The three major points of Franklin's The Way to Wealth are the virtues of industry, prudence, and frugality.
In a supposed conversation in which a group of people are complaining about high taxes, Franklin begins by hailing the importance of hard work. In reference to high taxes, he states that “idleness” and laziness exact a much higher tax on an individual’s wealth. He argues against the concept of “leisure” as time that is spent doing nothing. Instead, he states that “leisure is time for doing something useful,” maintaining that the definition of leisure is dependent on the individual and what kind of person they choose to be. He offers the proverb that “a life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.”
In addition to industry, Franklin focuses on a sense of caution and independence in terms of one’s own affairs. He advises doing as much to manage one’s own wealth as possible in order to avoid depending on others who may not, in fact, be trustworthy: “The eye of a master will do more work than both his hands.”
Lastly, Franklin delves into the importance of frugality and the ways that people can be wasteful:
Women and wine, game and deceit,
Make the wealth small, and the wants great.
He urges people to be aware of small expenses that can add up: “A small leak will sink a great ship.” Small unnecessary improvements to clothing, food, and entertainment may seem harmless but will build up into large expenses. He also warns that small improvements merely lead to the need for further expenses, since people always yearn for something better than what they have. Franklin urges readers to strive to spend their money on items they actually need rather than what is “pretty”: “Many a one, for the sake of finery on the back, have gone with a hungry belly, and half starved their families.” He then explains how people who become used to these “fineries” end up in debt, as they think that such fineries are a necessary part of life.