Monday, February 27, 2006


It would take wealth within your checking account to purchase this book. $150 to be exact. When this 1955 hardcover surfaced on the top of my pile of books to list I guessed it would be worth $10 or $100. I underestimated. As a result, Elmer Wheeler's name became permanently ingrained in my mind before I even began reading the book.

There are so many wealth and personal finance books out there that teach a wealth without you approach. Purchase real estate and paper assets. Then your money will work for you and you don't have to. Start a business, implement a system and then eventually hire employees. Then your employees will work for you and you don't have to and you can go off and start yet more businesses. There's nothing wrong with passive income. But I get the point already. I wondered if this book would prove to be a precursor of the Automatic millionaire, One Minute Millionaire, Rich Dad Poor Dad philosophies.

The book is full of bromides that we've all heard before. Hard work won't kill you. Have a target in mind. The future determines the present. Use what you have. I was annoyed when he said that the best thing a housewife can do to invigorate herself when she's run down is to get up and work because this "muscular action will offer a channel for the expression of nervous energy inside them." Harrumph! How about a nap? Or a few hours away from the kids?

The book is full of dozens of stories of successful business people and inventors and they give the reader an interesting glimpse into the past before there was frozen food, when boll weevils were a severe nuisance, before there were self-polishing plows. Wheeler emphasizes that these men and women were great for what they GAVE the world, not for what they got out of it, even though most of them were financially successful, eventually. Even more encouraging is that these people invested themselves in the business and not just money. Most of them remained with their business their entire lives and didn't sell and move on to something else or sit back and collect passive income.

Case in point: Vera Nyman. It was the 1920's. and she was widowed at age 26 and destitute. While selling household products door-to-door her customers repeatedly asked for a cleaner that would clean walls. Instead of merely saying, "No, sorry, I do not," she went to the library to study chemistry and spent her evenings mixing up concoctions in her bathtub. After five years she found eleven chemicals that, when distilled, gave a blue liquid that cleaned walls as if by magic. It was the depression and no one would loan her money so she gave 50,000 personal demonstrations to housewives. Three years later she borrowed $100 and rented an abandoned speakeasy and lived in this "factory" to cut down on expenses. Her company grew into a company named Soil-Off that sold millions of dollars of product annually and she refused to sell it when a drug company made her an offer. This story shows that, when you have an idea, the knowledge will follow. You can't, say, go to MATC and find classes in making wall cleaners. The ideas usually find you. And you need to invest yourself, not just your money.
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Anonymous Frances said...

You should never go with the first few hard money lenders you get to meet as you might also find a better deal elsewhere. You should consider reading through the fine print at all times.

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