A Part of All Your Earn is Yours to Keep


“A┬ápart of all you earn is yours to keep. It should be not less than a tenth no matter how little you earn. It can be as much more as you can afford. Pay yourself first. Do not buy from the clothes-maker and the sandal-maker more than you can pay out of the rest and still have enough for food and charity and penance to the Gods.” – The Richest Man in Babylon

The idea of paying yourself first is nothing new or exciting. Neither is the concept that you should be able to save at least 10% of your income and take care of everything you need with the other 90%. These aren’t revolutionary concepts. But are you doing them?

I think that one of the problems with these ideas is that they are almost too commonly referenced. We have become tone-deaf to their message. They don’t have the striking impact that they should because we already know that we should be saving our money.

Another reason that many people struggle with these concepts is that they seem like a great idea during the planning stage, but when the shit is hitting the fan and you really need an f-ing vacation before you have a mental breakdown, it’s easy to toss “pay yourself first” right out the window with the ab workout and the pull-up bar.

In the book, Arkad learns an even deeper lesson when he spends an entire year saving 10% of his earnings and then gives his savings to a brick layer for a joint venture where they will purchase gems and resell them for a tremendous profit. When this doesn’t work out, he receives some great advice:

“Your savings are gone, youth, you have jerked your wealth-tree up by the roots. But plant another. Try again.”

Maybe it wasn’t on a jewelry scheme, but we’ve all been there. I’ve cleaned out my savings twice in the past three years. Once for an over-the-top honeymoon vacation (which was fabulous) and then again for home renovations (I’ll get that money back eventually). I’ve also spend thousands of dollars over the years on business ideas that turned out to be foolish, and spent even more money on things that were foolish in a more general sense.

Despite whatever mistakes you have made over the course of your life, they do not have to define you in the future. You can start saving today, and tomorrow you will already be further ahead than you would have been. Arkad suggests that you constantly remind yourself about this:

“I advise that you take the wisdom of Algamish and say to yourselves, ‘A part of all I earn is mine to keep.’ Say it in the morning when you first arise. Say it at noon. Say it at night. Say it each hour of every day. Say it to yourself until the words stand out like letters of fire across the sky.”

To help myself stay focused on this, I am going to print out the “pay yourself first” image that is in the upper right corner of this post and put it on the corkboard behind my computer that I look at every morning and evening. What are you doing to make sure you remember to pay yourself first?