Pictured is the Fugio cent, the first coin ever minted by the United States following the Constitution. It is widely considered to be the first official coin of the U.S.
What’s interesting is that the coin doesn’t say “E Pluribus Unum” on its front. Instead, it reads — surprisingly — “Mind Your Business.”
Was the first American coin the government’s way to tell us to stop being so nosy? Probably not.
The coin was designed by Benjamin Franklin. For 25 years, Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanac providing readers with choice words of wisdom, often phrased as creative rhymes: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” said Franklin.
He also said, “a penny saved is a penny earned”, right? Well not quite. The famous quote by Franklin has been misquoted for many years. What Franklin actually said was “A penny saved is twopence dear. A pin a day’s a groat a year.” A twopence was a silver coin used in Britain and a groat was a crushed grain. Somehow, the quote got changed over time.
Back to the Fugio coin.
On the same side as “Mind Your Business” is the word “Fugio,” Latin for “I fly” or “I flee.” Many historians believe that this phrase, combined with the picture of the sun above the sundial, forms a clever quote — the sun/sundial signifies time, and together with “fugio,” means “time flies.”
And taken together “time flies, mind your business,” can be reworded as “things happen quickly, you better do your work.” This is great advice for managing your personal finances, especially when it comes to saving money.
One of the biggest mistakes made in personal finances is not doing something unless you have to. Have you noticed that emergencies don’t stop just because you don’t have money saved to pay for them?
I don’t know of anyone who has gotten into credit card debt on purpose. It seems to happen because they were not prepared for such common things as car repairs, medical bills, home repairs or unexpected job loss. For many, these emergencies come at just the wrong time.
Having savings to cover these situations makes so much sense. However, so few do it. And there are consequences.
For example, let’s say you have a car repair of $1,500 come up, but you don’t have savings to pay for it. You are faced with a choice – either borrow money (personal loan) or use your credit card.
In both cases, you will spend more than $1,500 once interest and finance charges are included, assuming you take longer than 30 days to repay the balance.
And this is where the problem starts. When someone puts a charge on their credit card, they normally have the best intentions to pay it off quickly. But then life happens. Fugio. And before they know it, they’ve carried the balance for months, if not years.
And while time flies, so does the cost of using a credit card. Indeed, there’s a cost to not saving money:
Cost of emergency Cost of using a credit card*
*Assumes annual percentage rate of 15.59% and taking three years to pay off the balance.
You see, money “flies” away from you when you have a credit card balance. Over many years and at the high rates often found on credit cards of 15-20%, the results can be staggering – in the tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. Tens of thousands of dollars that could have been saved.
Today, the U.S. savings rate is around 4%. Historically, the savings rate trends higher during down economic periods as people become worried about losing their jobs and lower during better economic periods as prosperity drives more spending and less saving. In other words, people tend to spend more and save less at just the wrong time.
The goal is to be ahead of the curve by saving both during periods of certainty and uncertainty. Question: Are you taking each opportunity to save money when possible? Just because you can’t save a lot doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save anything. Little things make big things happen.
The opportunity to save money presents itself every day. Remember, emergencies don’t happen according to your schedule.
Take Franklin’s advice to heart. Mind your business. Mind it today.
Save money at every turn.
You’ll be glad you did.
When you are at the crossroads of whether to spend or save, remember this – time flies.