DEAR JACK, - I am sorry to find that you are like ordinary men. You find your allowance too small. The only consolation that I can offer, is the fact that the Rothschilds are said to complain occasionally that their income does not permit them to undertake certain gigantic schemes which from time to time attract them. Consolation of a more tangible sort is out of the question. Your allowance is quite as large as the family means will allow; so, during the course of the year, you will probably have to go through a good deal of pecuniary tribulation in the shape of accounts and economies of various kinds. But however bothered you may be about the best way to make both ends meet, don't complain aloud. A man who is known to be in want of cash is very apt to find himself in want of friends too; but a person who does not talk of any lack of money is not generally suspected of anything worse than a slight tendency to avarice, which, on the whole, is a desirable characteristic. In money matters your policy ought to be this: to seem to have twice as much as you spend; and to spend about half as much as you seem to. You ought always to have a little money in pocket, and the fact ought always to be known. Don't talk about your money. Bragging of all sorts is very bad taste; and, besides, if you tell people that you are rich, it sounds as if you imagined that otherwise they would think you poor. Open extravagance is just as bad, - it is bragging in pantomime. If, now and then, when you are called upon to pay a bill you casually produce a fat roll of money, your object will be attained, and you will find this advice good not only through college, but through life too. Riches return your favors sooner and better than anything else that I know of in this little world of ours. Take care of them and they will take care of you. A man makes money, and money makes a man.
It is horribly hard, I know, to learn how to manage your funds in the beginning. And I think that it is best to start off with a little mild extravagance in the form of subscriptions to the various athletic schemes which happen to be in favor. Pay your subscriptions at once, and everybody will know it. In future years, if you are called upon for anything of the sort, you are at liberty to reply that you have learned wisdom by experience, - which you have duly paid for. But in the beginning it pays to subscribe; you are at once reported to be a moneyed man.
A moneyed man in the commercial world frequently raises large sums on his credit; but in college matters are different. A man who borrows is always regarded with suspicion; and a man who for any reason fails to pay his debts is a lost man from that time forth. So don't borrow. And if anybody tries to borrow from you, make some excuse or other. A man who lends is generally supposed to do so out of sympathy for the impecuniosity which he has himself experienced.
I have one more bit of negative advice for you, and then I will end my letter with a few words of worldly wisdom about human nature and the way in which you ought to treat your fellow-beings. The truth is, if you will pardon a vile pun on that last sentence, that you ought not to treat them at all.
I remember one case which will serve as an example and a warning. There was a little fellow by the name of Biggs in my class, who had a good deal of money, and was always talking about it. Little Biggs's father had made a fortune, in petroleum, I believe, and little B. himself was as generous as he was small. He never could see you without asking you to dine with him, or to go to the theatre with him, and sup with him after it; and he always insisted on paying the bill for the entire company. The result was that the decent half of the world took it into its head that he was a toady, and cut him altogether; while the other half sponged on him, as a matter of course; and the poor little man went through college spending half as much again as anybody else, and getting nothing in return for it but the contempt of everybody that saw him. So don't treat, and don't be treated. It don't pay to pay, for you will be called a toady; it don't pay to be paid for, for you will be called a sponge.
Never spend a cent that does n't show. Avoid tete-a-tete dinners, and expensive cigars, and all that sort of thing. Most people spend so much more than appears at first sight, that if you make what you pay out tell, you will get the credit of being vastly richer than you are. And keep your bills paid up. It is always easier to settle a small account than a large one, and if you pay your bills promptly you will not be so apt to have too much pocket-money, - which tempts a man to spend money in a way which can never be of any imaginable use to him.
And now for the few words about human nature that I promised you. It is a singular fact that every man, whatever he may think of himself in other ways, feels sure in his heart of hearts that he is level-headed,- to use an expressive bit of slang. If he makes any mistakes, it is always because he did not follow the dictates of his judgment. And every man considers his views of money matters to be as sound as sound can be. People who agree with him he considers as sound as himself. People who do not agree with him he calls fools. Now of course you do not want to be called a fool. And I think that I hardly need tell you that it is very impolitic to differ from any man's opinion in regard to the proper management of his pocket. Disagree as much as you please in thought, but listen with equal amiability and assent to the spendthrift and the miser. Of course you will not be a hypocrite, - one of those clumsy fools who think that tact and lying are the same thing. All I tell you to do is to listen amiably to other men's nonsense, and to keep your own counsel. Remember to be enough of the man of the world never to be surprised at any theory that you may hear advanced, however absurd it may be. And remember to be politic enough not to openly express any doubt of the soundness of the opinions of
Your affectionate brother,