The Richest Man in Babylon

The Richest Man in Babylon


10 min read

Many of us are filled with the desire to amass wealth and live the dream, travel places, enjoy a lavish lifestyle, and do things at your own pace. If desire alone could get things done, we all would be a Jeff Bezos, but hard work makes it happen. Personally, I have so much desire to amass wealth through legal means, enjoy life, give my kids a headstart in life, improve the livelihood of people and pay my religious obligations when due.

Well, that's everyone's dream, but there's but one problem. We have a lean purse/bank account. Reading the book "The Riches Man in Babylon by George S. Classon", the author claims that within it contains some remedies for a lean purse and fundamental principles (tips) for fattening your bank account. You should be aware by now how I'll frequently substitute the words (purse, bank account) to mean the same thing. Before I begin, let me drop the first interesting quote.

Would you call a fisherman lucky, who for years so studied the habits of the fish that with each changing wind he could cast his nets about them? Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared.

Think about that for a moment, and then let's proceed. The advice to follow sound so easy yet are hard to observe. We live in a consumer economy where everyone is trying to sell you something you most certainly don't need, and even occasionally don't want.

1. A part of all you earn is yours to keep

As Ironically as this sounds, most of us live as slaves. Once we get a paycheck, we race to the market to pay merchants for their merchandise, yet we rarely keep any for ourselves. If you live so (a.k.a, live from hand to mouth), you're only working for the merchants and manufacturers. I witnessed this in my NYSC(Learn more about NYSC here) years where most people were already broke 2 weeks after payday and were eagerly waiting for the next payday. People would finish NYSC with zero savings and hope for pension after service ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚. Well, I was somewhat caught up in the rush too, but I was different, mostly spending money trying to run a business that was guzzling everything I had. The author's perspective is regardless of how much you earn, take out at least 10% of it and put in a savings account, eventually, you won't even notice you spent 10% less because you'd still be broke. If you feel you're underemployed and earning โ‚ฆ10,000 which is barely enough to get by... trust me, โ‚ฆ12,000 naira would be a big deal to you in a year if you stick to the plan. The rationale is, if you feel โ‚ฆ10,000 isn't enough to get by on, there's someone earning much less, and someone isn't earning at all and getting by. The goal is to get yourself out of Money troubles in no time. So every morning, remember to say to yourself... "A part of all I earn is mine to keep". This is the first step to fattening your bank account.

2. Live within your means

It's 2020, and for every โ‚ฆ1000 you have, there are 1001 things that could take it away. Suya with a chilled bottle of Coke, A pack of food from an exclusive restaurant, Full Chicken, Airtime, Internet subscription, just name it. For every kobo in your pocket, there are a lot of predators willing to guzzle it away and it's your job to protect your money. To be able to keep a part of what you earn, you must first be able to live within your means. For the majority of people earning Minimum wage, โ‚ฆ33,000, if a miracle happens and they begin to make โ‚ฆ100,000 the first line of action would be to change the furniture in the house, redecorate the whole house or move to a new "more expensive" apartment, change your personal wardrobe, or change your kid's school to a more expensive one. None of these things is bad, they're all the enjoyment of life and eventually don't we make money to live a good life? Wait, before you do that quickly why not increase the money you put aside from 10% (โ‚ฆ3,300 on your old pay scale) to 35% (โ‚ฆ35,000 on your new pay scale). You still have double your previous salary to spend. I'm in no position to tell you how you spend your money, but please... "Control your expenditures".

3. Make your money multiply

Let's say you're earning a minimum wage โ‚ฆ33,000 and you successfully managed to save up 10% of your salary for 1 whole year. That's ~โ‚ฆ40,000. A lot Nigerians argue that โ‚ฆ40,000 isn't a lot of money, look don't let anybody deceive you. By some standard 1 million naira isn't a lot of money. But now, you've successfully save โ‚ฆ40,000 how would you proceed? In life it's easy to double money in 5 years, quadruple it in 10 years and get 10x returns in 20years. But, what would you double if you have โ‚ฆ0 to begin with? Now that you've saved up โ‚ฆ40,000 it's time to plan how to make this money make more money for you. There are several ways to achieve that.

  1. Invest in yourself by learning skills that can make you earn more. If you're making โ‚ฆ33,000 as a labourer you can easily get a diploma in anything and begin to earn โ‚ฆ50,000 or more. Get another degree/certification which continuously increases your ability to earn.

  2. Invest in other things to make your money grow. Some common examples of this are stocks, private equity, properties, contributions, etc. But protect your wealth. As a Muslim, I avoid Riba hence you don't see me mentioning things that pay interest. Do your personal research and find ways that conform with your personal beliefs on growing wealth. Also, be careful not to chase the wind, you should be more interested in the return of your capital than huge profits. You see all those binomo guys on Whatsapp and twitter promising to double your money in 45minutes, you might as well kiss your money goodbye. A decent return of between 10-20% per annum is great because inflation is currently above 10%. And a rule of thumb, any investment that can easily give you 50% returns can also easily eat away 50% of your hard-earned money. Don't invest in the latest trending business because everyone else is doing it, there is foolishness in the crowd, do your personal research and understand where you are putting your money and how you would make a profit. e.g I own Shell stocks, and Boeing stocks, I bought them amidst Covid-19 when they fell by over 50% in value and if everything goes well, I could get back a portfolio doubled or tripled in the next 3-5 years or my money could be lost if they filed for bankruptcy.

4. Luck + Hope is not a strategy

This addresses one of the most common myths about amassing wealth and living the dream. Dangote just got lucky, his uncle gave him โ‚ฆ500,000 ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿฝ. Well, would you consider Akin Alabi or Ronald Nzimora lucky? Let's talk about luck.

A quick definition: Luck success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions. For most of us wishing to amass wealth by luck, "Hope" is the twin, we continuously hope for luck. But, according to the book in view, luck was discussed in three dimensions

  1. Lucky luck: This is the original form of luck that we all wish for. To bring it more into perspective, the luck of someone accidentally sending 2 bitcoins into your crypto wallet ๐Ÿ˜‹, or finding a bag containing some substantial amount of cash ๐Ÿฅฐ. We're not interested in talking about ethics (obviously you should return it, but given that you decide you own it and want to keep it), something more interesting worth a debate is: "How frequently can you get this lucky". Are there specific ways of guaranteeing to be lucky enough to always find (and pick) some substantial amount of money on a regular basis? Well, I know quite a few people who are well to do, but none of them amassed their wealth of someone else's misery.

  2. Gaming Luck: Two characters are missing in the middle of the word "Gaming", they're "bl". Of course, as grown adults, we've become accustomed to the fact that it's not possible to get so lucky to pick up some good amount of money weekly while walking down the street, and even so, we'd be scared of turning to yam ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚. But, we grow to believe we can plan for luck and turn to the gambling table, at least as of the time of this writing according to Alexa, Bet9ja is the second most visited site by Nigerians second only to Google (perhaps because we still use google to find bet9ja ๐Ÿ˜…). Akin Alabi, the pioneer of sports betting in Nigeria ( wrote in his book Small Business, Big Money: "People will do well if they do not bet on sports but you know what? They want to bet and as a smart entrepreneur, I have to make the platform available." He also said elsewhere in the same book that "I thought sports betting was really cool so I started playing it. I won some and lost some. It was fun. Even though I really wanted to win, I didn't put much money into it because of the risk involved and I saw it more as a form of entertainment. It is not an investment. It is gambling and for me, it is a form of entertainment."

  3. Opportunity: This is is what people claim they don' have, and goes the saying "talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not". This is not completely true. Well, in life, well all get our own fair share of opportunity, but the bigger question is "Are you able to make good use of it?". I was reading a thread on twitter the other day of a Chinese-American guy who's fathers admission was swapped with the daughter of a corrupt politician to study Engineering. The daughter had the opportunity but was withdrawn for bad performance. More realistic opportunities are those associated with our daily work, e.g Zoom has been thriving and trying to perfect their video conferencing software, alas Covid-19 came, Work from home became commonplace, their stock price quickly rose on the stock market crossing a 3x growth within 6 months, everyone had equal opportunity to have made a profit from the work remote work and the overall Covid-19 but different people were positioned in different places which didn't make them make a profit, to other's it was a thread. To an investor who hesitated to invest in Zoom, that's an opportunity that just slipped by his fingers.

To wrap this up,

Men of Action are favoured by the goddess of Goodluck

The lessons from the book are so deep beyond being covered in a single article. I wouldn't want to bore you with some unending tales. This just covers half the book. If you find it interesting, then you should get yourself a copy.