At Memphis Invest, there are few things we love more than helping people make the most of their finances. It’s exciting for us to sit down with our investors and talk about money—the future, planning, retirement, all of it. That said, it also benefits us to look to the past.
Money management, like real estate investment, is a time-honored, time-tested field. Because of that we can’t live only in the present or look only to the future in regards to our finances. We can glean a great deal of wisdom from the past when it comes to money matters—sometimes in unexpected places.
The financial wisdom of ages past may seem outdated or irrelevant to some, but there is truth to uncover for many of us.
Here are six pieces of timeless financial advice from proverbs, philosophers, and Founding Fathers alike that we think are worth reviving.
Applying 6 Classical Pieces of Financial Wisdom to the Present
Plato, “The Republic”
"Money-makers are tiresome company, as they have no standard but cash value."
Plato wasn’t the type to mince words. When we think about how we make money, motivation always has to factor into the equation. When Plato derides “money-makers” here, he’s talking about individuals who see life only in terms of earning and accumulation—they compromise their morals, values, and relationships for the sake of money.
Whenever we’re dealing with finances, as important as they may be, it’s critical to keep our sights on what is truly important in our lives.
For our investors, we discuss long-term investment goals often, and rarely are these goals focused purely on the accumulation of wealth. Rather, that wealth enables our investors to achieve other ambitions: worry-free retirements, more time with family, paying for a child’s education, and pursuing life-long passions.
Plato has wisdom for us in the present in this: money is important, but it is not paramount. Our relationships, principles, and priorities must be higher. Let your financial ambitions inform these higher goals, not be for their own sake.
“But I know nothing more important to instill into the minds of young people than the wisdom, the honor, and the blessed comfort of living within their income...”
Thomas Jefferson had more than a few words about living within one’s means, and it’s just as important now as it was then. One of the best money management rules you can live by is living within your means—not only does it prevent you from relying on credit, but it enables better saving, budgeting, and planning for the future.
Marquis de Lafayette
"I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I think, and out of all that I try to form an idea into which I put as much common sense as I can."
While not direct financial advice, Lafayette, a French aristocrat and key player in securing American independence, knew the value in making fully informed, calculated decisions. For investors, the process of continuing our education in both finance and real estate is key in reaching our potential in this business. Not only that, but due diligence is such a vital component to investment success—thoroughly evaluating, examining, and investigating any given situation to preemptively solve problems and make informed decisions.
Lafayette’s advice on being fully informed and educated, and then taking that information to develop wise ideas and decisions is something we can apply to finances and investments alike.
Marcus Aurelius, “Meditations”
"Search men's governing principles, and consider the wise, what they shun and what they cleave to."
As real estate investors, we choose the voices we listen to. Marcus Aurelius brings us the wisdom here: who are we watching? Who are we emulating? In both your finances and investments, you will look to role models and other experts for advice and inspiration. Aurelius here implores us to seek out wise men, to look closely at the principles they follow, and then to run far away from what they avoid, and hold tight to what they cling to.
So when we look for people to follow, be they our inspiration from afar or close mentors, ask yourself: do they hold principles that I want to follow? Are they wise in the way that I want to be wise? Success in and of itself is not enough.
“I find money some way or other goes very fast. But I think I can reflect it has been spent with satisfaction and to my own honour.”
Most of us only remember John Hancock for his signature. Of the Founding Fathers, however, he was among the most wealthy not only among his peers but in the Colonies. After inheriting a mercantile business from his uncle, his fortune was worth some $19.3 billion dollars in 2007 money, according to calculations by Forbes.
However, for all his wealth, Hancock knew how quickly a fortune could vanish without careful budgeting and expense tracking. For us today, especially in the world of investing, when our money can grow and our wealth expand, we have to keep this at the forefront of our minds more than ever.
Budgeting—and spending with care so that money is spent “with satisfaction and honor” is more important than we might realize. Our wealth, even vast wealth, can disappear in a flash if we are not intentional about how we spend it.
If you buy what you don’t need, you steal from yourself.
Investing in anything effectively often demands sacrifice. We have to save money to make property acquisitions, save to scale and grow, save to fund for emergencies, and generally be smart with our money. However, in growing our wealth and passive income, there can be that temptation to buy and spend unnecessarily.
This proverb reminds us that, for frivolous purchases, we might as well be stealing from ourselves. There are things that add value to our lives and our net worth, and there are things that do not. Part of being a better investor and better steward of wealth is in weighing the true value of each and every financial decision—no matter how big or small.
What financial advice, new or old, has helped guide you throughout your life? Share it with us in the comments.
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