FINANCIAL PLANNING: The book teaches how to manage debts wisely. -- Rajah Devadason

FINANCIAL planning principles can work wonders for us if we remain humble and teachable.

What do a cartographer, an ancient camel trader and an ageing university professor have in common?

If the mapmaker is author George Samuel Clason, who published the first road atlas of the United States and Canada; if the purveyor of “ships of the desert” is Dabasir of the old Babylon; and if the archaeologist is Alfred H. Shrewsbury, then the answer to my opening question concerning common denominators is: “Lots”.

It is the same relationship Charles Dickens had with Pip and Oliver Twist, and George Lucas with Obi Wan Kenobi and Han Solo, namely that of creator of great fictional characters.

Clason’s personal finance book, The Richest Man in Babylon is the perfect Christmas gift for parents wanting to help older children learn about the principles of wealth accumulation and growth.

In a chapter entitled “The Clay Tablets from Babylon”, Clason writes an intriguing account of how useful it is to formulate and stick to a financial plan, particularly for those who are in danger of having their lives fall apart because of debt.

As I have written in the past,
I hope you buy two copies of that book. One for yourself and the other for a younger adult who needs sound financial guidance to counter millennials’ bad financial habits.

In the “Clay Tablets” chapter, Clason weaves a poignant story of Dabasir, who incurs excessive consumer debt in the ancient Babylon.

As Dabasir confesses earlier in the book: “I paid as I could and, for a while, all went well. But in time, I discovered I could not use my earnings to live upon and pay my debts. Creditors began to pursue me to pay for my extravagant purchases and my life became miserable. I decided to leave Babylon and seek another city, where a young man might have better chances.”

Dabasir’s life, however, did not show a speedy upward trajectory. In quick succession, he went from a caravan trader to caravan robber to a slave in Syria.

Much later, Dabasir escaped and returned to Babylon.

There, he worked hard to live on only 70 per cent of his earned income, in accordance with a sustainable savings and debt repayment programme formulated by his wise friend, Mathon, the gold lender, a precursor to today’s private bankers or wealth advisers.

It took ages, but Dabasir carved into clay tablets the story of his financial rehabilitation.

I should not go into those details here. Instead, I want to focus your attention on the universal value of good financial advice.

Consider another of Clason’s fictional creations, Professor Shrewsbury, who translates Dabasir’s account of how he escaped the pit of debt using financial planning principles, such as record keeping and budgeting, exercising delayed gratification, and sticking to a difficult but workable plan, is won over.

The good professor was facing financial constraints in the England of the 1930s.

As such, he decides he has nothing to lose in trying out the plan Mathon had formulated and Dabasir adhered to until economic success was attained.

Near the end of “Clay Tablets”, Clason has Shrewsbury pen these words in a letter to a friend: “Who would believe there could be such a difference in results between following a financial plan and just drifting along?”

Who, indeed? If you are like Dabasir and Shrewsbury, meaning you are in need of debt management guidance for your good and that of your family, contact the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia
at or Agensi Kaunseling
dan Pengurusan Kredit at

The best thing about financial literacy is the personal freedom that comes with it.

So, I hope you are inspired by Clason and his literary creations to pursue personal financial freedom.

Reaching such a challenging goal can yield generations of personal finance success stories.

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The writer is a Securities Commission-
licenced financial planner, professional speaker and author. Read his articles at He may be
connected with on LinkedIn at https: //