Review: “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason

The parable is one of the timeless methods of sharing wisdom and information, from the same vein of mythological stories, fables and legends. George Clason fell on this method of writing, giving us a faux historical document to share wisdom which — in truth — is completely timeless and most likely were points of wisdom shared by teachers to students and elders to youth.

The wisdom held in this book is indeed valuable insights, though initially I struggled with the idea of working to gain wealth when I myself sit in a hole of debt. This was addressed further into the book though it took a stand that was less than modern, basically saying that if you have debt, you should talk to all your debt-holders and explain your situation — that you can only pay 20% of your income towards your debts. Since the debt holders will clearly understand this and respond favorably, you can get used to spending less but while still making at least some small payment towards your debt.

While it is hopeful of the best case scenario, that’s quite clearly the goal of the book. Its goal is not to train you for every eventuality but rather provide you some solid stones as things to think about for your financial success. Here are some of my favorite passages from the book:

That what each of us calls our necessary expenses will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.

A PART OF ALL YOU EARN IS YOURS TO KEEP. It should not be less than a tenth no matter how little you earn. It can be as much more as you can afford.

When I set a task for myself, I complete it. Therefore, I am careful not to start difficult and impractical tasks, because I love leisure.

Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having. He who takes advice about his savings from one who is inexperienced in such matters, shall pay with his savings for proving the falsity of their opinions.

The quotable lines in the book are numerous, and I could argue that perhaps every line in the book is quotable. This says less for the amount of what is being said, and instead for the quality of the editing work that trimmed the novel down to the barest of forms leaving a sleek and easily readable novel filled with wisdom.

I think one point which the book doesn’t highlight is the importance of knowing people. It talks about seeking wisdom from those who know, rather than taking advice about investing from a brick layer. But you must still know these people, or know how to find them, and validate them.

This is a book which will definitely merit rereading from year to year and will fall into the stack of books that my future children will be forced to read and endure.

The Richest Man in Babylon
ISBN: 0451205367
Length: 120 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars

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