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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rich Dad, Richer Dad

Several things you need to understand: first, I would like to say that I enjoyed every one of the nine books in the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series that I’ve read. Second, I guess you could say I’ve spent a small fortune purchasing these books: I don’t regret one penny. I’ve read a few of them a couple times. And I’ve learned a lot while reading these books, but not everything I learned while reading the books was actually learned from what was written on the pages.

Having read many of the books in Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, I feel that I understand a little bit about how he thinks and works. To start, his series is a set of best sellers that encourage people to do a number of things, mainly get them to start thinking about their financial future. And he is fantastic at what he does: he’s been a motivational speaker in the finance arena since 1985, and has been very successful, amassing quite a large fortune and very valuable name recognition, allowing him to now let others do the work/writing, publish under his name/series, and still make a tidy sum on their sales WITHOUT DOING ANY WORK! You are looking at a man who has practiced what he preached, regardless of whether it was in the area he claims or not.

In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Kiyosaki’s namesake, he tells the story about the difference between his “Rich” and “Poor” fathers. One biological, one philosophical, he tells of his struggle to marry the two concepts of a successful life. While one taught him to go to school, get a good job with great benefits, and work till the day he retires, the other showed him that education was not as important as many people believe, it is ambition that is the key factor of success. Forgotten by many commentators on this series, Kiyosaki is trying to point out that, more important than the education you receive is the ambition you have. Education will only take you so far; it will be your ambition that takes you to the top.

Many people have done great research on Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad”, struggling to find out exactly who the man was that taught Kiyosaki the lessons that so many have now read. Much controversy stems from the fact that there is no clear-cut candidate; it has been suggested he is a wide variety of Hawaiian businessmen, but it has also been suggested he is nothing more than a figment of Kiyosaki’s imagination. Kiyosaki does little to stem the controversy, at times even asking "Is Harry Potter real? Why don’t you let Rich Dad be a myth, like Harry Potter?"(as found in the February 2003 issue of SmartMoney). Peter Carbonara and Joan Caplin claim to have talked to Rich Dad’s son, but does is it really matter? By focusing on what we don’t know, we’re forgetting what we do: Kiyosaki is preaching an excellent message – work hard on making yourself wealthy, and you won’t be dependent on anyone else.

It is also unfortunate that Kiyosaki’s message is missed entirely by many groups of people. It isn’t important how much you make, it matters how you’ve invested your money and how it works for you. Many comment on Kiyosaki’s inflammatory statements regarding diversification and desiring investments outside the stock market. I believe these comments are made more to drive attention and research than actual beliefs, but again, not important.

It is also unfortunate that many people open the book expecting a “How to get rich” list. I think everyone remembers at least one other time everyone bought into the hype (take your pick between two good examples; tulips and tech stocks), the results were not pretty. By avoiding specifics, Kiyosaki avoids the responsibility that comes with half-hearted efforts from people who lack ambition. By writing this story, he does what he has worked to do for many years; provide a source of motivation for people who have the ambition. Read the books for the motivation they can provide (and the few details that can be viewed as absolute truths), but also research what investments are right for you (and research the applicable laws that relate to those investment options, as this is one area that is, unfortunately, not covered as well as it should be).

As he claims in his story, “I’m not a best-writing author, I’m a best-selling author” (Rich Dad, Poor Dad). Don’t get lost in the details of his story; focus on the point of the parable.


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