Study Guide: The Richest Man in Babylon

Ok. You read the funny book summary, but for those of you who want something more straightlaced, here’s your study guide for “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason

“A man’s wealth is not in the purse he carries.” (p. 8)

In old Babylon, there once lived a certain rich man named Arkad. Far and wide he was famed for his great wealth. He was generous with his charities, his family, and his expenses. But every year his wealth increased more rapidly than he spent it…..

And so, this small volume, written in 1926, begins by wondering how in the world this man could spend so freely, yet still be so wealthy. Clason spins a parable of Arkad’s not-so-rich friends who want to learn his secrets.

The principles of gaining wealth and practicing generosity go hand in hand. They continue to be written. In our day, we see them in “listicles,” in workshops, and on talk shows. The Richest Man in Babylon captures all these principles and shows us that it’s not a matter of hearing about them, but of beginning to practice them.


Bansir and Kobbi, two men with empty purses, were certain that Arkad, their rich friend, would be able to give them the secrets to wealth. They approached him expecting an easy answer to their money problems. We know, of course, that there is no quick fix, no matter how the lottery advertisements beckon us. However, Bansir and Kobbi, in consulting Arkad, had made the first step towards wealth—acquiring the knowledge of the resources that lead to wealth:

· Time – We are given this in equal measure, but we don’t spend it equally.
· Learning – There is, of course, the knowledge you’ve already acquired, but there is also the drive to use that learning to attain more knowledge.
· Opportunity – All have opportunities, but not all are prepared to receive them. Luck is what happens when you are ready to accept the opportunity.
· Wisdom – This happens when learning, experience, and good counsel are combined.
· Income – Income is financial gain, but also the increase in satisfaction of a job well done. Both help us to thrive.

Try it!

Choose one area from the list above. Write down one action you can take this week to acquire what you need to move towards a life of wealth and generosity.


One night, a group of camel herders begged their master to reveal the secret of his wealth. The master told the story of how Arkad, the richest man in Babylon, sent his son out into the world with a bag of gold. He also gave him clay tablets on which he had inscribed his secrets. His son quickly plowed through the gold before turning to the tablets, which revealed the Five Laws of Gold.

1. Pay yourself first. Set aside ten percent for your future and your family.
2. Invest well. Money will work to make more money.
3. Seek counsel. Be careful whom you listen to for financial advice.
4. Work your strengths. Not every opportunity is suited to your abilities.
5. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be foolish and desperate.

Try it!

Look over the Five Laws of Gold. Give yourself a score for how you’re doing under each law. What’s one thing to improve your score on each one?


The king of Babylon pondered with his chancellor about why so few wealthy people controlled the wealth, while so many others had nothing to show for their earnings. Many of his people ended up enslaved by the rich. His chancellor answered, “The wealthy acquire gold because they know how.”

Slavery may be illegal, yet we enslave ourselves with debt. Those who are truly free take on debt very wisely, only if the money will grow. Using your money to pay down debt is the only way to move from being a borrower to being a lender.

Don’t picture yourself as a moneylender? That’s what investment is! You are using your money for a greater return. Some of the return may be further wealth. Some of the return may be experiences or belongings. Some return may be the satisfaction that comes from being generous with others. Life is good and rich. Freedom comes when you know how to consider the return on your investment, whether that be from a stock purchase or spending money on your daily coffee.

A budget may seem like slavery to some! However, a budget allows you to distinguish between cherished and casual. It is the casual that robs you of the money you want for the cherished.

Try it!

Make a list of a week’s expenditures. At the end of the week, label each item with “casual” or “cherished.” What is the opportunity cost of those casual expenses?

“Wealth that stayeth to give enjoyment and satisfaction to its owner comes gradually because it is a child born of knowledge and persistent purpose.”
(p. 92)


Photo Credit: MinionNoMore on YouTube