I Finally Read Rich Dad/Poor Dad and Almost Liked It

I used to hate Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad/Poor Dad books. I’ve been really turned off by the promotional seminars and multilevel marketing built up around the book and the concept. And the spin off books also seem less about imparting knowledge and more about making the author wealthy(-er).

You, too, can have this! Buy my book! Buy! Buy! Buy!

I don’t mean to hate on a guy making a buck. Too many people, though, act like consuming a book on personal finance is the same as making progress on their personal finances, and I find that both gross and seductive. Much of the Rich Dad/Poor Dad empire preys on that.

So I’ve long resisted Rich Dad/Poor Dad. But I read it last week.

And, actually, it’s a halfway decent book.

Which is to say, it’s a decent book until you get half way through it and think that it’s decent. Then it turns into a slog where you have the distinct sense that the Kiyosaki is just banging away at his keyboard because his publisher told him that no one will buy a 35-page book.

The first part is great though. The Rich Dad/Poor Dad shtick is pretty good. Basically, Kiyosaki’s biological dad worked really hard, got a great education and was a teacher in public school. He also spent way too much of money and wasn’t terribly thoughtful about it.

His buddy Mike’s dad, on the other hand, dropped out of school in eighth grade and built a business empire in Hawaii. He’s the Rich Dad.

The quick lesson: education doesn’t buy wealth. Feel free to pause here to put your blown mind back together.

Kiyosaki uses his poor dad with the fancy education as a foil to talk about basically all of the attitudes toward consumer spending and budgeting that you read about in virtually every personal finance literature and blogs. He buys too much stuff. He thinks his house is the biggest asset he owns. He doesn’t save enough. His worst financial sin is that he thinks if you work really hard and get a good education, you can just get a large income then you won’t have to worry about money.

Of course, what Poor Dad fails to realize is that he followed exactly that advice – he worked really hard and had a good income and spends a lot of time worrying about money. He is best counterexample to his position

Poor Dad should sound very familiar to anyone who has spent any amount of time around lawyers. A high income – and the trappings of a high income – are not a substitute for a high net worth.

Poor Dad takes a beating. It makes you wonder how Kiyosaki’s relationship with his dad is, now that he’s made a ton of money mocking him.

Rich Dad, on the other hand, is a cross between Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, and Warren Buffet. Through parables and the assignment of inane tasks, he leads the author and his buddy Mike into a greater knowledge of how money works.

Such is the first part of the book.

Then the Rich Dad/Poor Dad lessons fade away and you get a lot of advice on how to build a business empire. It isn’t terribly organized and the writing gets a lot sloppier. I suppose if you want to build an empire it would be good to read. But if you merely want to save a bunch of money so you’ve got financial freedom, it’s less useful.

There’s a lot of advice about how to do deals so that you can afford a Porsche.

This strikes me as just a recommendation for smarter ways to be Poor Dad. The problem with people who want to accumulate things is not just that they go into debt to do it; it’s that accumulating things as a way to find happiness is a fool’s errand. It’s better to not use debt to accumulate stuff you won’t value later, but it’s also bad to just buy stuff for the point of buying stuff.

The Rich Dad in the book gets this. There are great descriptions of how modest his home is, how he lives in a poor neighborhood (so Mike goes to a lousy school), and the threadbare mat on the front porch. Rich Dad doesn’t own a Porsche.

The guy writing about Rich Dad, though, wants you to know he’s winning the stupidly expensive sports car game.

Kiyosaki though, is a smart guy. He knows that a book about thrift will sell as well as one recommending the health benefits of oatmeal.

A book about how to responsibly buy a Porsche though, man, that’s an idea you can build an empire around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *