The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason
George Clason’s timeless classic is a collection of parables set in the ancient city of Babylon. This book consists of short stories, each illustrating the principles of handling and growing wealth. The stories in this book bring out the sound financial principles in acquiring, keeping and growing wealth as practiced by the ancients.
A chariot maker realizes that his lifetime of hard work has not resulted in wealth. He still needs to work hard with his tools at a ripe age and make chariots to feed his family. He dreams of possessing a fortune that would get him the riches he wishes and enables him to give to the poor. Along with his musician friend, he realizes that he hasn’t learned the art of accumulating wealth over all these years. The friend suggests that they meet another childhood friend of theirs – Arkad, who is believed to be the richest man in Babylon. He is loved all over Babylon for his immense wealth and generosity. They decide to meet him and learn from him. In times of economic adversity, the King of Babylon requests Arkad to educate his citizens about wealth.
Arkad agrees to disclose the secrets of acquiring wealth to the people of Babylon. He had learned these principles from Algamish, the old money lender of Babylon. Arkad had spent a lifetime of learning and practicing these principles. He starts off by urging people to keep a part of their earning for themselves, which one should do before spending any part at all.
Arkad discloses the seven cures for a lean purse. He asks people to keep a tenth of their earnings and control their expenses. He shows ways in which gold can multiply. They discuss strategy to protect the gold from loss by associating with wise men. He speaks about making profitable investments which insures a future income so that one need not work at old age. He encourages men to be competitive and increase one’s income by looking for newer streams of gold. The book asks the reader to welcome the goddess of Good Luck. It talks about seeking opportunity and responding when opportunity knocks the door. Men of action are favored by the goddess of good luck.
In the parable, the five laws of gold, Arkad sends his son to the city of Nineveh, to be a wealthy man. He gives him a bag of gold, a clay tablet with the five laws of gold, a slave, and two horses. The son loses the gold in gambling, sells his horses and slave, and ends up in misery before opening out the tablet containing the laws of gold. Once he studies and applies these laws, in due course of time, he becomes the wealthiest man in Nineveh. He returns to Babylon with large bags of gold and discloses the importance of the five laws to the citizens. Each of these laws is powerful to be applied even today.
The gold lender of Babylon speaks about calculative risk taking. Rodan, the spear maker is gifted with a bulk of money. He wants to lend a part of the money to his brother-in-law so that he may become a wealthy merchant. He consults Mathon, the money lender for advice. Mathon opens a box containing pieces of jewelry, each piece taken as a security when money was lent. They discuss each of the borrowers and their credibility. It paints a clear picture about how to exercise caution while lending money and ensure repayment. It illustrates the moral – “better a little caution then great regret”. He extends this concept of caution in the next chapter – The walls of Babylon. It talks about protecting the city from enemies. It justifies the effort put by the king to build the wall around the city. The wall protects the citizens from slavery and death during siege and war for hundreds of years.
The camel trader of Babylon is a story of struggle. A young man falls into a debt trap due to his bad habits of living beyond his means. He comes out of Babylon and joins robbers hoping to steal a fortune. He ends up a slave when he gets caught. He learns to handle camels as he is serving his master’s wife. The wife builds up a concern for him and sets him free. It’s the man’s soul of a free man that makes her release him with camels. He struggles with hunger, heat and harsh desert landscape on his way back to Babylon. It is his soul of a free man that drives him to Babylon. He faces his debtors and realizes that debt was his enemy and not the debtors. He uses his knowledge of camels to work honestly and repay his debt. It brings out the moral – Where the determination is, the way can be found. He documents the activities he does to repay his debts in clay tablets. Once these tablets were found upon excavation, it is sent to Britain for interpretation. The interpreters managed to get out of their personal debts using the knowledge in the tablets.
The last story is my personal favorite- The luckiest man in Babylon. A man ends up a slave in a slave market for the fault of his brother. He fears being sold to the king, to be employed to carry loads of brick to the walls of Babylon. The king’s slave handlers are cruel men who beat up slaves to death. He gets lucky to be sold to a baker. He learns to make honey cakes as a slave. He offers to sell them to hungry men and keep a part of the money. That small part keeps making his purse heavier. Disaster strikes when the baker loses borrowed gold in gambling. The slave whose title was pledged with the money lender is now taken out of the baker’s house and sold to the King’s slaves’ men. He buries his purse and is now employed to build a canal and has to go through hardships. Will he be able to win over his bad luck and acquire riches to become wealthy in Babylon? Read to find out.
If one wants to acquire great riches and secure a good future, one should read this book. If wants to come out of debt problems, the clay tablets from the camel trader of Babylon gives solutions. The language is a bit difficult to understand, but if one is able to understand and apply the principles this book can develop financial intelligence.
1st February 2017