The Way To Wealth Summary

Benjamin Franklin

The Way To Wealth

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The Way To Wealth Summary

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The Way to Wealth is an essay by American author, scholar, and politician Benjamin Franklin. First published in 1758, it is a collection of adages, advice, and commentary first presented in Franklin’s periodical Poor Richard’s Almanac during its first twenty-five years of publication. The lessons are assembled into a speech given by a figure known as “Father Abraham” to a group of listeners, and contain many words of wisdom that are still regularly spoken today. Exploring themes of work ethic, frugality, and balancing the search for wealth with a healthy life, The Way to Wealth is one of Franklin’s most widely read essays and is still read extensively today as an example of literature in pre-Independence America.

The Way to Wealth begins with Franklin addressing both the reader and an imagined crowd of listeners in the guise of “Father Abraham”, a wise old white-haired man. He speaks of the struggles of ordinary people in colonial America, and how so many are battling to make ends meet amid the heavy taxes levied by the King of England. From there, the book contains many famous quotes of Franklin’s. He expands on each adage, giving practical advice for how best to increase one’s chance of becoming wealthy. The key passages are as follows:

“Lost time is never found again.” Franklin argues that rather than money being the most important resource one can conserve and use wisely, it is actually how we budget our time that makes the biggest difference. After all, more money can always be made, but time is lost forever and there is no way to get more.

“Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry makes all things easy.” State of mind is the most significant factor in whether we succeed or fail. A person who is unmotivated will struggle in anything they do, but a person who is motivated and industrious will be able to achieve great things with comparative ease.

“Drive thy business, not let that drive thee.” Franklin argues that a work–life balance is the most important thing, and that while it is key to be industrious in one’s profession, it is equally important to not let it define a person and overwhelm all other elements of their life, such as family and leisure.

“Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Arguably Franklin’s most famous quote, it makes that case that the way a person budgets their day is key to their success. Franklin believes the early morning hours are the most productive, and that an early rest each night ensures that they can be fully taken advantage of.

“There are no gains without pains.” In this early version of the famous “no pain, no gain” motivator, Franklin makes the case that anything worth having comes with difficulty, and that it is necessary to push past that discomfort to achieve the end goal.

“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” Franklin argues that one of the biggest setbacks to long-term financial success can be small, day-to-day expenses that are paid for mindlessly. He urges vigilance.

“Extravagance is a folly soon punished.” Franklin warns against indulging in unnecessary luxury goods and adornments, because they are a temptation that distracts from long-term financial health.

“Think what you do when you run in debt: you give another power over your liberty.” Franklin views debt as a sort of captivity, which he urges avoiding when possible. This captivity,  in Franklin’s time as today, was not metaphorical: the government had the power to enforce the payment of debts, and debtor’s prisons were common.

“Rather go to bed supperless, than in debt.” A frequent theme of Franklin’s is the idea that temporary discomfort is worth the exchange for long-term financial security.

Ultimately, Franklin’s advice is to keep a careful eye on one’s spending, to ensure that one is making the most of their money and their time, and to avoid debt whenever possible. He ends the essay by urging people to not only rely on their own industry and frugality, but to remember to ask humbly for blessings from Heaven as well.

Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath, author, scholar, political theorist, and scientist who was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Active during the era of the American Revolution and the founding of the United States, he was often known as “the First American” for his early campaign for colonial unity. He was the first United States Ambassador to France, and the founder of the University of Pennsylvania. Among his most famous writings was the concept of the Thirteen Virtues, by which Franklin tried to live his life. They virtues were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. An early American abolitionist, Franklin is widely honored today with representation on United States paper money and postage stamps.