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7 Money Lessons We Can Learn From Past Presidents

4 Minute Read

For Presidents' Day, we thought we would stop for a minute to appreciate some of the wise advice about finances and leadership that we’ve received from our presidents.

George Washington

"To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones."

George Washington wrote this truth in a letter nearly 240 years ago, but our modern government still doesn’t get it. Of course, the world is a different place now and things have changed, but this one truth about money still stands: You’ll never improve your financial situation by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Thomas Jefferson

"Never spend your money before you have it.”

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This advice came from Thomas Jefferson’s “A Dozen Canons of Conduct in Life.” The irony here is that Thomas Jefferson died with a lot of debt (although much of it was inherited from his father-in-law). However, the advice is solid, and it basically sounds like something you might hear on The Dave Ramsey Show every single day.

Abraham Lincoln

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."

Was Honest Abe talking about gazelle intensity? We’d like to think so. If you apply that principle to getting out of debt, then it fits perfectly. If you want to succeed, you’ll succeed. If you just kind of, sort of want to succeed, then you’ll never get out of debt, find your dream job, or finally write that book.

Ronald Reagan

"A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."

This was one of Reagan’s slogans during his 1980 presidential campaign. Politics aside, it’s pretty funny. But it also points to a greater truth—everyone around us might be in a financial mess, but it doesn’t hit home until it affects us personally.

John F. Kennedy

“No matter how big the lie, repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.”

That’s exactly why our culture has embraced credit cards and debt. We’ve been sold debt for so long that we’ve come to believe it’s just a way of life. But if you’ve taken Financial Peace University, and if you’ve figured out that you can live without debt, then you know that’s just not the case. JFK wasn’t talking about debt when he made that statement, but the principle still holds true.

Harry Truman

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Dave always says that the average millionaire reads one nonfiction book a month. The point is that leaders spend time learning and growing as leaders. They don’t sit and wait for the world to come to them. They go out and get it. No matter what you do—whether you’re a corporate CEO, an unpaid intern or a stay-at-home mom—reading is an extremely important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Related: 10 Books That Will Change Your Company and Career

Dwight Eisenhower

“The older I get, the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first. A process which often reduces the most complex human problem to a manageable proportion.”

Was Eisenhower talking about the Baby Steps? Probably not. But the truth in that quote can definitely be applied to Dave’s advice on getting out of debt. By attacking your debt in “manageable proportions,” you allow yourself to win small battles that eventually lead to you winning “the war”—in other words, getting out of debt!

We can learn something from all of our presidents, whether we like their politics or not.

Looking for more wisdom? Here are 7 books Dave Ramsey requires all new team members to read.

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