10 Money Proverbs Examined

by Matt B

ProverbPenny wise, Pound foolish.

Although the Pound is slowly going away thanks to the Euro, this phrase still holds water.  This phrase refers to those who exercise frugality and think deeply about small, everyday purchases but fail to plan for or properly handle larger ones, leaving their financial health in peril.  It is all well and good to save some money here and there, but if you are not using the saved money to plan for bigger things to come, or doing what you can to save on bigger purchases, pound foolish are you.

A fool may earn money, but it takes a wise man to keep it.

I love this one.  It seems like anyone can make money.  It also seems like you hear people “crying poor” all too often.  I’m not saying that these people are stupid, just that they do stupid things with the limited money they do have.  Saving can be hard.  That is why it may take a wise man to keep his money.

Too much prosperity makes most men fools.

This proverb could be read in a couple of ways: 1) The wealthier someone gets, the more foolish they become.  I’m not sure If this translation is too literal, but I do not believe that wealth makes people dumber.  Maybe lazier, but not dumber. 2) Success brings foolishness.  I am probably over thinking this, but does prosperity and success make a man foolish?  I’m not so sure about this one…

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

Ahh, a poor man’s anthem.  Sure, having money does seem to make it easier to obtain more.  Maybe when this proverb was first uttered, it was 100% true.  In this day and age, it could not be more false.  It is merely a lack of knowledge and motivation that makes someone poor. Nearly anyone in America, Canada, Europe and most other developed nations has every opportunity to earn more than enough money to live comfortably and prosper.  I consider this one more of an excuse than a proverb.

Money is only good for a weekday, a holiday, and a rainy day.

I had to laugh when I read this for the first time, just a few days ago when researching this article.   I’m not sure if it is meant to say that money is good anytime, or that it is only good for when you have the time to enjoy it.  Anyone who can shed some light on this proverb please do so.  It is slightly confusing to me.

The rich man plans for tomorrow, the poor man for today.

Do you “live in the moment”?  When it comes to your money, this is a bad move.  Simple and self-explanatory, but so prophetic.

When money speaks, the truth keeps silent.

Maybe money can not buy happiness, but according to this proverb, it can buy the ability to lie.  This one is definitely true, and it is sad.  Money can afford the luxury of the finest lawyers, which help the wealthy avoid the harshest of sentences.  It can also purchase “quiet lips” that may otherwise voice truths that you are trying to keep from hitting the ears of certain individuals.  Money can skew peoples morals.  It often can speak through blackmail or bribes that can cloud the truth or change it entirely.

I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.

This proverb is priceless.  It could mean so many different things to different people, which makes it even better!  I imagine it as living frugally and surviving with only the things you need, but with a MONSTER emergency fund, just in case.  Living as a poor man is the easy part, getting lots of money is slightly more difficult.  The hardest part of this proverb is continuing the “poor man” lifestyle once you have become wealthier.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

Pretty simple and straight-forward proverb here.  If you are well off and stupid, before long you will lose what money you have.  It is all about intelligence.  Those who can not take care of their money, figure out how to keep it and earn more will be parted with the money they once had.

Money is the root of all evil.

There is no doubt that money has the ability to corrupt.  As for it being the root of ALL evil, I’m not so sure.  Money has some great attributes, such as the ability to help us learn necessary life skills and it’s positive affect on our daily lives by purchasing items that make things easier for us.  For every positive attribute, I believe that there is an equal and opposite negative factor about money that makes people consider it an evil entity.  However you look at it, just the concept of money can help us all understand how humans see value in different places, people or items.

Please feel free to comment and tell me how badly I misread or misinterpreted these proverbs.  Do not be afraid to lay into me about what an idiot I am when it comes to dissecting these proverbs.  I look forward to your thoughts and opinions on these sayings.


Matt Jabs June 25, 2009 at 8:32 am

All good stuff…

I suppose that’s the reason they became proverbs in the first place. The one that I thought really cool was, “Penny wise, Pound foolish”. This is one I think a lot of modern frugality fans could benefit from. You can live frugally for years… then make one bad (large) decision like a home purchase and all that frugality can become null & void.

The sister June 27, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I like the proverb “I’d like to live as a poor man (woman, in my case) with lots of money”. To me living like a poor person that means being thankful for every little thing you have, particularly your family, friends, and health (like in Cinderella Man) but having lots of money so you have everything you need and can bless others as well.

L June 27, 2009 at 7:36 pm

“Money is the root of all evil.” Actually, it’s the LOVE of money is the right of all evil. The Bible, where this is from, also says that money is for a protection.

L June 27, 2009 at 7:36 pm

*root, not right:)

mattb June 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm

See, told ya I would get something wrong here!!! Thanks for the clarification, L.

John Q Public July 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I also like the proverb “I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money”, because it is similar the one I live by “Why live poor in a rich neighborhood, when you can live rich in a poor one”. It describes living in a neighborhood where you earn more than the median income level… if you make the median income level or below it, there will be hardship and disappointment in your life.

Content September 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm

“Money is the root of all evil.”
This is a bit of a misinterpretation of the original Bible text. A more acturate intrepretation would be “lust for money is a root of all sorts of evil,” i.e., stealing from those who have it, lying to con others out of it, spending it on things that can cause you harm, killing to obtain it (insurance fraud, to speed up an inheritance).

MatthewC January 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

“The rich man plans for tomorrow, the poor man for today” – living for the moment might indeed be a bad move when it comes to money, but if you visit Africa where most people are very poor, you will soon have a different interpretation of this. They can ONLY plan for today precisely because they have so little, and this also tends to be why life is so cheap there.

Roger April 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Money is only good for a weekday…may mean spend for necessities, special occasions and emergencies.

Tonia September 3, 2016 at 7:42 am

What is the meaning of the following? Thanks
It is important to make money, but also to use it wisely.
• Money makes money. (Chinese proverb)
• Learn what you earn, know what you owe and spend.
• Borrow sparingly, save abundantly. (Arab proverb)
• Through savings comes having. (Scottish proverb)
• Though you live near a forest do not waste firewood. (Chinese proverb)
• Pay yourself first, live off the rest.

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