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Benjamin Franklin wants you to go to bed early tonight.

For years my family and I have been attending a July 4th parade in a small northern Michigan town. But this year, like so many events across the country, Covid-19 cancelled our annual celebration. I’m not complaining, but I sure would love to see some semblance of normalcy. 

When I’m not reading financial news, I enjoy reading about American history. However, I’m currently reading about someone who is not American, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. There certainly is an American connection though, as Churchill had a lot of dealings with President Roosevelt during World War II. 

I also thoroughly enjoyed the recent History Channel mini-series on the Civil War general who later became President Ulysses Grant. 

Although relatively young compared to many other countries, the U.S. does not have a perfect past. It is, nonetheless, the envy of the world because of our freedoms and democracy.

Financially speaking, our country has had a variety of interesting milestones. Alexander Hamilton helped establish the U.S. Mint and pushed the government to pay Revolutionary Ward debts. We pulled off the Louisiana Purchase for about $18 per square mile. And we picked up Alaska from Russian for a paltry $7.2 million. 

Along the way there has been financial legislation that impacted every American. For example, President Roosevelt implemented Social Security and President Johnson enacted Medicare in 1965. You may not like certain individuals or policies that are a part of our history, but we can learn from both our country’s successes and failures. 

Many books have been written about people who have amassed a fortune, some honestly and others others illegally. Conversely, there are numerous books about people and families that have lost a fortune. By being financially informed and aware, I think you get a better understanding of how to legitimately build a nest egg while keeping your guard up for less than honorable people. 

Ultimately, I believe investors learn more from investments that don’t work rather than the ones that are profitable

It’s important to understand that financial responsibility is a vital aspect of freedom. Many households were blindsided by COVID-19 and the massive unemployment it created. It’s a tough lesson, but that sudden, unexpected downturn confirms the importance of having a liquid emergency fund. 

We don’t know when the next crisis might come, but it’s inevitable that something will happen that poses a serious threat to ourselves and our financial interests. Over the course of our nation’s history there have been bleak and disappointing times. But somehow, someway, we have managed to find a way to overcome those obstacles.

In these difficult times, if you’re healthy and able to put food on the table and a few pennies in the bank, you’re doing reasonably well. There’s an old 15th century quote, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Benjamin Franklin clearly approved as he repeated the sentiment in his Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Franklin was far from perfect, but at the end of the day he helped mold our great nation and taught us the value of a penny. History can teach us about many things, including our finances. I hope we learn.

It may be quiet without the fireworks, but I wish everyone a safe and Happy Fourth of July.