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We enjoy a fuller life in many ways thanks to Benjamin Franklin and his contributions to society; these include science (think, electricity), his inventions (lightning rod, swim fins, bifocals), our country (he was one of the most successful founding fathers of the United States), and financial independence tips – and while he didn’t invent beer, he certainly enjoyed it like some of us do 🙂
Franklin was also a printer, and beloved writer with vast readership. In 1758 he penned advice in story-form aptly titled, The Way to Wealth, on how to become wealthy based on his own experience in earning a fortune. Here are 9 tips we can use today to help plan for and achieve financial independence; they are simple, wise, and can be used by anyone:
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1. “Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all easy…the used key is always bright”
Effort leads to results.
We might spend a lot of time engaging in leisure activities, while some are worthwhile to unwind, I’m sure we all at some time overindulge; be it binge watching a tv series, playing video games, watching online videos, sleeping in, or anything that after a little while leads to idleness.
Working towards something we value (such as financial independence), be it a business, our jobs, our health, or anything to better ourselves leads to growth in that area. The act of engaging in important activities energizes us, and results in progress towards providing what we need to build the fulfilling life we want. Industry, taking the actions to produce results, makes big things attainable and challenging things possible. The next time you have free time, take action towards a goal; go for a run, write another page in that book, build that new project, do anything productive (even if it’s small) to move yourself forward.
2. “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Routine enables success.
Having order in our day allows us to plan for the things we’d like to do. We are often less productive when leaving things to chance, so putting some structure around it provides an opportunity to enjoy both accomplishing things and relaxing (work & play), knowing we’ll fit in the things we enjoy the most. That peace of mind itself can help lead to more productivity and satisfaction.
Successful people from all areas of life have their own routines that work; The basketball superstar Lebron James naps every afternoon, media personality Oprah Winfrey wakes up daily at 6:00am to play scrabble, the composer Beethoven was in bed each night at 10:00pm. Some routines help provide discipline and structure, such as for those in the military whom are up at 5:00am to run. Others provide artists the mental space to create, like Pablo Picasso who would work is his studio from 2:00pm until dusk. Whatever your routine is, set a one that feels good and stick to it; the body likes that, and will be better prepared to perform at its best.
3. “Industry need not wish.”
Success is a choice.
Anything we want in life, within reason, is absolutely attainable. Yes, we’ll make up reasons that something might be too hard, too challenging, or too expensive, but the truth is if we think through it, and work towards it, it is possible. It is easy to let fear of the unknown make us rationalize a goal away. It’s “safer” not to try since trying might lead to failure. Well, trying is the only thing that leads to success.
Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds in human history, couldn’t get a job in physics after college. Michael Jordan, one of the best basketball players of all time, didn’t make his high school basketball team at first. JK Rowling, author of the fanatically popular Harry Potter books was rejected over a dozen times before a publisher picked her up.
Those who take action to produce results, through industry (hard work), will not wish for anything; they will make it happen. We’re certainly not all geniuses, athletes, or authors, though the same is true for us; keep working. It can put food on the table, clothes on our backs, afford us an education, a job, maybe our own business, or solid financial footing. If you want success, choose it – one of the primary paths to financial independence.
4. “He that hath a trade hath an estate, and he that hath a calling hath an office of profit and honor.”
Be great at something.
It can be big (software developer at Google), or small (birdhouse maker), just find something you enjoy doing that others need (a trade), and you will always have an income. Franklin started as a printer, the growing colonies wanted to read his papers and the government wanted him to print the first colonial currency. Papers and money would always be needed, and over time Franklin was able to let someone else manage the day-to-day operations while he left to change the world with his inventions, science, and politics. The foundation of his trade provided the means for all that came after.
Having a trade provides piece of mind to you, and value to others; your services will always be needed, if you want to offer them. Further, if you have a calling, something that connects with your passion on a deep human level that energizes and motivates you; the energy will be unstoppable. Your enthusiasm will spread to others, and your skills be among the best available, people will be drawn to them. It will be fulfilling, and through that cycle of providing honest value to others, results a strong reputation and lasting source of profit and honor.
Technology makes it easier than ever before possible to connect with people; so if you’re great at making something (sewing, drawing, construction), or provide an excellent service (writing, consulting, marketing) build around it, generate financial independence through it, and build a part of life with it.
5. “Stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects, for…little strokes fell great oaks.”
Persistence is key.
Once you start something you enjoy, keep at it. Just as water slowly carved the Grand Canyon, steady effort ultimately leads to greater success. The effort you’re putting in might seem small or trivial, though over time adds up into a huge accomplishment. As Franklin mentions, “little strokes fell great oaks”, all those little axe chops on the tree are individually small, though when concentrated and consistent, the big tree falls.
This is especially true when it comes to work, health, business, and money. Have a good plan in mind, then work towards it steadily. Saving a little cash each month adds up over the years. Spending a little less (also saving) adds up too. Suddenly over time there’s enough for a down payment on a house, or enough to pay off the debts, or enough to repair the air conditioner that just broke, in the middle of summer. Whatever the goal, work at it with consistency, and persistence, and it can be yours.
6. “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.”
Stay focused on the goal.
We all make impulse buys – they’re fun, and feel good. It’s that rush of wanting something and immediately getting it. For some of us it’s electronics (games, a new tv, computers), or clothes (those great box deals, online sales, and latest seasonal trends), or random things (the “I-need-that” on Amazon Prime day). However, in the big picture, these all add up. A few dollars for Netflix here, some eating dinners out there, some online purchases just-because. We get things because it’s immediate, and fun, but do we really need them?
Having a larger goal, that we really value (such as financial independence), in mind can help put things into perspective. Freeing ourselves from those expenses that don’t matter (or add long-term value) in the big picture can really afford us the opportunity to achieve those larger goals. Not only is our money going towards the big goal we really want, our mental energy and time is going towards it as well, which only helps us get there faster. Those other things are generally distractions anyway; set a goal you want, stay focused on it, and achieve it.
7. “A ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees.”
The world is full of perceptions, and deception, and truths. Marketing spins everything to help conjure up the things we want to be, or ideals we should live up to (be this, look like that, buy this, you need that). However, all of this comes with a cost; it might be our time, our money, or possibly our freedom. As Franklin alludes, the gentlemen might have fine clothes, a well-adorned house, and the perception of success, but if this is all due to borrowed money, he now works each day in debt and at the mercy of his lender. His freedom is limited by the choices he has already made.
The ploughman might not appear as fancy, or worldly, yet he works hard (industry), owes no debts, and is free to live as he wishes. What is his, is true. We can apply this as we think about careers. So many people feel stuck in jobs they don’t like because of the mortgage they have, the car loan they signed, or credit card debt they racked up (possibly for things we didn’t need, but seemed fun at the time?).
While certainly those can be stepping stones or other times necessary, it can be helpful to reflect on what is truly necessary vs what is not. Freeing ourselves of a need to appear as something in particular beyond our means (such as the polished gentleman), and instead being proud of who we truly are (at whatever station in life that is), will really lay the foundation to build up any life we desire, in a way where we can be true, and financially free.
About 70% of the richest people in the world today are self-made millionaires and billionaires (they didn’t inherit their wealth). So if we’re talking financial success, and the path to financial independence, be true to you; and allow your time to be yours (debt free) to build the life you want.
8. “Great estates may venture more, But little boats should keep near shore.”
Live within your means.
When we live beyond our means, we’re always playing catch-up to financial independence; and always playing catch-up, we can never get ahead. Living within our means allows us solid footing on which to grow financially. We can first and foremost be comfortable, having just what we need, and nothing more. And secondly, we can invest our additional resources (time, money) into things that will make us stronger. It becomes an ever-powerful cycle of positive growth.
A small boat is safer near the shore, in calmer waters, with less risk. A larger ship can explore the seas, handle the rough weather, and maybe discover new land (and treasure and riches!). Be the small boat until you’re ready to be the big boat. Even Apple, the largest company in the world, follows this advice. They focus on a small number of products, and make them great, which affords them the revenue to expand into newer areas (waters), that they also focus on and make great, ultimately leading to unmatched success. Now they are a big boat that can try going anywhere. We can learn to live within our means, then only when ready, expand our goals even further.
9. “But, ah, think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.”
For some of us debt financial independence might not be a choice, and for others it is. Whatever the circumstance, setting goals to reduce/eliminate debt can help us live freer, more fulfilling lives. The time we work to pay debts isn’t so much ours, as we already owe that time to pay that debt. When we live debt free, that time, and how we use it, becomes ours to choose as we wish.
With freedom such a privilege, we can build the lifestyle we’d like, and answer mainly to ourselves. Walt Disney was in serious debt in the early 1920’s, only later that decade did he debut a new character called Mickey Mouse, and the seed to his future entertainment empire (an financial success) was planted. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re in now, work hard to pay off debts, keep your power, and choose to be free to live the life you want.
To learn more about financial independence tips directly from Benjamin Franklin, read the full book, The Way to Wealth.
Do you have personal experience with these financial independence tips, or other helpful suggestions to offer? Tell us about it in the comments.