advice, benjamin franklin

Money Advice from Benjamin Franklin’s Way to Wealth

Most of the financial advice you get around the web is based on opportunity. People are always looking for the newest way to earn cash for the least amount of work. It’s no surprise most people struggle to build wealth, jumping from one opportunity to the next, wondering why nothing ever works.

The principles that build wealth haven’t changed for centuries. These 78 maxims, gleaned from Benjamin Franklin’s Way to Wealth, contain all the wisdom needed to amass a fortune. Unfortunately, it’s still going to take hard work, intelligence, and discipline.

Industry (1-39) – Energetic devotion to a task or an endeavor; diligence.

  1. Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
  2. Diligence is the mother of good luck
  3. God helps them that help themselves
  4. Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright
  5. Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of
  6. Lost time is never found again
  7. He that riseth late, must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night
  8. Drive thy business, let not that drive thee
  9. Industry need not wish
  10. He that lives upon hope will die fasting
  11. There are no gains, without pains
  12. Plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep
  13. One today is worth two tomorrows
  14. Have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today
  15. Be ashamed to catch yourself idle
  16. Let not the sun look down and say, inglorious here he lies
  17. He that hath a trade hath an estate
  18. He that hath a calling hath an office of profit and honor
  19. At the working man’s house hunger looks in, but dares not enter
  20. For industry pays debts, while despair encreaseth them
  21. Constant dropping wears away stones
  22. By diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable
  23. Little strokes fell great oaks
  24. Employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure
  25. Since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour
  26. A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. Do you imagine that sloth will afford you more comfort than labor?
  27. Trouble springs from idleness, and grievous toil from needless ease.
  28. Many without labor would live by their wits only, but they break for want of stock
  29. Industry gives comfort, and plenty, and respect: fly pleasures, and they’ll follow you
  30. Keep the shop, and thy shop will keep thee
  31. If you would have your business done, go; if not, send
  32. He that by the plough would thrive, Himself must either hold or drive.
  33. The eye of a master will do more work than both his hands
  34. Want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge
  35. Not to oversee workmen is to leave them your purse open
  36. In the affairs of this world men are saved not by faith, but by the want of it
  37. Learning is to the studious, and riches to the careful, as well as power to the bold, and Heaven to the virtuous
  38. If you would have a faithful servant, and one that you like, serve yourself
  39. For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost

Frugality (40-78) – Prudent economy; that careful management of anything valuable which expends nothing unnecessarily, and applies what is used to a profitable purpose; thrift; — opposed to extravagance.

  1. A man may, if he knows not how to save as he gets, keep his nose all his life to the grindstone, and die not worth a groat at last
  2. Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship
  3. Buy what thou hast no need of, and before long thou shalt sell thy necessaries
  4. A fat kitchen makes a lean will
  5. Many estates are spent in the getting, Since women for tea forsook spinning and knitting, And men for punch forsook hewing and splitting.
  6. Think of saving as well as of getting: the Indies have not made Spain rich, because her outgoes are greater than her incomes
  7. Women and wine, game and deceit, Make the wealth small, and the wants great.
  8. What maintains one vice, would bring up two children
  9. Who dainties love, shall beggars prove
  10. Fools make Feasts, and wise men eat them
  11. Buy what thou hast no need of, and before long thou shalt sell thy necessaries
  12. Wise men learn by others’ harms, fools scarcely by their own
  13. Silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out the kitchen fire
  14. A ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees
  15. Always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom
  16. When the well’s dry, they know the worth of water
  17. If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some
  18. He that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing
  19. Fond pride of dress, is sure a very curse; E’er fancy you consult, consult your purse.
  20. Pride is as loud a beggar as want, and a great deal more saucy.
  21. When you have bought one fine thing you must buy ten more, that your appearance maybe all of a piece
  22. Tis easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it
  23. Great estates may venture more, But little boats should keep near shore.
  24. Pride that dines on vanity sups on contempt
  25. Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy
  26. But what madness must it be to run in debt for these superfluities!
  27. When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty
  28. The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt
  29. Lying rides upon debt’s back
  30. Poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue: ’tis hard for an empty bag to stand upright
  31. Creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times
  32. Those have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at Easter
  33. The borrower is a slave to the lender, and the debtor to the creditor
  34. Disdain the chain, preserve your freedom; and maintain your independency: be industrious and free; be frugal and free
  35. For age and want, save while you may; No morning sun lasts a whole day
  36. Gain may be temporary and uncertain, but ever while you live, expense is constant and certain
  37. Tis easier to build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel
  38. Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt.
  39. Get what you can, and what you get hold; ’Tis the stone that will turn all your lead into go

68 Responses to Money Advice from Benjamin Franklin’s Way to Wealth

  1. Dave S. says:

    Whoa, big list. I read the Way to Wealth a few years back and this does a great job capturing all the brilliant aphorisms. I guess there’s no substitute for timeless wisdom.

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  5. Ric says:

    #3 and #11 are the same in the second list.

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  9. Bush Mackel says:

    Ugh. I need to work on #1. I’m burning the midnight oil just about every night.

  10. resetblog says:

    Plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep

  11. Desty says:

    I came across a smaller list of wealth building trips from the book The Richest Man in Bablyon. I used them and discuss them in my article “Make Ends Meet, and Then Some” at

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  16. Ben Atkin says:

    This is a great collection of quotes! I made a greasemonkey script that puts a random quote from your “Industry” section at the top of reddit when I visit it in Firefox. It will help me remember to be productive when I start surfing the ‘net.

  17. John Wesley says:


    I actually saw your post about that script. Very cool idea! I might have to set it up myself.

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  23. sir jorge says:

    This was such a great post it made my “top 5” today.

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  30. s.malaikkani says:

    Very useful tips for middle class people to save money.

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  33. Great sayings from a great American!!

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  37. Jeffrey Horn says:

    “People are always looking for the newest way to earn cash for the least amount of work. ”

    I don’t see anything wrong with this. We’re naturally energy-conserving creatures. I think we could all learn from Ben if we realize that working smarter, instead of harder, is the true meaning of being industrious. By conserving our energies and attention, we are being frugal.

    It’s one of the foundations of the GTD philosophy: conserve.

    Economically, its a natural behavior to strive to get more out than we put in; that was what the productivity boom of the ’90s was all about, and why a lot of white collar information workers kept their jobs. Everything we do, from technology, to education, to hard skills training, helps us get more accomplished with the same energy, thereby increasing our wealth.

    Even the ancient stone masons had strict processes and methodologies, before one could even say there existed hard sciences, to improve the quality and speed of their work.

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  40. Bernard says:

    I really love John Wesley advices and tips. Few of them really works for me.

    quote “People are always looking for the newest way to earn cash for the least amount of work. ” is really what is happening in the real world.

    What make people successful in building wealth is nothing other than mindset and goal setting. Aim for your goal, forget what has passed, work hard ahead.


  41. Alex Liu says:

    Love this post!

    This tips are still working right now and there’s lots of wisdom in it!

    Thanks for the effort!

    Alex Liu

  42. Wow! Great article here. It’s like reading 100 mini aesop fables, each carries its own message and function.

    I will definitely share this with my readers in the future.

    BTW, great site. I’m a first time visitor.

  43. Zowoco says:

    I love “Little strokes fell great oaks”! BF has really coined some timeless phrases here and we all have a lot to learn. Wealth built slowly and wisely over the decades without undue haste will last for generations with careful management. The bible teaches us in proverbs that much can be worn away with patient dripping! :)

  44. Jose Tudor says:

    This is an excellent find. Thanks John. Although, I was expecting to find “A penny saved is a penny earned.” I wonder if he actually said that?

  45. Ray says:

    we Americans could sure learn from number 38.

    Great post!

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  47. Jim says:

    haha thats pretty crazy here is another way to make money through online survey sites,
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  48. Ed Hird says:

    Benjamin Franklin had remarkable advice that we would all benefit from taking to heart:

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  50. trex says:

    Can anyone relay the Ben Franklin (me thinks) discussion conserning the very wealth must support, via taxes paid, our government the most, since they derive the very most benefit from our staus quo.

  51. molly maguire says:

    I can’t remember who said it, but it goes: “The road to riches is as easy to find as the road to market.” And things have not changed much since Franklin’s day. If you want success, you need to focus on it, and not spend your time getting sidetracked, and getting yourself into debt.

    I have observed many successful people. Yes, they all work hard, and it is amazing how many of them at the office party, will only drink soft drinks, or will make a single glass of wine last the whole evening.

  52. KeithTax says:

    Powerful words and advice from one of the great men of history. If only I could live a portion of it I would be just as great. So every day I strive.

  53. Joel Gray says:

    Great tips you have pointed out here. Thanks for sharing. Read more finance tips and wealth building at my site.

  54. Some great advice that will last throughout the ages.

  55. David Wilson says:

    Very good advice. A lot of people still don’t realize that by making small, simple changes in their habits, it will affect their financial status in the end.

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  57. being strategic and calculated with taking risks is a very solid and proven way to make money. Find and great product/service offer excellent customer support and the rest is history.

  58. Frank Weaver says:

    It’s interesting that you separate Franklin’s aphorisms into the categories of “industry” and “frugality.” Here’s another to add to the list, which ties the two together: “So much for industry, my friends, and attention to one’s own business; but to these we must add frugality, if we would make our industry more certainly successful.” But all these quotes are great, and just as pertinent today. Writers and entrepreneurs are STILL being informed and inspired by this uniquely American genius, e.g., this author, with his modern-day message on the benefits of creative frugality:

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  60. Curtis Carpenter says:

    you know what would be nice a good evaluation of what these virtious comments mean? to help not that i dont understand but just for the exstra help.

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  67. ni ng'ash says:

    Disdain the chain, preserve your freedom; and maintain your independency: be industrious and free; be frugal and free

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