Rich Dad Poor Dad

January 3rd, 2015

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki front cover

Robert Kiyosaki grew up with two dads. His highly educated biological “Poor Dad” was superintendent of the Hawaii State Department of Education, worked his way through life and never seemed to get ahead. His “Rich Dad”, the father of his best friend, dropped out of high school and later became a highly successful businessman.

Kiyosaki attributes much of his success to the business-related teachings of Rich Dad, and returns to these throughout the book. There has been some controversy about the existence of Rich Dad, as allegations directed towards Kiyosaki, as well as conflicting explanations by Kiyosaki himself, point to Rich Dad being a figment of the author’s imagination. Whether a real-life mentor or a fabrication provided to propel the story, there are useful messages to draw from this book.

One of Kiyosaki’s mantras is “Work to learn, not to earn” — working to improve your financial literacy as opposed to getting paid in money — and using your acquired knowledge to figure out ways of having money work for you through investing, flipping real estate, etc. Such behavior doesn’t come without financial risks, and Kiyosaki’s road to riches involves a willingness, even an eagerness, to take such risks. Most of us work for our employers, then the government (through taxes), then the bank (through fees), then ourselves. Kiyosaki argues that we’d be well-served by flipping that model on its head.

Another takeaway is to not follow the path of "go to school, study hard and get a good job” that society has prescribed for us, and to question everything. When people tell you, "you can't buy real estate here. It's too expensive," instead of thinking "I guess not", think "I don't know how to do that...yet."

Kiyosaki shows great enthusiasm for the subject, but as the book progresses, there are noticeable shifts in writing style. It goes back and forth between being a page-turner of a relatable story and becoming more of a stream of consciousness, with lots or short sentences and near-incoherent thoughts about this and that. He starts to come across as a fast-talking salesman, hurting both the narrative and his own credibility, and repeats the same points using the same words. Later in the book, when recounting a botched interview with a newspaper reporter, he describes himself as “a terrible writer”, and while I wouldn’t go that far, the book would have benefitted from another pair of critical editorial eyes. The author is best when weaving the teachings of Rich Dad — made-up character or not — into a narrative, so it’s unfortunate that the text becomes uneven when he focuses more on the technical stuff.

I was struck by Kiyosaki’s interesting view on money. Upon reading statements such as "$75,000 for two months' work. It's not a lot of money" and "a passive income of more than $100,000 a year is nice, ” I wonder if Kiyosaki’s years of success may have jaded him. At least to me, $75,000 is a substantial amount, and $100,000 on the side is a lot more than “nice.”

In conclusion, my recommendation would be to take Kiyosaki’s advice with a grain of salt, and perhaps temper Kiyosaki's sales pitch by reading Helaine Olen's Pound Foolish, appreciating his enthusiasm and drive more so than the specific ways he goes about utilizing them.