The Richest Man in Babylon, The Best Financial Literacy Book Of All Time
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As you would expect, the best financial book of all time will constantly be on financial top ten reading lists. But to be best, it must be on almost everyone’s list. This book is and has been for nearly 100 years.
Its popularity, longevity and simplicity make a clear case for this book being the best of the best.
If you are looking for another “top 10” list, you are in the wrong place. Instead, this article is here to pay tribute to the best financial literacy book of all time.
The Richest Man in Babylon, published in 1926 by George S. Clason, is the best financial book of all time. It has consistently been suggested reading for anyone who wants to get a handle on their finances.
The book has been translated into over twenty languages and has sold millions of copies. It was published almost 100 years ago, yet it is still used in high school classrooms today to teach the next generation how to manage their money.
There are a lot of books on financial literacy, I’ve even written one, but there is no book on financial literacy that even comes close to The Richest Man in Babylon.
You can scour the internet, go to your local library or bookstore or ask most folks in personal finance the answer to what is the best financial literacy book of all time, and the answer will always be the same.
Here are just a few of the reasons The Richest Man in Babylon is consistently named on financial literacy reading lists.
- The financial literacy concepts are made easy to understand
- The trials and tribulations are relatable even to a contemporary audience
- The book is written as a series of short stories, making the material very accessible and engaging
- The principles outlined in the book are timeless
The results will be the same whether you apply this book’s lessons in the 1920s or the 2020s. You will learn to live within your means, understand why that is so critical, and know how to make your money work for you to achieve your financial goals.
While this book is dated, the principles within have stood the test of time.
George Clason was originally a map maker, who wisely noticed that most people who work and earn a living often have nothing to show for all their hard work. To help remedy this, he started to publish and sell pamphlets to banks about being thrifty and achieving mastery over your money.
To make the financial literacy content fresh and novel, he set the stories in his pamphlets in Ancient Babylon. He made each one a separate short story or parable, teaching financial lessons.
Eventually, Clason put all the pamphlets into The Richest Man in Babylon.
Next, you need to apply the first principle of paying yourself first. Again this may seem simple, but it is the first step in mastering your money. Like The Richest Man in Babylon, you will need to master this step and the subsequent steps of living within your means, having your money work for you, and protecting your wealth to ensure you can live comfortably.
The last step is to revisit the book periodically. After a while, the characters will become like old friends. Re-reading the book will motivate you to keep living within your means and also help remind you of where you need to re-assess your personal finance decisions.
For example, once you have saved for long enough to build an emergency fund, you will need to ensure you have a sound investment strategy for the long haul. Once you have maximized your earning potential, you may want to check to ensure you and your assets are appropriately insured. Use the book as a guide to re-evaluate your financial plan and make any tweaks you may need as you progress along your financial journey.
Room for Improvement
While there is little doubt this book’s principles have stood the test of time, that doesn’t mean this book is perfect. First, you have to remember Clason published The Richest Man in Babylon in 1926. Which means it was written for a very patriarchal society.
Thankfully we have come a long way since then. But this book’s text is frozen in the 1920s with all the masculine-focused speech that comes with that period.
Another fault some have with the book is the author’s use of flourishes such as “thinkest” and “doeth” to think and do.
Thankfully there is an updated version of the book that avoids those drawbacks and allows you to focus on the stories that are educational while also being fun and engaging.
It is hard to give The Richest Man in Babylon an unbiased review since it was and continues to be such a monumental book for me and many others, but I will do my best.
The book loosely covers the story of Arkad the Richest Man in Babylon as he first learns how to become a wealthy man and later teaches his lessons to friends and family. Each chapter, except for the first two, which need to be read together, are written in fictional Babylonian parables that teach modern-day financial literacy lessons using fictional characters’ financial journeys.
Some of the parables cover the same topic. But given the reinforcing nature of the stories, the repetition does not take away from the book’s enjoyment. The wall of Babylon, chapter 7, is the only parable that falls a bit short in effectively getting across its financial lesson. And it can be difficult at times to get over the author’s literary style, but once you get past his use of -est and -eth at the end of some verbs, the book can be fun to read.
A major drawback of the story is the lack of female characters in the book. Only five women are mentioned in the book and they are all mentioned in reference to a man i.e. a wife, sister, or housekeeper.
It can also be off-putting to read the concept of slavery when speaking about money and people.
Despite the book’s drawbacks, the principles are universal and provided without judgment. It would be hard not to recommend this book to anyone who wanted to get an introduction to the basics of personal finance.
Spoiler Alert: If you want to enjoy this book to its fullest, you may want to skip this section. But if you have read the book and want a quick refresh of what each chapter is about, here is a brief The Richest man in Babylon chapter summary.
Chapter I The One Who Desired Gold: Starts with two friends who are commiserating about working hard, but have little to show for their efforts. They decide to seek out help to learn how to become wealthy.
Chapter II The Richest Man in Babylon: We are introduced to Arkad, the richest man in Babylon. He tells his story of how he became rich.
Chapter III Seven Cures for a Lean Purse: The King summons Arkad to teach the people of Babylon to grow their wealth.
Chapter IV How to Attract Good Luck: Arkad debates with students about luck and its place in managing your finances.
Chapter V The Five Laws of Gold: Arkad’s son sets out to become wealthy like his father using the laws of gold.
Chapter VI The Gold Lender of Babylon: A gold lender advises someone who has recently come into money on how to keep and grow what they have.
Chapter VII The Walls of Babylon: A soldier reassures the people of Babylon they are safe.
Chapter VIII The Camel Trader of Babylon: A Camel Trader relays a story of how they worked their way out of debt.
Chapter IX The Clay Tablets from Babylon: A story of two professors writing to each other to demonstrate how the ancient parables can be effective in modern times.
Chapter X The Luckiest Person in Babylon: A merchant explains how hard work is the key to his success.
Who Wrote the Richest Man in Babylon?
George S. Clason
What Is The Richest Man in Babylon about?
Fictional Babylonian parables about personal finance
Who Was the Richest Man in Babylon?
In the fictional book, Arkad is the richest man in Babylon
When Was The Richest Man in Babylon written?
The book was published in 1926, but the stories were originally written as pamphlets and sold to banks.
Is The Richest Man in Babylon a True Story?
No, the book is a fictional story collection based on an ancient city.
Are there any female characters in The Richest Man in Babylon?
There are no named characters in the book. The book mentions three wives, a sister, and a housekeeper.
How Many Pages Is The Richest Man in Babylon?
There are many book reproductions with different trim sizes, but the page count is between 90 and 130.
Is The Richest Man in Babylon a Good Book?
The Richest Man in Babylon is arguably the best book on financial literacy ever written.
Is The Richest Man in Babylon Written in Simple English?
Not by today’s standards, the author used a style to create an “ancient” feel that is not simple English.
Is there an updated version of The Richest Man in Babylon?
Yes. The Richest Man Person in Babylon is an updated version revised to be easier to read and with a more diverse set of characters, but with the same great stories.
While living the principles of this book will surely put you leaps and bounds ahead of most folks, reading this book alone will only do so much. So even though I will say, hands down, this is one of the best books you can read for financial literacy, it is always good to get a broad perspective.
It will give you most of the basics of financial literacy and a sense of financial wellness and stability. But when you start to invest, you will need to do your research. Moreover, some strategies exist now that did not when Clason wrote this book. Strategies that can help put you even further ahead. For example, while this book may have been the first to say “Pay yourself first,” it is only recently that we can do so using automatic transfers from one bank account to another. Similarly, spreadsheets and budgeting apps were definitely not mentioned in the book.
So start with The Richest Man in Babylon, but don’t stop there. The more you read and educate yourself on financial literacy principles and tools, the more you will be able to maximize your money, build wealth and reach your financial goals.
The Richest Man in Babylon is the best book on financial literacy. It has changed the lives of the people who read it for generations. Reading it can give you the keys to living within your means and saving and investing for the future. The principles in this book are timeless. The stories are universal. If you give it a read it will likely always be one of your favorite books on financial literacy.