Monday, February 22, 2021

The Richest Man in Babylon

Back in the 1920s, George S. Clason wrote a set of pamphlets about financial success using stories set in ancient Babylon.  The book The Richest Man in Babylon gathers these pamphlets together and has sold millions of copies.  People learn better from stories than from simple facts.  This book’s interesting stories are a compelling way to internalize the basics of personal finance.

The version I read had an introduction by Suze Orman.  In addition to commenting on the book’s enduring lessons, she observed that “every character in the book is a man.”  “That’s not a reason to dismiss the heart of the book.”  “If you find the gender bias annoying, just recast all the characters in a way that enables you to read and absorb the wisdom.”  In my case, I found the repeated references to slaves more jarring than the gender bias, but I agree about the financial wisdom.

I won’t try to summarize any of the stories, but tales of kings, camels, captures and escapes, and purses full of gold are definitely more entertaining than most personal finance books.

I’m tempted to call the lessons “basic,” but when most adults could benefit from following the book’s teachings, perhaps interesting stories to drive home basic financial lessons are what the world needs.

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