5 Things Benjamin Franklin Can Teach Us About Money Today

Since the creation of money, it’s been the subject of debate, but few men in existence have been as heavily quoted as Benjamin Franklin. Known for his role in the formation of the United States and its constitution, Franklin was also a relatively wealthy man who is a beacon of knowledge when it comes to the subject.

Interestingly enough, much of his advice is well in line with what you might hear today from a well-read man from a Christian family. His advice has stood the test of time because it relies on basics principles of frugality, respect, and community, much of which was preached by Jesus and his apostles in the Bible.

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Avoid Debt at all Costs

Franklin looks at debt seriously, talking about it in many different passages as well as explaining the pros and cons of taking a loan. Most famously he said that it is better to “go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.”

While this quote might come across as extreme, when distilled down to its principle message he is saying that it’s better for us to sacrifice than to spend with money that we don’t have. Debt is like a ball and chain; it restricts you from living the life that you want, and therefore you should avoid liability at all costs.

Of course, you might need to take a mortgage to purchase a house, but Franklin’s advice would likely be to continue to rent unless you know it will be cheaper to purchase, at which point buy the most affordable house possible.

Be Happy with Your Portion

This piece of advice is very clearly repeated time and time throughout the Bible, and that is to be happy with what you have. Franklin said “Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion”, which is to say that true wealth is to be happy with what you have and not what you don’t.

In the age of social media and celebrity, it’s easy to become obsessed with what others have and what you are lacking. But true riches, which is to say, true happiness, is in rejoicing in what you already have and not being envious of what others have achieved.

His advice is not to never dream or to throw your ambitions away, but to be content with what you have while you are on your journey so that if you don’t progress you can still be a fulfilled person.

Make Sure to Prepare for the Future

As we’ve seen over the past decades, the world can change in a split second and markets can crash, jobs can be lost, and wars can be started. Preparing for the future financially by saving money and investing it wisely can be the difference between you being able to put food on the table and not.

Franklin said that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” which is excellent advice that transcends the topic of money. This mantra is used by the US military too because they recognize that by preparing for even the worst situations you can give yourself to best chance of success.

Don’t Become Obsessed with Money

Money is essential, only the very wealthy or delusional would say otherwise, but it should never become your life. Franklin believed that “he does not possess wealth that allows it to possess him,” which is to say that money is a tool at your disposal and not the other way around.

It’s admirable to gain money with the goal of using it for a noble cause, but it’s not right to pursue wealth for the purpose of pursuing wealth because at that point the money owns you. The same was true of Jesus who gave to others even when he had little to give.

Enjoy Your Money

Finally, money is there to be enjoyed, not to be collected in a vault. Franklin is quoted as saying “Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.” Truthfully, when you are working day in, and day out at your job you should ensure that the time you spend at your job is made worthwhile by what you do with the money you earned.

Your wealth should never be measured in the amount that you have, but in the enjoyment, you find in your life and what you can do for others as a result of the money that you have earned.

Joshua Olson is a marketing associate and editor for Cornerstone Support, writing about debt collection compliance and encouragement for individuals looking to improve their financial health.

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  1. Ron says

    Wow, Joshua, this was a great article. I’ve always been fascinated by the founding fathers and the advice they had to give. These are such good and important lessons. As someone with a ton of student loan debt, I wish I had been taught how to avoid debt as a kid. My nephew is getting closer and closer to college age, and he needs to start learning these lessons! A special thank you to Crystal for posting this great article.

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