Franklin’s financial legacy for today

by For the MBJ

Published: July 3,2011

Tags: Ben Franklin, finance, Ike Trotter

If you’re traveling from the Delta these days heading towards Memphis on Highway 61, it’s impossible not to notice all the casino billboards located both north and south of Robinsonville and Tunica County. Each sign screams out the message that you can walk into their particular establishment and win the jackpot. With their own unique pitch, each promises their slots to be the loosest — whatever that may mean. In fact, some even provide on occasion a free spin or ride in a money machine if you take your paycheck down to the casino to have it cashed.

But the one common denominator to entice you into any gambling arena is the promise of “luck.” That for reasons known only to the fate of a card draw or the pull of a lever, you’re going to be that lucky person who plays the odds right and win it all. Conversely, in those states that offer lottery chances, luck similarly involves the opportunity at scratching off the surface on the card. Sometimes people do, in fact, have luck. Then again, there are a few with unbelievable luck.

Case in point; a few years back a Pennsylvania woman named Donna Goeppert won a million dollars playing the odds on a $20-dollar scratch-off ticket with the Pennsylvania lottery. Incredibly, this Bethlehem, Pa.. resident had earlier won $1 million just a few months earlier. She was quoted as saying it was “just unbelievable” that she beat the odds in winning the jackpot not once, but twice. That, in and of itself, is quite an understatement. In fact, according to oddsmakers, the chances of someone winning a jackpot lottery like she did was about 1.44 million -to-one! Incredibly, there was a guy who won the lottery four times, collecting over $2.5 million dollars in the late 1980’s and 90’s.

Certainly, from the standpoint of occasional entertainment, the chance at a gamble with a slot machine or poker game can provide fun for those who enjoy the risks of chance and have the financial discipline to quit when appropriate. But, in reality, too many people, especially those Mississippians with tight budgets and fixed incomes, are enticed to gamble their money for the temptation of easy money. As acknowledged earlier, there are always the “odds” possible where a Donna Goeppert can win, but they are a rare exception, not the rule.

For this month of July, we celebrate the 305th birthday of one of America’s founders and greatest patriots, Benjamin Franklin; born in 1706. Franklin, in addition to his keen skills at politics, science and the printing press, was also one of our country’s most renown financial columnists. His most famous quote was “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Franklin preached throughout his life the virtues of thrift and economic resourcefulness. And quite frankly, if you take the time to rediscover his writings, you will find his observations remain amazingly accurate today for financial guidance as well as good common sense.

In the day-to-day reality of American life today, there is rarely much luck involved in building financial security. Of course, there’s always the usual exceptions but the task usually gets accomplished best by perseverance, sacrifice and the sweat of one’s brow. While we are tempted today to take chances with our money to hit that “pot of gold,” the surest, safest way to financial freedom is still built the old fashioned way; by work — not luck.

I think many of Franklin’s quotes still apply today:

>> “A man may find his nose in the grindstone if he knows not how to save.”

>> “The way to wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the way to market. It depends on two words: Industry and frugality.”

>> “Always taking out the tub and never putting back in finds one soon coming to the bottom. When the well is dry, one learns the worth of water.”

>> “ Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.”

>> “It’s hard for an empty bag to stand upright.”

There’s nothing wrong with a little fun and enjoying the chance of a lottery ticket or poker chip. However, for genuine results with your financial potential, there’s no better principle than a good old-fashioned work ethic. If you encounter a little luck along the way, so much the better — but make sure your efforts are first directed to where your chances are the best. And that’s a safe bet you can always take to the bank.

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