“With all the personal finance books and media out there, where the heck do I even start?” I asked myself a few years ago.

Maybe you can relate with this. In a way, this is a good dilemma. There are more materials now on personal finance, and many of these are available for free.

The downside is there’s just too many information for a beginner to digest. Some of the tips are even conflicting (who should we believe?!) or misleading.

Have you heard the adage, “Learn the rules before you break them?”

So first, we learn the BASICS. Then we move on to the more complicated, nitty-gritty details.

I find the same process helpful in learning about personal finance.

And probably the most basic personal finance book I’ve read is actually a fiction book, The Richest Man in Babylon.

I find the book an easy read and brimming with lessons not just on finance but life in general. If you’re a fan of fiction books and find it difficult staying interested in financial literature, then this book might just work for you.

The Richest Man in Babylon was first published in 1926 and was written by businessman, writer, and war veteran George Samuel Clason.

The lessons in this book are timeless. It relates the story of Arkad (aka “the richest man in Babylon”) and several others who started from nothing or lost everything, before they became free, wealthy, and respected businessmen who generously shared what they knew so others could also succeed.

We may be treated better than the slaves of the past, but many of us are still “slaves” financially, spending our days trapped in the rat race.

Here are some of the lessons. You’ll find that each one translates into some often-repeated advice from today’s financial gurus.

My Favorite Quotes and Lessons from George Samuel Clason’s book

The Richest Man in Babylon‘s
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse
Financial Advice today
1. “Start thy purse to fattening.”1. Pay yourself first. (Read David Bach’s answer to “What investment options should a first-time investor consider?”)
2. “Control thy expenditures.”2. Spend wisely. Live below your means.
3. “Make thy gold multiply.”3. Invest. Make your money work for you. If you need some ideas, check out Warren Buffet’s investment advice in Evan Carmichael’s video.
4. “Guard thy treasures from loss.”4. Invest wisely. Consult or emulate people who have
achieved the life you wish to have.
5. “Make thy dwelling a profitable investment.”5. Buy your own home. (Some consider this a wrong move, but others recommend it.)
6. “Insure a future income.” 6. Save for your retirement, and get the right insurance
7. “Increase thy ability to earn.”7. Invest in yourself. Grow your knowledge & your skills. (“It’s not enough to be in the right place at the right time. You have to be the right person in the right place at the
right time.” – T. Harv Eker, author of Secrets of the
Millionaire Mind

A Few More Nuggets of Wisdom

1. Live Now

The determination to fix our financial lives or exit the rat race as soon as possible is all good, until we take it too far.

Until it comes at the cost of our health and our most-treasured relationships (or what could have been beautiful connections).

Until we start trading our soul, our values.

Until we wake up one day and suddenly realize that life has passed us by.

Until a death or serious illness jolts us, and we remember how short and uncertain life actually is.

The thing is, I feel like many of us are constantly doing a balancing act. We figure out how to live now while securing the future, ours and our loved ones’. There are always trade-offs.

So far, I’ve never found a fixed formula for the best way to live life. And I don’t think it’s as simple as 50-50 either–i.e., we allocate 50% of our time to just enjoying the moment, and 50% to building our future. Life doesn’t work this way.

I do remember someone sending me a message on my birthday, hoping that I give time for the things that truly matter.

At the time, I had been recovering from an illness and had to turn down several activities. Not because I wasn’t valuing what mattered. But simply because there was something more important at the time. My healing simply had to come first.

So there will always, always be trade-offs. We just need to be sure, to the best of our knowledge, that we are choosing based on our values and we are staying true to ourselves. And that at the end of the day, we will still be able to say that we are enjoying life as it is, whatever there is for us to enjoy.

I love how Karen Cordaway had put it in the “From Broke Phi Broke to FInancially Woke Interview Series“:

You are not less than because you have less money at the moment. Try to stay positive and still try to find ways to enjoy yourself. In my Everyday Bucket List Book, I use what I call the  F.I.L.L. Method when you want to look for budget-friendly activities. It stands for free, interesting, low-cost and local.

2. Face Your Situation with All the Courage You Can Muster

If you’ve never known what it’s like to need to stretch a penny, well, lucky you.

But for others, one or a few mistakes, an emergency, an illness, a death, can upset their lives, financially, emotionally, perhaps even career-wise.

When things go really bad, it’s very, very tempting to run away, to give up.

But you know what I’ve realized? Every problem faced bravely feels like you restoring your sense of self. Every obligation settled is like a boulder off your chest.

The mere determination to keep looking for ways to rebuild your life will lead you to open new–even exciting–paths you’d probably never consider had life been all bright and sunny.

No matter how scary and hopeless your situation is, use it to give yourself the gift of courage, self-respect, and a new adventure. You owe yourself that. 😊

You can even make your progress fun by rewarding yourself using Karen’s F.I.L.L. method above. You don’t have to get everything fixed before you celebrate. Make every step forward a reason to treat yourself to something. Doing so will inspire you to keep moving forward.

What’s Next?

After knowing the basics…

  1. Start saving.
  2. Plan how to settle your obligations (if any).
  3. Find ways to stabilize your income, or increase it.
  4. Schedule times to rest and simply enjoy life.
  5. Find more detailed financial books in your country.

I would not say I have read a lot of personal finance books. But among the few I’ve read, there are three that remain in my shelf. Inspirational books have definitely helped me get back on my feet. But once I was ready to roll up my sleeves and fix my life, I needed detailed steps.

Here are 3 non-fiction books I’ve used as reference, and I turn to when I’m not sure what the heck to do next.

1. (Learning) Wealth: Successful Strategies in Money Management by Vince Rapisura

I have shared my takeaways from the book in this blog post. You can also check his website or follow his Facebook page. I haven’t enrolled in his courses, but you can check them out here.

2. Wealth Within Your Reach: Pera Mo Palaguin Mo by Francisco J. Colayco

If I’m not mistaken, it was this book that first taught me there’s such a thing as a Financial Life Stage.😵😲

3. Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson

While published in the U.S., I think the concepts may apply to other countries as well. I found particularly helpful the chapter on insurance types and exploring possible pros and cons of each.

Getting a Copy of The Richest Man in Babylon

Sometimes I still see a copy in bookstores. If you can’t find one, here are some options for both hard copies and ebooks.

You can also check out some videos online such as this one by The Swedish Investor.

Happy reading!