July 04, 2022

The American Revolution of 1776 led to the creation of a new nation like no other. The United States Declaration of Independence, formally “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America”, was adopted 246 years ago today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the Second Continental Congress.  After witnessing in Ukraine today what many may regard as a similarly determined struggle for sovereign self-governance, and amid shocking revelations about what many may regard as the roll-back of individual rights to self-determination in the United States, let’s pause to reflect on insights from some of our Founding Mothers’ that might be useful to keep in mind today.

4 Financial Lessons from America’s Founding Mothers

John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington are well-known “Founding Fathers”. But what about the women who helped to shape and form this nation? Although much is written about many of them, far less is widely known about their contributions to, and their hopes and dreams for, what was to become the United States of AmericaN? Celebrating the founding of our nation against such vivid backdrop drama as we witness today in Europe and America, what financial insights might those women have for us today?

#1: The Importance of a Financial Education

Abigail Adams, one of the most famous women of the U.S. Revolutionary Era, was a passionate advocate for public education of boys and girls, and also was a trusted advisor to her spouse John Adams; their published correspondence reveals a plethora of debates between them on public issues of their day, including how to form the new government and the critical importance of financial education.1

Abigail was also John’s financial advisor; she famously invested in depreciated US government bonds despite his preference for real estate, including a bond that had declined to 15 percent of its face value and held onto it until it was worth 85 percent, a profit of nearly 500%.2

What John wrote in his more famous letter to Thomas Jefferson, “All the perplexities, confusion, and distress in America arise not from the defects of the Constitution, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation,”3 he surely learned from her investment management of their family financial resources.4

It surely is still true today that all Americans need to understand the fundamentals of financial investments, both their own and those of their country. 

#2: The Importance of Knowing the Detail About the Sources & Uses of Your Money

Under English property laws in 1757, only single or widowed women could hold legal title to property. In July 1757, Martha Custis at age 26 became a very wealthy widow with a 17,500-acrre plantation; 18 months later, she married handsome military leader George Washington at her home in New Kent.5 While he was at war, she continued to manage her wealth and also properties, enabling him to accept the position as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army without salary. He accounted to his ‘worthy partner’ for each penny he spent for most of his life.6   Twice widowed, Martha Washington also managed George Washington’s Estate following his death in December 1799.7

It’s as important today as it was then to monitor the sources and uses of one’s own and one’s family’s money.

#3: The Importance of Planning for Future Income

Margaret Corbin was not a wealthy woman. She was a nurse who, in 1776, accompanied her husband John into battle with roughly 600 other vastly out-numbered Americans defending Fort Washington in northern Manhattan; when he fell in action, she took his place in the cannon he was helping to fire and worked with such ease and speed until she too was seriously wounded that other soldiers were impressed and launched her military career. She later became the first woman in U.S. history to receive a pension from Congress for military service when no longer physically able to serve.8

Today it is possible – and wise – to plan for future income. Keep in mind the benefits of a pension like Margaret Corbin’s, or wise investing like Abigail Adams and Martha Washington, or a blend of both through “private pension” insurance products that provide access to the upside potential of the financial markets while guaranteeing lifetime income.

#4: The Importance of Compounding

Compounding is a process that can build value over time. Like Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Remember that Money is of a prolific generating Nature. Money can beget Money, and its Offspring can beget more, and so on.9 Like Abigail Adams not so famously demonstrated though her investments in depreciated government securities, an investment that generates a positive return can build much more value if profits are profitably re-invested over time. 10

Investing early in life may provide for a longer period of re-investment, for capital appreciation over longer periods of time. And that’s not just for “young folks”. The Stanford Center on Longevity has published a “New Map of Life” which posits that as many as half of today’s 5-year-olds can expect to live to the age of 100 – and that this may become the norm for newborns by 2050. People who presently may regard themselves as ‘middle-aged’ or “old” may have longer to re-invest than they expect.11

 As Abigail Adams asserted to her husband, when they differed over whether to invest as he wanted in more real estate, or as she intended in depreciated bonds, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” (or in the vernacular of their era, “nothing venture nothing have”).12


Important Disclosures

This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.


1 See generally, Adams, John, Margaret A. Hogan, and C. James Taylor My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams (Cambridge, Mass, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007).

2 Abigail Adams: One of the First U.S. Women Investors, https://bumped.com/blog/abigail-adams-one-of-the-first-u-s-women-investors/; “Abigail Adams and Her Financial Investments”, https://worldhistory.us/american-history/abigail-adams-and-her-financial-investments.php

3 To Thomas Jefferson from John Adams, 25 August 1787, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-12-02-0064.

4 “Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance”, https://www.historynet.com/abigail-adams-last-act-defiance/.

5  See generally, https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/martha-washington/ten-facts-about-martha-washington/; https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/martha-washington/keys-fact-about-martha-washington/.

6 Advice to a Young Tradesman, [21 July 1748], National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-03-02-0130.

7 “Cents and Sensibility: Martha Washington’s Financial Papers”, https://washingtonpapers.org/cents-and-sensibility1-martha-washingtons-financial-papers/.

6  See generally, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Corbin

7 “Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance”, https://www.historynet.com/abigail-adams-last-act-defiance/.

8 Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s), National Archives,

9 Financial Advice from America’s Founding Fathers, Kiplinger,

10  “Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance”, https://www.historynet.com/abigail-adams-last-act-defiance/.

11 ”The New Map of Life”, https://longevity.stanford.edu/the-new-map-of-life-report/; “The New Map of Life Full Report”, https://longevity.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/new-map-of-life-full-report.pdf (pp. 45-53).

12 "Abigail Adams, Bond Speculator”, The William and Mary Quarterly Third Series, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Oct., 2007), pp. 821-838 (18 pages) at 824, https://www.jstor.org/stable/25096751?read-now=1&seq=4.