Financial lessons from the Founding Fathers for the 4th of July - KPTV - FOX 12

Financial lessons from the Founding Fathers for the 4th of July

Updated: Jul 04, 2016 10:00 AM
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By Andrew Housser

Around the 4th of July holiday, many U.S. residents are focused on family, relaxation and fireworks. The holiday may mean extra time for vacation, or a table filled with a delicious barbecue spread. But Independence Day also is a great occasion to think back on the lessons of the Founding Fathers. Consider these six pieces of advice:

1. Benjamin Franklin: Be frugal and think through decisions carefully. Benjamin Franklin might be most famous for discovering electricity with his kite and key. Yet he made his living as a printer and publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanac, which shared tips on frugality. Today, you can find excellent information on how to live frugally online, or at your local bookstore or library. Search for frugal living blogs or newsletters that interest you. Put tips that appeal to you into action. Challenge yourself to save something every week, and use your savings to build an emergency fund or pay off debt.

2. John Adams: Educate yourself about finances. The second president of the United States, John Adams, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.” Individuals today would do well to heed Adams’ caution, educating themselves about credit, budgeting and getting out of debt.

3. Alexander Hamilton: Borrow money only for good reasons. Alexander Hamilton was the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and the first to develop a way for the United States to borrow to fund its activities. Borrowing to become stronger may sound counterintuitive if you are thinking about credit card debt, payday lenders or other unhealthy debt. Yet, sometimes, a limited amount of “healthy” debt can help you get ahead financially. This includes some student loan debt, borrowing to purchase an affordable home, borrowing to purchase and reliable vehicle to get to work and other activities, and in some cases, borrowing to invest in a business. The keys to healthy debt are (a) to ensure the payments are manageable (b) that you are borrowing for a clear purpose (c) that the value of your purchase will endure long after the debt has been repaid (and not the other way around) and (d) that you have a well-established repayment plan.

4. George Washington: Repay old debts; do not roll them over. When it comes to repaying debts, follow George Washington’s advice that “To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.” That is, Washington believed it was better to pay debts without borrowing. This applies to people who use payday loans, and fall into the trap of continually rolling them over into new loans when they come due. It also applies to those who roll over credit card debt from one card to another using balance transfers, without coming up with a plan to pay the balances down.

5. James Madison: Fight economic inequality. James Madison wrote that one way to combat evil was for society to avoid excessively unequal accumulation of wealth. The best way you can avoid unequal distribution of wealth may be to build your own wealth, and to learn habits of the wealthy you want to emulate. For instance, make saving and investing a key part of your financial lifestyle, and build a retirement fund and an emergency savings account.

6. Thomas Jefferson: Keep money matters in perspective. Every consumer can learn an important lesson from Thomas Jefferson. The third U.S. president noted, “The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.” Financial plans and getting out of debt are important, but staying close to the people you care about is worth even more. Be sure to keep money in perspective.

Whoever your favorite Founding Father, it is likely that he was financially successful – and likely that you can find inspiration in some of his words. Whether you look for advice from men or women of today or hundreds of years ago, seek inspiration to repay your debts and build savings for the future. That is the real message of financial independence this Independence Day.

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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