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Financial Planning Lessons from the Founding Fathers

Money magazine’s Money Lessons of America’s Founding Fathers offers the kind of financial information about our country’s early leaders that may have been missing from your history textbook. Whether you can relate to the Founding Fathers or not, you can learn from their financial planning practices (or lack thereof).

Alexander Hamilton is all the rage these days because of the hit musical about his life. It is true that he may not have been given the credit he deserved for the creativity he showed in building our nation’s financial structure but it is also true that he did better for the country than he did for his own family. His widow was left in financial difficulty after his death.

While they were not exactly friends in real life, both Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were known for spending too much money to impress others. They both earned plenty but their spending habits meant they did not leave a lot for their heirs.

If  you’re looking for a financial role model, consider the author of Poor Richard’s Almanac. As the article notes, Ben Franklin became the country’s first self-made millionaire, in part because of the media empire he founded. He had relatives operate franchises of his printing business. Franklin founded newspapers (published on his own presses) and used his position as postmaster general to further his publishing interests (something that might be frowned upon today). Ben Franklin had his flaws but overspending was not one of them–perhaps because he was older than some of the other Founding Fathers and felt less need to compete with them.

John Adams is noted not because he was so good with money but because he knew enough to get help from someone who was: his wife Abigail. Abigail Adams was a shrewd investor. She managed a lot of the family finances but still had to intervene to prevent her husband from making bad investments.