The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money by PT Barnum a Book Review

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I suspect that The Art of Money Getting; Or, Golden Rules for Making Money by PT Barnum is based on lectures he gave with the same name. It is a very short book that you can read in less than an hour. Although the book is dated since it was published in 1880, there is wisdom embedded in his words. The book is packed with practical advice that we’ve heard before but need hearing again. Despite this, I struggled reading this book, because of the disconnect between what I was reading, and who Barnum was. He talks about valuing your customers, and operating with integrity, which are very good things. However, Barnum was a scam artist and hoaxer, who manipulated the people who came to see his shows. (Please read Phineas Taylor Barnum, America’s Greatest Showman of the 19th Century)

English: Photograph of P.T. Barnum.
English: Photograph of P.T. Barnum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oftentimes, people knew what he was doing, but they wanted to be entertained, so is this a good thing or a bad thing? And should I be “throwing out the baby with the bath water?” Should I disregard some good advice because of who is dispensing the advice? 

Barnum says the road to wealth is to spend less than you earn. If you find that at the end of every year, or even at the end of every pay period, you have no funds remaining; it’s time to record your expenditures in a notebook to ascertain where you are spending your money. Barnum recommends that you have columns in your notebook labeled Necessities/Comfort and Luxuries. From his experience, Barnum says you will notice that Luxuries are double, triple or sometimes even 10 times the expenditure for Necessities. 

The problems with our financial difficulties often arise from ‘trying to keep up with the Jones,’ purchasing things simply because others have them. He further adds that we shouldn’t take up unnatural habits such as chewing tobacco and smoking a pipe. Barnum also says in The Art of Money Getting that to make money requires a clear brain. You cannot make sound decisions if you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. For 15 years, Barnum chewed tobacco, and suffered the effects of heart palpitations and trembling. His doctor recommended that he stop the practice. 

Many people do not succeed because they spend too much time dreaming and not enough time taking action. Master one thing first before you move on to another, and systematize your business, having a process for everything. Barnum was a master copywriter so he advocates for advertising your business and he says that it takes a person seven times to see an ad before making a purchase. People want to feel like they know you and trust you before making a purchase. 

The book has chapter titles such as: 

  1. Don’t Mistake Your Vocation
  2. Select the Right Location
  3. Avoid Debt
  4. Persevere
  5. Whatever You Do, Do It With All Your Might
  6. Use the Best Tools
  7. Don’t Get Above Your Business
  8. Learn Something Useful 
  1. Don’t Mistake Your Vocation: Choose a profession that matches your nature and that you have the inclination for.
  2. Select the Right Location: With the prevalence of so many online businesses, this only applies to brick and mortar businesses. You have to locate your business where there is demand for it without too much competition.
  3. Avoid Debt: Debt drags a person down. Don’t use credit cards to purchases food, drink and clothes. If you use credit cards, pay off the balance each month (that’s what Barnum would say if he lived today). Don’t let money master you, instead let it work for you, accruing interest. There is no opportunity for success if your money works against you.
  4. Persevere: When you are on the correct path, stick to it, and do not give up too easily. Practice self-reliance, so that you are not pulled in different directions because of advice from others.
  5. Whatever You Do, Do It With All Your Might: Be thorough and work every angle – put in the sweat equity or you won’t succeed, and be bold in carrying out your plans. Don’t wait for things to happen, make things happen.
  6. Use the Best Tools: Hire the best employees. Employees with experience and who think for themselves are valuable.
  7. Don’t Get Above Your Business: Money is no good unless you understand its value by taking action and gaining experience by knowing what works and what doesn’t. Expand your intellect every day, gain experience, which allows you to accumulate more and more principal, which expands by interest. This leads to independence.
  8. Learn Something Useful: Learn a useful trade. 

Great Ideas PT Barnum’s The Art of Money Getting 

  1. Cannot accumulate a fortune by taking the road that leads to poverty.
  2. Regularly lay away a small nest egg that gains interest, and add to it, or judiciously invest in land.
  3. The foundation of success in life is good health, which is also the basis for happiness.
  4. Knowledge of your business is necessary for success.
  5. Uncompromising integrity of character is invaluable.
  6. Getting rich doesn’t equate to being successful. 

The Art of Money Getting; Or, Golden Rules for Making Money by PT Barnum has some very sound advice, but what struck me was the disconnect between what he is saying and how he acted. Despite that I recommend The Art of Money Getting; Or, Golden Rules for Making Money by PT Barnum. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

Further Reading/Books

Video: Humbug — The Art of P.T. Barnum

The Art of Money Getting; Or, Golden Rules for Making Money by P. T. Barnum

Life of P. T. Barnum (Classic Reprint) by P. T. Barnum

Struggles and Triumphs: or, Forty years’ recollections of P. T. Barnum by P. T. Barnum

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