Today is the first day of National Thrift Week. It’s also the 303rd anniversary of the birth of America’s first — and best — personal-finance writer. Benjamin Franklin was born on this day in 1706.

Franklin was an amazing man, a polymath, and a great advocate of industry and frugality. “Be industrious and frugal, and you will be rich,” he wrote in 1768, more elegantly expressing my own notion that to gain wealth you must spend less than you earn.

For 25 years, Franklin published the annual Poor Richard’s Almanack under the pseudonym “Richard Saunders”. It’s from this almanac that many of Franklin’s most famous sayings are drawn. In the final edition, he compiled a sort of “greatest hits” of his proverbs into an essay called “The Way to Wealth” [PDF].

Perhaps you’re familiar with some of these Franklin gems?

  • “Remember that time is money.”
  • “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
  • “Beware of little expenses — a small leak will sink a great ship.”
  • “There are no gains, without pains.”
  • “Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.”
  • “He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.”
  • “Tis easier to suppress the first desire, than to satisfy all that follow it.”
  • “Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion.”
  • “Industry need not wish.”

And one of my favorites is this, which echoes a piece of advice I give often: “The art of getting riches consists very much of thrift. All men are not equally qualified for getting money, but it is in the power of every one alike to practice this virtue.”

Many modern financial experts consider Benjamin Franklin a sort of hero. According to Roger Lowenstein’s biography of Warren Buffett, for example, Buffet’s partner Charlie Munger “never tire[s] of quoting Benjamin Franklin, whose aphorisms he judge[s] more useful than most of what he was taught in business school.”

Happy birthday, Benjamin Franklin. You’re one of my heroes, too.

“Apostle of Thrift” image from Thrift: A Cyclopedia, copyright 2008. Used with Permission of Templeton Press.

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