Sunday 28 June 2015

P. T. Barnum's "The Art of Money Getting"

"Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience."

It could have been written in the 21 Century.  The proverbs still ring true.  The advice still applies.  The financial problems we face remain the same.  The common sense is still beneficial.  P. T. Barnum starts off his essay with the words:  "The road to wealth is, as Dr. Franklin turyly says, 'as plain as the road to the mill.'"

Barnum goes on to explain how if we only expend less than we earn, we will be keep our finances in check.  Avoid debt because debt strips you of your self-respect.

At the same time, we shouldn't take our "meanness" to extreme, citing the example of a woman who refused to burn a candle in the evening and limited her knowledge because she couldn't see to read.  The same woman spent money on ribbons and furbelows instead.  She was "saving at the spigot and wasting at the bunghole".  Similarly, a man bought a penny herring for his family, then hired a coach and four to take it home.  

You need to make more money than you spend, advises P. T. Barnum.  Wear your clothes a little longer; eat plainer food.  "[There is] more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending."
Even in 19th Century Britain, there was a "keep up with the Joneses'" mentality.  "It is the fear of what Mrs. Grundy may say that keeps the noses of many worthy families to the grindstones."  He warns that you won't get ahead if you let vanity take over.

Ironically, prosperity can be more of an ordeal than adversity.  Remember the proverb "Easy come, easy go".  Money that is easily made can just as easily disappear.  Beware of get-rich-quick schemes. "Never have anything to do with an unlucky man or place."

Realize that good health leads to happiness.  Many are in poor health due to their own addictions:  tobacco, alcohol, etc.  Addictions not only hurt your health but also your pocketbook.  They lead to "lassitude neutralizing energies so essential to success in business".

Know your business and do it with all your might.  Use the best tools.  Persevere:  do not give up easily.  At the same time, do not get above your business.

"Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience."  In the 19th Century, nine out of ten rich men in America started with nothing.  John Jacob Astor, a poor farm boy, amassed a fortune of $20 million.  Alfred Vanderbilt, who used to row a boat between Staten Island and New York City, accumulated $50 million.  Stephen Girard, a poor cabin boy, made $9 million.

A proverb states that there is no royal road to learning; the same is true of wealth.  Let hope predominate on the road to success.  Do not have too many irons in the fire at one time.  Read the newspaper to stay abreast of current events.  Advertise your business.  Be polite to your customers (the customer is always right).  Be charitable.  Don't blab.  Preserve your integrity.  

Note:  P. T. Barnum was known for his ownership of the Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Jumbo the Elephant was one of the circus' biggest attractions.  Barnum was also mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut as well as a member of the House of Representatives.  At Barnum's death, his estate was worth $8.5 million.

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