The Art of Making and Saving Money

Excerpted from The Wall Street Point of View by Henry Clews, 1900.

Originally published as "The Making and Saving of Money" in the Ladies' Home Journal, October 1891.

Henry Clews

Numerous opportunities for making money. – How to embrace them, and how to begin the work of accumulation. – It is easier to make than to save money. – The small beginnings of prominent millionaires, and how they made their fortunes. – Industry, perseverance, honesty, and thrift must be associated with the methods of all who aspire to success in life. – Necessity has been the great stimulus in the eminent examples here cited. – Prudence, forethought, and sage advice required for successful investment. – Begin right, early in life.

It does not require a great genius to make money. The accumulation of wealth is, after all, an easy matter. It does not require education, breeding, or gentle manners, and perhaps even less than people imagine has luck anything to do with it. Any man or woman may become wealthy, if he or she begins aright. The opportunities for gathering the nimble dollar are very numerous in this country. But there are certain fundamental rules that must be observed.

The first step to acquiring a fortune lies in hard work. I could give you no better advice than that given by Poor Richard: "Save something each day, no matter how little you earn." Cultivate thrifty habits. Make your toil count for all that you can. Always save some portion of your wages, and then be on the alert for investment. If you do this wisely, your money will begin to accumulate, double, treble, and in a few years, perhaps, you may be a millionaire.

The beginning is the most difficult. Lay a good foundation for your fortune. Be brave, be generous, be helpful, be honest, do not overwork, keep in good health, cultivate your mind, be pure, and to these add thrift, and you need not fear. You cannot fail.

I would say to all fathers and mothers, teach your children the value of money. When they are old enough, make them understand the worth of a penny. From the child's savings-bank in the play-room to the millionaire's bank account is not a long step. It is a short and easy span.

Keep a bank account.

When you have saved one hundred, or two hundred, or five hundred dollars, look about for a good investment. Do not take up this or that scheme at a venture, but examine it carefully, and if you see your way clear, put your money into it. Real estate is usually a good investment. More money has been made in real estate than you could estimate in a day. A first mortgage is, in nine cases out of ten, safe. But take advice on the subject before you invest. Go to some good conservative man and get his views. I should advise the same course if you should put your money in stocks or bonds, or railway shares. In fact, I should urge, before you invest a penny, that you get the best counsel on the subject to aid you in taking the right course.

If your first investment prospers, by careful management, and by always being on the alert, you can increase your fortune by reinvesting your profits.

A man who had only a few hundred dollars left out of a fortune, called one day at a banking house and asked to see the manager, who was a man of conservative mind and fully acquainted with the best and most profitable investments. Throwing down his roll of bank notes, he said: "Invest this for me. Use your pleasure with it. I'm going to the country for the remainder of the summer. I will leave my address with you, and you can let me know what you do with it." The man walked out, and was not seen again for many months. His money was judiciously invested on his carte blanche order, and began to accumulate. The house duly informed him, according to its business methods, of his good luck, but nothing was heard from him for some time. Some months afterward he presented himself at the banking-house, rosy health beaming in his face, well dressed and portly. The manager failed to recognize him at first, but when his memory was refreshed he recalled the circumstances of the case. This was an example of a man who more than doubled his savings by simply taking the advice of an experienced and reliable man. And this is not an exceptional case.

How did Samuel J. Tilden attain his elevated position and immense fortune? Simply by the exercise of thrift and industry, together with a certain degree of common sense; added to the capacity for taking advantage of the chances thrown in his way, and his cleverness in turning them to the best account. It will not do for any one to sit down and wait for the coming of wealth and fortune. Industry, persevering and untiring, is essential to the accumulation of money. I have myself some little knowledge of the toil attendant upon the amassing of wealth, and I have the highest respect and sympathy for the man who, in the face of adverse circumstances, turns his pennies into dollars, and his dollars into millions.

The life of Commodore Vanderbilt affords singular scope for reflection on the immense possibility of a great business capacity to amass a great fortune in a few years, especially in this country. From being the possessor of a row-boat on New York Bay, he rose in sixty years to be the possessor of $90,000,000. William H. Vanderbilt, his son, obtained $75,000,000 of this, and largely increased the fortune before his death.

It has been truly said that any fool can make money, but it takes a wise man to keep it. William H. Vanderbilt's ability was signally displayed in keeping intact this great fortune, besides adding as much more to it. I make special mention of Mr. Vanderbilt because he was not a speculator, in the true sense of that term. He was, first and for all time, an investor. And every man in this great Republic has the privilege of walking in his footsteps.

Collis P. Huntington came to New York when a boy of fifteen, without a penny. His father was a farmer and small manufacturer. The youth early showed great shrewdness in business, and unlimited energy and resolution. But success is not usually attained without long and persistent effort, and this Mr. Huntington found to be the case. After years of hard work his fortune was made, and now he is worth about $30,000,000. He is still, however, a hard worker, and employs, directly or indirectly, thirty thousand men.

Leland Stanford received an academical education and commenced the study and practice of law. At twenty-eight years of age, a fire wiped out his law library and other property, which led him to the West in search of better fortunes. Here his native shrewdness and energy asserted itself, and soon the dollars began to multiply. When he died he was worth from $25,000,000 to $30,000,000.

Darius O. Mills is one of the most notable figures daily seen down town in New York. He was born in a small town on the Hudson River some sixty years ago, and began life in very humble circumstances. His courage was equal to that of a Richelieu, and his caution, conservatism, energy, and industry were all fully developed. He has always been dependent on his own exertions, and has fought his way up in life by sheer force of his own keen intelligence and undaunted enterprise. In the battle of life he has achieved signal success. He is worth about $40,000,000.

John W. Mackay was born in the humblest circumstances in Dublin, Ireland, some fifty-five years ago. Coming to this country very early in life, he worked for a time on board ship. During the years that followed, in whatever occupation he engaged, he labored industriously and faithfully. He saved his money, and watched his opportunity, which so very few people do. He is now twenty times a millionaire, and all by reason of hard and continuous effort and thrift.

The late James C. Flood was once a poor boy of New York City, and became worth more millions than can be exactly estimated. He made his money by shrewd and successful investment, and by the exercise of energy, self-reliance, and thrift. His rise was remarkable, but he showed himself equal to the surprising good fortune which attended his strange career. And that was no small thing. It is a great matter to be able to view one's success without any untoward feeling of exultation.

The wealth of the Astors is remarkable for the way it has been kept intact, and for the steady augmentation which is taking place. The elder Astor made a mint of money out of the fur trade, and would have continued in that business, but he found that investment in real estate was vastly more profitable. The family has steadily adhered to this line of investment through four generations.

George Peabody was a poor Massachusetts boy who, by hard industry, rose to be one of the great millionaires of his day. His fortune at one time exceeded $10,000,000, and during his lifetime he gave away more than $7,000,000 to charitable purposes. His millions were acquired by the saving of pennies, and by the exercise of thrift, honesty, and persevering effort.

Alexander T. Stewart, "the merchant prince," amassed his millions by close attention to business and by the aid of shrewd common sense and thrift. He was reputed to be one of the three wealthiest men in the United States, Commodore Vanderbilt and John Jacob Astor being the other two. He left an estate exceeding $25,000,000.

Peter Cooper had a hard time getting an education. He was born in New York, one hundred years ago, and at the age of seventeen was apprenticed to a shoemaker. He tried his hand at several trades, and got together a comfortable fortune of about $6,000,000, through unremitting toil, conscientious devotion to duty, and economical habits.

August Belmont came to New York poor, and lived to be worth millions. Prudence, acuteness, and sagacity were the instruments by which his wealth was accumulated. His successful career is an illustration of the fact that this country affords a fine opportunity for the intelligence, thrift, and industry, not only of native Americans, but of the Republic's adopted citizens.

Cyrus W. Field is another apt illustration. He has been termed a locomotive in trousers. The simile serves to convey an idea of the indefatigable energy of the man. His indomitable resolution and his energy of character placed him high among the distinguished men of the age.

Vice-President Morton received his business training in the dry-goods trade. Then he became a banker. In his youth he had to shift for himself. Necessity is the stimulus that men of real ability require. He amassed his large fortune by tireless effort and the exercise of shrewd common sense.

Russell Sage, as a boy, was employed in a village store. His business aptitude early manifested itself, and in six years he bought out his employer. He is one of the largest capitalists in the country, and all his millions have been rolled up by energy and thrift.

John Wanamaker, Chauncey M. Depew, James M. Brown, Anthony Drexel, Moses Taylor, George W. Childs, J. Pierpont Morgan, and a host of others, are men who have fought their way to prominence and affluence by sheer force of integrity, pluck, intelligence, and industry.

The lives of all the men mentioned in this chapter are instances of what can be attained by any boy or man in America. They are eloquent testimony of the truth that industry, perseverance, honesty, and thrift can accomplish anything. A man who is wise, careful, and conservative, energetic, persevering, and tireless, need have no fear of his future. But there is one other thing. He must have a steady head, one that can weather the rough sea of reverses, from which no life is altogether free, and one that will not become too big when success attends his efforts.

Keep out of the way of speculators. Take your money, whether it be much or little, to one whose reputation will insure you good counsel. Invest your money where the principal is safe, and you will get along.

But do not forget the acorns. See that you begin aright early in life. Save your money with regularity. By so doing, you will more than save your money; you will make money.