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Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids about Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not is a straight-forward assessment of what Robert believes separates the rich and the poor: financial education.
I enjoyed this book for its ease of reading and simple analysis. I didn’t walk away convinced that the only difference between the rich and poor is financial literacy, but Robert does present a strong case for this opinion.
Even if not as easy as presented, there is no scenario where improved financial education would harm anyone, especially individuals living paycheck-to-paycheck or those struggling to escape “The Rat Race” as Robert calls it. This is the life-race that forces you to work until you’re 67-years old, if you’re lucky, and along the way, you accumulate more and more debt so you have to work longer and longer hours until this lifestyle is so habit forming you have no choice but to work a job your entire life. You become imprisoned to a life of servitude: living only to work instead of making money work for you. This is viewed as “normal.” Robert’s book recommends a different approach to life; what many label “financial independence.” I’m sure this is where everyone aims to be at one stage, but unfortunately, not everyone can say they have reached this goal just yet.
Education Alone isn’t an Escape Plan from the Rat Race
“Children spend years in an antiquated educational system, studying subjects they will never use, preparing for a world that no longer exists. … To encourage children to be employees is to advise your children to pay more than their fair share of taxes over a lifetime, with little or no promise of a pension.”
Written in 1997, Robert’s book accurately forecasted the circumstances of the average college graduate in 2017: over $37,000 in average student loan debt for individuals and over $46,000 in student loan debt for households. Student loan debt is just one of many reasons Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression.
This reality is contrary to what many Millennials and Xennials were lead to believe; that a college education was a gateway to financial security and the middle class. Perhaps, if ever this was true, it may have been in the past. This is not the case in the present, and likely will not be the case in the future without major changes. One such change: improved financial literacy is not what college was originally designed for.
College was and still is mostly dedicated to providing you with information — relevant or otherwise — and preparing you to be an employee for 2/3 of your life. It does this well. What it does not do is teach you how to become a financially independent adult who can properly manage their money and debt, which would be nice, considering college debt accounts for over $1 Trillion Dollars of household debt in the U.S. To date, college is still designed to maintain the status quo: producing (well-educated?) employees.
“When it comes to money, the only skill most people know is to work hard.”
To overcome this limitation, Robert’s book presents two alternate realities as taught to him by his two dads: “Rich Dad” and “Poor Dad.” The Rich Dad is not his real father but that of a close childhood friend. He is not traditionally or even college-educated, yet he provides Robert with the foundation for achieving financial independence, thinking for himself, and ultimately, a pathway to riches. His well-educated “Poor Dad” — despite all his degrees — encourages Robert to pursue the status quo. Get a good education and then a good, secure job with a pension and a career ladder to climb. This dad ends up educated but poor, while the father who emphasizes the understanding of money, entrepreneurship, and the continuation of independent learning and non-traditional thinking winds up ‘rich’.
“The sad truth is, great talent is not enough. I am constantly shocked at how little talented people earn.”
Rich Dad Poor Dad
“Money is one form of power. But what is more powerful is financial education. … If you work for money, you give the power up to your employer.” To reach financial independence and expand your financial literacy, Robert presents a 6-step lesson plan:
- The Rich Don’t Work for Money
- Why Teach Financial Literacy?
- Mind Your Own Business
- The History of Taxes and the Power of Corporations
- The Rich Invent Money
- Work to Learn–Don’t Work for Money
“I would say that one of the hardest things about wealth building is to be true to yourself and be willing to not go along with the crowd.”
For many of us, lessons 4 and 6 are the most difficult to process because they are such a departure from what we have been taught all of our lives. We have been traditionally educated to believe that the stepping stones to social mobility in America are a good education; a good job; and eventually, retirement. We’ll assume this was once true since it is what our educational system is based on, but our current-day forecast offers overwhelming evidence that a 9-to-5 alone will not support a one, two, or family household, especially if no one within that household has ever been taught how to manage money or make money work for them during their lifetime.
Another recommended departure from the traditional route is to break away from a false sense of security. “When it comes to money, most people want to play it safe and feel secure. So passion does not direct them. Fear does.”
Despite the evidence that a job no longer guarantees financial security in life or retirement, the security provided by traditional work remains popular because it lulls us into a false sense of low-risk. This feeling is not incorrect.
A guaranteed paycheck does offer security, however, it is not a pathway to financial independence. Instead, as noted in the book, a steady-check creates a reality where employers pay just enough salary to keep people from quitting and workers work just hard enough to keep from getting fired. Thus, both parties are content, but neither party is happy (or even providing their full potential). This is a sad state of affairs, yet it is the route most individuals will follow if they are unaware of an alternative. You can choose to be excited about taking control of your own ability to make more money, or you can spend your years hoping your current employer deems you worthy of a livable raise.
Why Improve Your Financial Literacy?
“Most people don’t [want to learn about money]. They want to go to school, learn a profession, have fun at their work, and earn lots of money. One day they wake up with big money problems, and then they can’t stop working. That’s the price of only knowing how to work for money instead of studying how to have money work for you.” = The Rat Race
To escape The Race, Robert presents the solution of flipping your “income sheet.” In this scenario you make assets work for you to generate the cash flow needed to support the lifestyle you desire rather than accumulating liabilities to create the illusion of the lifestyle you want people to think you can afford. Roberts presumes most individuals faithfully follow the latter approach because they do not truly understand the difference between their cash-generating assets (like stocks, bonds, real estate investments, etc.) and their debt-generating liabilities (like the cost of homeownership). This lack of financial literacy only further cements individuals in the Rat Race.
I like the book for its ease of presentation of these choices through the storytelling advice given by Robert’s Rich and Poor Dad’s throughout his childhood. Ultimately he chooses to follow the advice of his ‘Rich Dad’ in his teens. It is this choice, and the decision to continuously improve his financial education throughout his lifetime, that Robert attributes to setting him free on the path of riches and financial security versus settling for The Rat Race like some of his friends still choose.
It’s okay to be fearful of change. It is not ok to allow fear to keep you complacent and unhappy. Rich Dad Poor Dad is a good book that should offer encouragement to readers. It presents the case that with the right set of financial tools and education, anyone who is willing to take calculated risks can escape. Robert does not encourage you to quit your day job. In fact, he recommends, “keep your daytime job, be a great hard-working employee, but keep building that asset column,” to escape The Rat Race. This gives the sense that the choice to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck struggle is an individual one, but it a choice that is well within our own control to change.
“Often in the real world, it’s not the smart that get ahead but the bold.”