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Centuries-Old Financial Advice Still Good Today

The Birmingham Public Library has been exhibiting “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” at the downtown location and it couldn’t be more timely. After all, Franklin was the original American authority on living frugally and building wealth. We know him best as a founding father, amazing inventor and diplomat. Although our culture immortalizes an image of him with a kite string in his hand, perhaps we would do better to remember him with a shilling in his pocket.

Franklin was the original financial guru. Long before Suze Ormond admonished us to save, Franklin coined (pun intended) ”A penny saved is a penny earned.” Franklin’s advice has stood the test of time, and it’s safe to say this ghostwriter known as Poor Richard would be appalled by the debt Americans now carry. His “Way to Wealth” writing warned over 270 years ago to “Beware of thinking all you own that you possess, and live accordingly. ‘Tis a Mistake that many People who have Credit fall into.” Hmm, sounds like a foreshadowing of the current times.

In fact, all the advice of today’s media finance personalities is old hat for Franklin:

Now: Pay on time to maintain an excellent credit score

Then: Never keep borrow’d Money an Hour beyond the Time you promis’d, lest a Disappointment shuts up your Friends Purse forever.

Now: Call creditors to work with them at the first sign of trouble

Then: When you receive a Sum of Money, divide it among ‘em in Proportion to your Debts. Don’t be asham’d of paying a small Sum because you owe greater. Money, more or less, is always welcome…

Now: A latte a day adds up to thousands of dollars over time

ThenWhat maintains one Vice, would bring up two Children

The modest exhibit, which describes Franklin’s many interests as well as his inventions (including a lightning rod, bifocals, swim fins, and Franklin Stove) closes February 26th. There’s still time to take your kids for a photo with their face in place of Franklin’s on a $100 bill…sadly, it may be awhile before there are real Ben Franklins in anybody’s pocket again.


  • http://www.bplonline.org/programs/Benjamin_Franklin_Exhibition.aspx Melinda Shelton

    Thanks for getting the word out about the Benjamin Franklin Exhibit.
    I enjoyed your updated versions of Franklin’s quotes especially the one about lattes. Now if I can only do that with my diet coke addiction.
    Melinda Shelton
    Birmingham Public Library

  • Birmingham Mom

    Isn’t it the truth! I like to think Franklin would surely drink Diet Coke if he were around today…