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Personal-finance lessons from George Washington

Many of his quotes apply to money management.

By Karen Datko Oct 10, 2009 2:15AM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

He led our fair nation to freedom, and his face stares at us from the ubiquitous $1 bill. He's none other than George Washington, the first president of the United States.

As one of our first elder statesmen, Washington left a wealth of memorable quotes, many of which apply to personal finance. He spoke much about integrity and character as well as discipline and service -- characteristics important in establishing a sound personal-finance life.

Let's take a look at the following nine quotes:

"Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company." With whom you spend your time affects how you behave, and that's certainly true when it comes to spending habits. If you want to save, hang out with frugal people. If you want to be financially savvy, hang out with financially savvy people. How many stories have you heard about people looking to save money but always going out to expensive restaurants and trendy bars with their friends? There are a lot of ways to have fun that cost very little. (Have a board-game night.) If you want to save up a few bucks, hang out with friends who appreciate not going out to expensive places. Don't fight the current; just find a more favorable current.

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence." When applied to personal finance, this speaks to how you should select any sort of adviser. Finances are very personal and, while you should give each adviser a chance, be very particular whom you trust with your treasure.

"Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for your pocket-book not only suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved." The foundation upon which your personal finances are built has to be strong. If you have credit card debt, priority one should be erasing that debt because it's a bad seed that will keep your money from growing. Keep your roots strong and your tree will grow tall and wide.

"Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession." It is far easier to prevent yourself from going into debt than it is to get yourself out of it. The unfortunate thing is that those who fall into credit card debt often don't recognize the hole they've begun digging for themselves. However, it bears noting that nothing is insurmountable if you show the courage and discipline to face it head on. While it's easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves, it's not impossible to dislodge them.

"Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder." Take a look at Enron. Money corrupts. Need I say more?

"I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an Honest Man." Honesty is paramount.

"Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse." The importance of philanthropy comes shining through in this quote. It's important to lend a hand to those who are in need. First off, the world works in mysterious ways and we're all in this fight together, so why not help fellow human beings out when they need it? You never know when your kindness will be repaid in kind -- and giving always gives back immediately with a nice warm fuzzy feeling.

"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her." Remember your roots and how you came into this world. You could be the richest man in the world, but you got your start because of your mother, and you were raised by your family. Don't ever forget that.

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Considering it comes from our first president, I think we can take this last one at face value.

Other articles of interest at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity:

Published Feb. 12, 2008


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