Don't Die Farting

Since I was a kid I have loved good quotes. They can seek out, summarize and encapsulate the essence of an idea.

Sometimes they spring forth as individual, self contained expressions, or they can be a part of a larger treatise that begs for a summary.

Case in point, one of my favorite Ben Franklin quotes:

“He that lives upon Hope, dies farting.”

Note he did not say “has hope” but “lives upon.” To live upon hope, rather than using your passion and taking action, produces nothing useful.

An example of how this quote applies to personal finance might be found in an encounter I had at a convenience store last week. It was early afternoon on a weekday and as I entered there was a shabbily dressed man that appeared to be in his sixties, leaning on the front counter scratching lottery tickets while the clerk watched. I got in line behind him to wait my turn. For the next several minutes he continued to order different tickets and scratch them off. It seemed this was a regular occurrence as the clerk and the man knew each other by first name and were very friendly. When he was finally done the clerk wished him better luck next time and he shuffled out the door.

I passed the man out front, standing there reexamining his purchase with a look of disappointment. As I got into my car he was still standing there, frowning at the little tickets that had let him down.

What does one take from this tiny slice of life? Is it possible he was a self made millionaire that dresses down and has a habit of buying lottery tickets? Sure. Or maybe it was his first time buying lottery tickets and he was just very friendly to the clerk, or he was buying them for a sick friend, or insert your theory here. You never know. But as I drove away I couldn’t help but remember old Bens interesting quote.


  1. That is really sad. What is more sad is the fact that I've seen this dozens of times myself.

    Ben Franklin surprises more and more all the time. Thanks for giving us the quote!

  2. I like this type of writing Buck Weber. You were telling me about the new set style of what you were going to try on here. I like this post because as the weakonomist said that this is a sad fact that we see all the time. I have wondered many times about people. When I used to work as a florist, the same man would come in every Tuesday to buy one single rose for his deceased wife, and it always made me wonder what his life used to be like and what he does with all his time.

  3. What a great post!

    My ex-father-in-sin (don't ask...too complicated) had been a laborer all his life. So as you can imagine, when he arrived at his dotage, he didn't have much to live on.

    Because he and the mother-in-sin were separated (though not legally divorced), Willard was renting an apartment just a small cut above an SRO. He lived near a supermarket that sold lottery tickets. Apparently he went there three or four times a week and bought a couple of chances every time he walked in the door.

    After he died, my mother-in-sin (i lived in sin with her son) was called upon to clean out his apartment. She found piles and piles and piles of old, worthless lottery tickets, each of which had cost the old boy two bucks. If he'd put two dollars into a bank account for every ticket, instead of forking it over to the State of Arizona's numbers game, he would have had HUNDREDS of dollars. Could have taken it up to Vegas and gotten rich at the craps table.

    The lottery, in particular, takes advantage of the most vulnerable people in our society. Too bad we chased the mob off the streets: your chances of winning were a lot higher with a numbers runner.

  4. Thought I would post on here. Once upon a time they listed how much money was spent in all of the stores selling lottery tickets. The total for the year was well over a MILLION DOLLARS. Many of the stores listed are in the city--hence the buyers are not likely to be wealthy. Seeing that made me think...if all the poor people had banded together, and put the money spent on those tickets....they could go and purchase a business that would in turn generate income for themselves and their families....or many other things. The power of just a few bucks multiplied over and tremendous.

  5. The lottery has been described as a self-imposed tax on the poor. I agree with that definition.


Agree? Disagree? Questions? Leave a comment!