, the original ten pieces of silver had now grown to thirty and one-half pieces.
“The farmer was well-pleased and because the son did not need the coins, he left them with the money lender. When the son became fifty years of age, the father meantime having passed to the other world, the money lender paid the son in settlement one hundred and sixty-seven pieces of silver.
“Thus in fifty years had the investment multiplied itself at rental almost seventeen times.
“This, then, is the third cure for a lean purse: 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
“Misfortune loves a shining mark. Gold in a man’s purse must be guarded with firmness, else it be lost. Thus it is wise that we must first secure small amounts and learn to protect them before the Gods entrust us with larger.” So spoke Arkad upon the fourth day to his class.
“Every owner of gold is tempted by opportunities whereby it would seem that he could make large sums by its investment in most plausible projects. Often friends and relatives are eagerly entering such investment and urge him to follow.
“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. Be not misled by thine own romantic desires to make wealth rapidly.
“Before thou loan it to any man assure thyself of his ability to repay and his reputation for doing so, that thou mayest not unwittingly be making him a present of thy hard-earned treasure.
“Before thou entrust it as an investment in any field acquaint thyself with the dangers which may beset it.
Arkad relates again his decision to invest his money with a brickmaker who was going to buy jewels to trade. Some Phoenicians took advantage of the brickmaker’s naivety concerning jewels and sold him bits of colored glass.
“My treasure was lost. Today, my training would show to me at once the folly of entrusting a brickmaker to buy jewels.
“Therefore, do I advise thee from the wisdom of my experiences: be not too confident of thine own wisdom in entrusting thy treasures to the possible pitfalls of investments. Better by far to consult the wisdom of those experienced in handling money for profit. Such advice is freely given for the asking and may readily possess a value equal in gold to the sum thou considerest investing. In truth, such is its actual value if it save thee from loss.
“This, then, is the fourth cure for a lean purse, and of great importance if it prevent thy purse from being emptied once it has become well filled. 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 thy dwelling a profitable investment
“If a man setteth aside nine parts of his earnings upon which to live and enjoy life, and if any part of this nine parts he can turn into a profitable investment without detriment to his wellbeing, then so much faster will his treasures grow.” So spake Arkad to his class at their fifth lesson.
“All too many of our men of Babylon do raise their families in unseemly quarters. They do pay to exacting landlords liberal rentals for rooms where their wives have not a spot to raise the blooms that gladden a woman’s heart and their children have no place to play their games except in the unclean alleys.
“No man’s family can fully enjoy life unless they do have a plot of ground wherein children can play in the clean earth and where the wife may raise not only blossoms but good rich herbs to feed her family.
“To a man’s heart it brings gladness to eat the figs from his own trees and the grapes of his own vines. To own his own domicile and to have it a place he is proud to care for, putteth confidence in his heart and greater effort behind all his endeavors. Therefore, do I recommend that every man own the roof that sheltereth him and his.
“Nor is it beyond the ability of any well-intentioned man to own his home. Hath not our great king so widely extended the walls of Babylon that within them much land is now unused and may be purchased at sums most reasonable?
“Also I say to you, my students, that the money lenders gladly consider the desires of men who seek homes and land for their families. Readily may thou borrow to pay the brickmaker and the builder for such commendable purposes, if thou can show a reasonable portion of the necessary sum which thou thyself hath provided for the purpose.
“Then when the house be built, thou canst pay the money lender with the same regularity as thou didst pay the landlord. Because each payment will reduce thy indebtedness to the money lender, a few years will satisfy his loan.
“Then will thy heart be glad because thou wilt own in thy own right a valuable property and thy only cost will be the king’s taxes.
“Also wilt thy good wife go more often to the river to wash thy robes, that each time returning she may bring a goatskin of water to pour upon the growing things.
“Thus come many blessings to the man who owneth his own house. And greatly will it reduce his cost of living, making available more of his earnings for pleasures and the gratification of his desires.”
This, then, is the fifth cure for a lean purse: “Own thy own home.” This is very important for those that aim high in reality.
If you pay rent to a landlord all your life, at the end of your life you’ll have nothing to show for it. If you can instead pay a mortgage on a house, at the end of your life you’ll have a house to show for it.
6. Insure a future income
Arkad instructs his students to prepare for retirement and to buy insurance so that their family will be provided for if they die.
“No man can afford not to insure a treasure for his old age and the protection of his family, no matter how prosperous his business and his investments may be.”
Arkad then foretells the future creation of life insurance companies.
“A man may loan a small sum to the money lender and increase it at regular periods. The rental which the money lender adds to this will largely add to its increase. I do know a sandal maker, named Ansan, who explained to me not long ago that each week for eight years he had deposited with his money lender two pieces of silver. The money lender had but recently given him an accounting over which he greatly rejoiced. The total of his small deposits with their rental at the customary rate of one-fourth their value for each four years had now become a thousand and forty pieces of silver.
“I did gladly encourage him further by demonstrating to him with my knowledge of the numbers that in twelve years more, if he would keep his regular deposits of but two pieces of silver each week, the money lender would then owe him four thousand pieces of silver, a worthy competence for the rest of his life.
“Surely, when such a small payment made with regularity doth produce such profitable results, no man can afford not to insure a treasure for his old age and the protection of his family, no matter how prosperous his business and his investments may be.
“I would that I might say more about this. In my mind rests a belief that some day wise thinking men will devise a plan to insure against death whereby many men pay in but a trifling sum regularly, the aggregate making a handsome sum for the family of each member who passeth to the beyond. This do I see as something desirable and which I could highly recommend.
“But today it is not possible because it must reach beyond the life of any man or any partnership to operate. It must be as stable as the King’s throne. Some day do I feel that such a plan shall come to pass and be a great blessing to many men, because even the first small payment will make available a snug fortune for the family of a member should he pass on.
“But because we live in our own day and not in the days which are to come, must we take advantage of those means and ways of accomplishing our purposes. Therefore do I recommend to all men, that they, by wise and well thought out methods, do provide against a lean purse in their mature years. For a lean purse to a man no longer able to earn or to a family without its head is a sore tragedy.
“This, then, is the sixth cure for a lean purse. Provide in advance for the needs of thy growing age and the protection of thy family.”
7. Increase thy ability to earn
“This day do I speak to thee, my students, of one of the most vital remedies for a lean purse. Yet, I will talk not of gold but of yourselves, of the men beneath the robes of many colors who do sit before me. I will talk to you of those things within the minds and lives of men which do work for or against their success.” So did Arkad address his class upon the seventh day.
“Not long ago came to me a young man seeking to borrow. When I questioned him the cause of his necessity, he complained that his earnings were insufficient to pay his expenses. Thereupon I explained to him, this being the case, he was a poor customer for the money lender, as he possessed no surplus earning capacity to repay the loan.
” ‘What you need, young man,’ I told him, ‘is to earn more coins. What dost thou to increase thy capacity to earn?’
” ‘All that I can do’ he replied. ‘Six times within two moons have I approached my master to request my pay be increased, but without success. No man can go oftener than that.’
“We may smile at his simplicity, yet he did possess one of the vital requirements to increase his earnings. Within him was a strong desire to earn more, a proper and commendable desire.
“Preceding accomplishment must be desire. Thy desires must be strong and definite. General desires are but weak longings. For a man to wish to be rich is of little purpose. For a man to desire five pieces of gold is a tangible desire which he can press to fulfillment. After he has backed his desire for five pieces of gold with strength of purpose to secure it, next he can find similar ways to obtain ten pieces and then twenty pieces and later a thousand pieces and, behold, he has become wealthy. In learning to secure his one definite small desire, he hath trained himself to secure a larger one. This is the process by which wealth is accumulated: first in small sums, then in larger ones as a man learns and becomes more capable.
“Desires must be simple and definite. They defeat their own purpose should they be too many, too confusing, or beyond a man’s training to accomplish.
“As a man perfecteth himself in his calling even so doth his ability to earn increase. In those days when I was a humble scribe carving upon the clay for a few coppers each day, I observed that other workers did more than I and were paid more. Therefore, did I determine that I would be exceeded by none. Nor did it take long for me to discover the reason for their greater success. More interest in my work, more concentration upon my task, more persistence in my effort, and, behold, few men could carve more tablets in a day than I.
“With reasonable promptness, my increased skill was rewarded, nor was it necessary for me to go six times to my master to request recognition.
“The more of wisdom we know, the more we may earn. That man who seeks to learn more of his craft shall be richly rewarded. If he is an artisan, he may seek to learn the methods and the tools of those most skillful in the same line. If he laboreth at the law or at healing, he may consult and exchange knowledge with others of his calling. If he be a merchant, he may continually seek better goods that can be purchased at lower prices.
“Always do the affairs of man change and improve because keen-minded men seek greater skill that they may better serve those upon whose patronage they depend. Therefore, I urge all men to be in the front rank of progress and not to stand still, lest they be left behind.
“Many things come to make a man’s life rich with gainful experiences. Such things as the following, a man must do if he respects himself:
“He must pay his debts with all the 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 by misfortune and aid them within reasonable limits. He must do deeds of thoughtfulness to those dear to him.
“Thus the seventh and last remedy for a lean purse is to cultivate thy own powers, to study and become wiser, to become more skillful, to so act as to respect thyself. Thereby shalt thou acquire confidence in thy self to achieve thy carefully considered desires.
“These then are the seven cures for a lean purse, which, out of the experience of a long and successful life, I do urge for all men who desire wealth. “There is more gold in Babylon, my students, than thou dreamest of. There is abundance for all.
“Go thou forth and practice these truths that thou mayest prosper and grow wealthy, as is thy right.
“Go thou forth and teach these truths that every honorable subject of his majesty may also share liberally in the ample wealth of our beloved city.”
- The Richest Man in Babylon (book) (en.wikipedia.org)
- George Samuel Clason (en.wikipedia.org)
- The Richest Man in Babylon (A free eBook) (ccsales.com)
- Ancient Babylonian Parables – Part 2: Meet the Goddess of Good Luck (tvaraj.com)
- Ancient Babylonian Parables – Part 3: The Five Laws of Gold (tvaraj.com)