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6 Financial Concepts Taught by American Presidents

presidents-day-2017.pngEstimated reading time: 2 minutes 10 seconds

You don’t have to read far into The Art of the Deal to learn what drives President Donald Trump’s approach to finances and business. Its first line: "I don't do it for the money.  I've got enough, much more than I'll ever need. I do it to do it.  Deals are my art form.” Historically, presidents (and one founding father) have taken different philosophical approaches to finances.  In honor of Presidents’ Day, here is a sampling of their statements down the centuries on: 


1. The value of money and democracy:

  • “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.”  -- John Adams
  • “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” -- James Madison

  • “It is by a thorough knowledge of the whole subject that [people] are enabled to judge correctly of the past and to give a proper direction to the future.” -- James Monroe

2. The importance of saving:

  • “For age and want save while you may; no morning sun lasts a whole day.”  -- Benjamin Franklin

  • “Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.” -- John Tyler

3. The danger of debt:

  • “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.” -- George Washington

  • “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” -- Herbert Hoover

4. The value of labor:

  • “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” -- Abraham Lincoln

  • “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.” -- Theodore Roosevelt

  •  “We need to steer clear of this poverty of ambition, where people want to drive fancy cars and wear nice clothes and live in nice apartments but don't want to work hard to accomplish these things. Everyone should try to realize their full potential.” -- Barack Obama

5. The banking system:

  • “I believe that the banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.” -- Thomas Jefferson

  • “Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce.” -- James Garfield

  • “Food Stamp recipients didn't cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.” -- Barack Obama

6. And one final thought about the role of perspective in finances and in life:

  • “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.” -- Harry S. Truman
Whether it's finances, or making decisions for the the United States, our presidents have left us with many inspiring financial concepts to consider applying into our lives today.  Please visit our Learning Center for more financial resources for individual investors.

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