The Richest Man In Babylon
Updated: Mar 22
This week we're talking about a book. We have not talked about a book since, uh, LAST week.
And next week, we're talking about a NOT book. It's a little disconcerting sometimes how my topic randomizer doesn't seem so random, but that's psychology for you.
This Book, The Richest Man in Babylon is about three main ideas, all of which are sound principles and are key to adopting my happy and relaxed style of investing.
The first of the ideas in this inspirational classic is to save at least 10 percent of everything you earn.
This can be favorably compared to paying yourself first, although that calls for even more specifics.
I'm not just talking about Babylonian Parables either.
We're not getting into other financial percentages for other reasons, like the practice of tithing for example. If you believe you should incorporate tithing at a given percent or any other thing, that's fine.
You simply have to account for that in your big picture.
The 10% savings rate referred to in the book, is, in my experience, a bare minimum.
In the book, savings is referred to as "setting your purse to fattening".
For those of you who need help taking delivery on things like language and history, we're working on an app for that.
My experience in fact has been that if you save 10% of your income, which is the same thing as saying you save 10% for your retirement, which is the same thing as saying you save 10% for your future, that YOU HAVE A CHANCE of meeting SOME of your goals. Your money goals. Your everything else goals, too.
If, on the other hand, you save 20% of your income, then YOU WILL PROBABLY reach SOME or ALL of your goals.
Still no guarantee, but not bad either.
When I ran my licensed brokerage office, I would frequently consult with individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
Imagine that's the scenario right now, and you're the customer. Also imagine that you are of "Western" culture, by which I mean that you're from the US, Canada, Europe or other place of native English-speaking culture, like Australia.
If this is you, then your eyes are widening slightly at that 10% idea. If you're a believer in tithing, you know exactly what I mean.
That's why I mentioned it earlier.
And I only bring it up because a lot of people think this is a religious book when it's not.
But now we get to 20%.
Your eyes are beyond wide. You are in full deer-in-the-headlights mode. Trust me, I've seen it over and over.
Okay, now imagine that you're not of Western culture. Let's pick Southeast Asian, which includes Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Pakistani and more.
In the United States, at least where there's a significant business headquarters, like Walmart in Arkansas or 3M in Minnesota, it is not uncommon to find large communities of Southeast Asian peoples.
This at least in my experience was especially true in tech centers. When I was living in Seattle, about 60% of my neighbors were Indian, working at Microsoft, Google, or a similar tech firm.
It was fairly common for both husband and wife to be experienced software developers, each commanding pretty good incomes.
Even where one spouse stayed at home I would see as much as 50% of income going to a combination of savings, investing and support of family in their native land.
At lot less deer-in-the-headlights.
But as usual I digress. I'll have to take that up with my Rabbit Hole Advisor. :)
But back to the book.
The second big point for all of us relates to my frequent support of learning and growing.
The Richest Man in Babylon tells us to work hard.
Okay, good advice. Advice that you can only get in about 50 thousand other places.
But it goes deeper than just that.
It doesn't stop at work hard.
It says work hard to improve.
Yes, it goes even further, but I'm stopping for now at improve.
There's a motivational idea about getting 1% better every day.
When you "do the math" as they say, you find that 1% better every day is the same thing as 37 TIMES better in just one year.
And to be a tiny bit of a smart ass, I'll point out that if you do that, after one year you'll be 365 days older.
A bit of a warning though.
If you DON'T do that, if you just go with the status quo or even get worse, then
After one year you'll be just 365 days older.
See what I did there?
Get started first.
Then get better.
Some days that will annoy the [brackets] out of you and you won't do it.
Some days that will annoy the [brackets] out of you and you won't WANT to do it.
But you will anyway.
And you will be glad you did.
The book does go on to give its own because, specifically that you should improve because real wealth is not the advice of tricksters, it's the result of a reliable income stream.
I'll call that mostly correct, adding that having multiple income streams makes the reliable part easier.
Third, the book tells us, spoiler alert, to get started.
Just like I keep saying. Funny how a parable can incorporate real life isn't it. (No.)
If you are really going to be successful, you have to gain mastery, through repetition and practice, over any spirit you might have which loves to procrastinate, and I know how that is.
What I like most about this book is how the author, George Clason, uses storytelling to pass on important lessons. A big takeaway is that we all have the ability to learn from mistakes.
In fact, a great line which I believe came from Napoleon Hill says:
"If you're not going to learn from your mistakes, why make them?"
There's also some good financial wisdom - simple rules about controlling expenses (just don't overcontrol and end up having no fun), and also about investments and insurance, other things we talk about.
Even when the character Arkad teaches his son the "five laws of gold", we see the same basic ideas at play.
The Richest Man in Babylon
Once upon a time, our hero Thomas Lopez-Alvarez dreamed that he, yes, he, was the Richest Man in Babylon.
What did that mean?
And, John, why do you care?
Oh yeah, and even more, John, why do you think we the listeners care about such an item?
John here, reminding you to ask our Thomas such questions.
Thankfully, Thomas is ready to jump right in and says,
"I have begun to fatten my purse", and "My purse shall not be a lean purse".
Yeah. Modern English please, Tom!
Not the timeless classic version of English as found in this collection of stories.
"I have started saving."
This being decades ago, Thomas Lopez-Alvarez now really IS the Richest Man in Babylon, even though he doesn't live in Babylon, and even though Babylon no longer in fact exists.
Thomas is good with where he is, and that's what makes him rich.
That doesn't mean Thomas supports a beggar's way of life, not at all.
Even though Thomas has guarded his treasures from loss, he can still do better.
More than anything though, it doesn't mean that Thomas shouldn't try.
Fortunately, Thomas had already learned that lesson.
He'd gotten wisdom through parables, and more.
He'd also learned how to keep expenses down while keeping a great lifestyle in mind. It's not just the math and it's not just the "you deserve it" thing either.
He'd also learned how to invest, how to protect and how to have MSI's.
They're not called that in this edition of the book.
But that's the underlying story, and Thomas knew it.
Pretty soon you'll know it, too.
We’re changing the way we look at things, and
Remember, “THAT’S GOOD”.
Also remember, this is Financial Life Coaching from A Happiness Perspective! Coaching Happiness.