One of the best-selling financial books of all time, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad is a tour de force of simple but powerful advice for improving your financial position. From suggestions for how you can approach investing from the standpoint of generating cash flow rather than incurring debt to ideas for reframing your thought processes regarding wealth as a whole, the book offers a comprehensive program for boosting your financial IQ.
In this review, we’ll take a deep dive into the principles behind Rich Dad Poor Dad to provide a detailed summary of the ideas that have made the book such a sensation in recent years.
The Essential Idea of Rich Dad, Poor Dad
There’s a lot unpack in evaluating Rich Dad Poor Dad, so rather than waiting until the end of the review to reveal the essential wisdom Kiyosaki imparts, we’ll do it at the start. This way, you can take your time to read the various sections of the review, instead of rushing to reach the “punchline.”
What is the book’s essential idea? Others may have their own take on this, but ours is that it is the idea that too many people fail to dedicate the necessary amount of time and thought to taking care of their money—investing it, saving it, planning what to do with it, etc. As Kiyosaki sees it, we spend a tremendous amount of time throughout our lives working for a paycheck—8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for many of us. But how much time do we spend thinking about what to do with the money we make? For many people, the answer is very little.
This inattention means that many people never get their money to work all that hard for them. Maybe they save a bit here and there and manage to scrape by in retirement, but that certainly seems like a suboptimal way to approach such an important financial landmark. Kiyosaki recommends a much more ambitious approach to financial planning, as this review will cover. He suggests aggressively investing some portion of a person’s savings to try and create enough wealth that the income you generate from your savings is enough to allow you to achieve financial independence—enabling you to quit your job if you choose to.
Whether a person decides to follow Kiyosaki’s guidance for building wealth or take a more traditional approach, his core message remains—treat your investments as seriously as you do your job if you want to make your money work as hard as possible for you. This could mean doing extensive research into growth investments such as stocks, certain types of real estate, private equity, etc., or looking into the tax and investment benefits of permanent insurance, whether whole or universal life insurance, or fixed or variable annuities, especially those offering guaranteed life payments.
While these investment and insurance products may be more complex than a bank CD or money market or mutual fund, the benefits they offer from a tax and investment standpoint can make them well worth any extra due diligence you perform. Using Kiyosaki’s formula, anyone looking to improve their financial position should be willing to devote both the time and the funds to finding and investing in financial products and approaches that can significantly boost their wealth over time.
In Rich Dad Poor Dad he points out what he sees as the major flaw in the way many people think about money: where he sees a person’s income over and above their expenses as being a step in the process of creating another salary—one that can ultimately outstrip your salary at work—many people see this extra money either as discretionary cash to spend or money to set aside for the future without thinking too much about what they can do to make their money work for them.
…many people see this extra money either as discretionary cash to spend or money to set aside for the future without thinking too much about what they can do to make their money work for them.
So, there you have it. The “rich dad” of the book understands that making your money work for you requires significant effort but offers the potential of generating enough wealth to allow a person to live off their savings. The “poor dad,” on the other hand, doesn’t save enough to invest for such a purpose and, even if he did, doesn’t understand the concept of taking the time and doing the due diligence necessary to look for superior investment opportunities to make your money really work for you.
It’s a powerful message, and one that should resonate with anyone looking to save and invest their money in a way that will support their ability to be, or become, financially independent. In the sections below, we’ll take a deeper look into exactly how Kiyosaki came to his conclusions and dive into the details of his advice for saving, investing, and managing your finances.
The Story Behind the Story: Kiyosaki’s Real-Life Journey to Riches
To tell any story well it helps to have lived it—or some form of it. Robert Kiyosaki’s tale of how to find the path to financial well-being (and significant wealth) benefits from his having lived a life which encapsulates the principles he describes. Thus, the ideas he relates are not just theoretical, Kiyosaki and his mentor put them to work in real life to earn themselves substantial fortunes. This background makes the financial and investment approach outlined in the book ever more powerful.
As Kiyosaki tells it, his journey to wealth began when, at a young age, the father of a friend, his rich dad, taught him the principles which underlie the book. Throughout the book, his rich dad acts almost as an “adopted” father as he tutors Kiyosaki and his own son in the ways of building wealth or, more accurately, living your life in a manner designed to create wealth rather than waste it.
Kiyosaki’s poor dad is his biological father, a well-educated, well-meaning man who, nevertheless, didn’t understand the principles of accumulating wealth successfully. Kiyosaki’s father believed in working at a stable job, playing it safe when investing, without focusing on the impact of taxes or borrowing on his financial situation. His rich dad, on the other hand, had a keen understanding of the deleterious impact of taxes and debt on an individual’s ability to create wealth.
His rich dad, on the other hand, had a keen understanding of the deleterious impact of taxes and debt on an individual’s ability to create wealth.
Before he taught the two boys such sophisticated techniques as how to avoid debt or use it in your favor and how to reduce your tax load, rich dad focused on imparting character-building lessons. By doing so, he helped inculcate in the youngsters’ habits that would serve them well financially throughout their lives.
What were those lessons? Read on for a detailed look at the tips and techniques for improving your financial situation found in Rich Dad Poor Dad.
How the Rich Approach Money
Kiyosaki’s friend Mike’s dad is said to be good with money, so the two kids at age nine ask him to teach them to be rich. He says they will have to work for him, and if they do, he will show them. Kiyosaki’s dad, the poor dad of the book, is a schoolteacher who doesn’t think about trying to be rich, he just likes to teach and really doesn’t know how to make his money work for him.
After slaving away in a convenience store making ten cents an hour, both boys are fed up with the job. When he tells his friend Mike that he is ready to quit, Mike says his dad said that that is when he was told to take Robert to go talk to his dad. The young Kiyosaki tells rich dad that he is quitting because the man hasn’t kept up his side of the bargain and taught him how to get rich.
Rich dad responds by telling him that teaching isn’t just through lecturing. People are taught through life pushing them around. Some get the message and improve from it, but many don’t learn. They quit and never amount to anything, while those who learn the lesson that life pushing them around is a sign for them to fight and find a better way are those who become wealthy; those who give up every time life pushes them around will end up playing it safe and never amounting to much.
…the lesson that life pushing them around is a sign for them to fight and find a better way are those who become wealthy
Mike and Robert are the only people who asked rich dad how to make money instead of just asking for a job, so rich dad let life push them around doing menial work to teach them a lesson. When Robert blames rich dad for exploiting him by paying him so little, rich dad says if you blame someone else for your problems you will never learn how to change to overcome them. Instead, if you accept responsibility, you can change yourself, which is easier than changing someone else. To solve the problem, rich dad explains that you must change what is between your ears—the mind inside you. Poor dad always said study hard and get good grades to be successful, but he struggled financially all his life while rich dad became one of the richest men in Hawaii.
The lesson is this: don’t work for money, have your money work for you.
By showing he was angry at working for only 10 cents an hour, the author showed rich dad he was worth teaching, as the passion he showed is necessary to learn. Most people want to play it safe with money—but being passionate about making it is necessary to avoid the trap of playing it safe and ending up like poor dad, who makes good money but still can’t pay the bills because he hasn’t learned the trick of having money work for you. Robert’s dad went to school and learned to work for money, rather than the other way around. People are so afraid of losing money or not making it, Kiyosaki writes, that they can never achieve financial freedom. They work for money, but unlike the rich, pay too much in taxes and are, like poor dad, up to their eyeballs in debt. So rich dad tells the kids: “I will now pay you nothing because you will learn from me how to not work for money.” Instead of a raise, Robert began to work for nothing but knowledge.
“The rich don’t work for money. Their money works for them.”
People who react emotionally to fear of not having money and get greedy about what they can spend that money on, Kiyosaki writes, let their emotions rule them and as a result they never do well with money in life, often just scraping by and then making do with a skimpy pension. Fear of not having money drives them to take any old job. Or they get rich but don’t enjoy it because they fear losing it.
Rich dad wants to teach the two kids to master the power of money, instead of being afraid of it. This is the only way you can avoid becoming a slave to money. Don’t deny your emotions about it, he says, but observe them—don’t let them take control. They don’t teach this in school. He wants you to avoid the trap of fear and ignorance related to money. People use fear and ignorance against themselves, he wants them to use them for themselves. Don’t just chase a paycheck because of fear and desire, without seeing the bigger picture of where it is taking you.
Ignorance (of how money works) intensifies fear and desire. Once you stop searching for information and self-knowledge, ignorance steps in. CPAs are important, Kiyosaki says, but they kill great businesses by only thinking of costs and the bottom line. He says learn to use your emotions to think, not think with your emotions. By agreeing to work for free, the boys had mastered their emotions. According to Kiyosaki, confronting fear, weakness, and neediness by choosing our own thoughts is the way out of ignorance and slavery to money.
The Importance of Financial Literacy
Mike took over his dad’s empire in 1990, while Kiyosaki retired at age 47, which for him does not mean working but that he can choose when he wants to work. This happens when your assets are large enough to grow by themselves, like a tree you water until it can grow by itself. If people keep an open mind and learn, he says, they can grow richer despite changing times and new challenges.
Money without financial intelligence does not last. Many millionaires end up poor.
“It’s not how much you make,” Kiyosaki writes. “It’s how much money you keep.”
Kiyosaki tells people if they want to get rich, they need to be financially literate. The school system does not provide a good foundation for building your financial health. Mike and Robert were taught accounting by rich dad, and it has served both well.
Rule #1, according to Kiyosaki, is to know the difference between an asset and a liability and buy assets. Rich dad says:
“Rich people acquire assets. The poor and middle class acquire liabilities that they think are assets.”
To become rich, it is essential to understand what an asset is and acquire them. An asset is something that puts money in your pocket, while a liability does exactly the opposite. If you want to be rich, you must read and understand numbers. More money won’t solve problems if you don’t understand cash flow, according to Kiyosaki. Educated people leave school without becoming financially literate. They work hard but never get ahead and don’t know why because they don’t understand cash flow.
An asset is something that puts money in your pocket
Higher income causes higher taxes. People ask how to make more money not understanding that the problem is how they choose to spend the money they do have, because of financial illiteracy. People fear doing something different than others, so they play it safe and don’t take risks and so never get ahead. A person may be highly educated, professionally successful and financially illiterate. Many financial problems, Kiyosaki writes, are caused by trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Mike and Robert sat in on meetings with rich dad, who told him, “An intelligent person hires people who are more intelligent than he is.” Robert argued with his poor dad when he said that your home is your best investment. Sinking money into your primary residence poses opportunity loss and there are taxes to pay on it. Also, when you invest in a house as your primary residence, you lose the experience you would gain investing elsewhere.
Poor dad’s expenses match his income, so he can never buy assets, thus his liabilities are greater than his assets. The middle class struggles because as income increases so does their taxes and their expenses, so they never get ahead in “the rat race.” They treat their home as their main investment and thus don’t make other investments. According to Kiyosaki,
…the philosophy that a pay raise means that it’s time to buy a bigger house or spend more is the foundation of the modern debt-ridden society.
People’s only source of income is often their paycheck, so they play it safe with mutual funds and can’t take a risk when a real deal comes along, because they don’t have the cash flow to do so—because they are taxed to the max and are loaded with debt. The most important rule, he stresses, is to know the difference between an asset and a liability. Buy assets and keep your expenses down to keep building up your assets.
The most important rule, he stresses, is to know the difference between an asset and a liability.
Once your asset base is deep you can look at more speculative investments. Most people work for the company, rather than owning it; they work for the government by paying taxes, and work for the bank by having mortgage payments. Working harder just benefits these three institutions, Kiyosaki, writes, so it’s better to find a way to have harder work benefit you and your family directly.
Wealth is the measure of cash flow from the asset column compared with the expense column.
If your cash flow covers your expenses, then you can build from there. If you quit your job today and could cover your expenses with income from assets, you can consider yourself financially independent. From there, Kiyosaki advises, keep adding to your assets and your wealth will continue to grow.
Put Your Own Business First
The rich, Kiyosaki writes, focus on their asset columns while everyone else focuses on their income statements. Financial struggle, he states, is often the result of working all your life for someone else.
People confuse their profession for their business. They may work as a banker, but they don’t own the bank. People study to become something in school and then become that thing. They spend their lives minding someone else’s business and never mind their own, which revolves around their asset column. They want to get a raise, but this doesn’t help unless it goes to assets. However, the problem is most of the poor and middle class are financially conservative, making it hard for them to get ahead.
When layoffs come, they find their house and car payments are eating them alive. Without job security, they have nothing left to fall back on. To avoid this scenario, he advises people to keep expenses low, reduce liabilities, and build a base of solid assets. People buy a house, have kids, and live a lifestyle that leaves them trapped in debt for many years, then, when the last kid leaves the house, they realize they are not prepared for retirement.
Rich dad encouraged him to buy assets that he loved because if he didn’t love them, he wouldn’t take care of them. He buys buildings, and stock in small companies with good potential upside. He explains that he started small with real estate and worked his way up. Only if you have a real passion to own your own business does he recommend it, as 9 out of 10 startups fail. Otherwise, he says, keep your day job and focus on growing your assets.
To keep your asset column strong, Kiyosaki says, “Once a dollar goes into it, never let it come out.” As your cash flow grows, you can indulge in luxuries. An important distinction, he reveals, is that the rich indulge in luxuries last, while the poor and middle class tend to buy them first. The poor and the middle class buy luxuries that make them look rich but, in reality, what they are doing is just going deeper in debt by using credit.
How the Rich Deal with Taxes and Corporations
The knowledge of the legal corporate structure enables the rich to keep taxes down, giving them a big advantage over the poor and middle class. The people who lose in this game, Kiyosaki says, are the uninformed, who don’t know the way the system works. Unlike the poor and middle class, the rich can hire attorneys and find ways to avoid paying taxes. For example, Section 1031 allows you to avoid paying taxes on real estate sales by moving into a new property. Corporations are the biggest secret of the rich. Kiyosaki worked for Xerox and invested money in Hawaii real estate as it boomed, in less than three years, he was making more money in his real estate holding company than he was at Xerox. Using the lessons from rich dad, he was able to get out of the Rat Race at an early age.
He was helped by his financial IQ, which is made up of: accounting; investing; understanding markets; the law (corporate tax advantages, protection from lawsuits).
Creating Money with Financial IQ
Often in life, Kiyosaki says, it’s not the smart that get ahead, but the bold. He encourages people to take risks. Developing your financial IQ allows you to prosper by knowing when to be bold. Financial IQ is about having more options, so you can seize an opportunity when it comes along. It helps you create your own luck.
The single most important asset we all have is our mind. If trained well, it can help you create wealth. He advises investing in your financial intelligence so you won’t be left behind and can prosper in the information age. Putting away money every month is one way to go but may blind you to the ability to take advantage of a good opportunity when it comes along. For instance, Kiyosaki took advantage of a slump in Phoenix real estate in the early 90s to buy houses there at foreclosure and then sold them as the market recovered for a substantial profit.
Should you work hard, pay 50% of income in taxes, and then earn 5% on your savings which is also taxed, he asks, or take the time needed to develop your financial intelligence and harness the power of your brain and the asset column?
He uses real estate and small cap stocks for financial growth. Real estate is the foundation, small caps are aimed at fast growth. He does not recommend that others copy him—these are just examples. If an opportunity is too complex for him to understand, he doesn’t do it.
Secure investments are often so sanitized that only small gains result. If your financial intelligence grows, more opportunities are available to you because it becomes easier to tell what is and what isn’t a good deal.
His overall philosophy is to plant seeds inside the asset column. Some grow, some don’t. He starts small and hopes to build up. He buys high risk small stocks, often startups, under the philosophy that it is not gambling if you know what you are doing. There is risk, but financial intelligence improves the odds.
For the average individual, setting up a passive income of $100,000 per year is a nice objective and one that is not necessarily hard to achieve. Depending on the market and how hard you work, Kiyosaki writes, it could be accomplished in 5 to 10 years.
He loves real estate because it is stable and slow moving.
“Great opportunities are not seen with the eyes,” Kiyosaki writes. “They are seen with your mind. Most people never get wealthy simply because they are not trained financially to recognize opportunities right in front of them.”
Once you learn the rules and vocabulary of investing and begin to build the asset column, Kiyosaki writes, it is as fun a game as you can ever play. You will learn by making mistakes. Make sure to have fun while you are doing it. Most people never win because of their fear of losing. Being terrified of losing keeps most people from becoming rich. They should realize that mistakes are part of the game. Winners, he writes, are not afraid of losing. Failure is part of the process of learning what it takes to achieve success.
2 Types of Investors
According to Kiyosaki, there are two types of investors: the first type goes to a brokerage and buys a packaged product such as a mutual fund or a REIT. The second type creates investments. They assemble investment like a person puts together components to make a computer. This second type of investor is more professional. It may take years to put all the pieces together and it may never happen, but this is what rich dad encouraged him to be.
To be the second type of investor, he writes, you need three skills:
- Find an opportunity that everyone missed.
- Raise money. Don’t let lack of money stop you from making a deal.
- Organize smart people. Find people who are smarter than you are for advice.
There is a lot to learn, Kiyosaki admits, but the rewards can be great. What you know is your greatest wealth, what you don’t know is your greatest risk. There is always risk, so he recommends learning how to manage it rather than avoiding it.
Working for Knowledge Rather Than (Just) Money
Job security was all poor dad wanted, Kiyosaki says, while learning was everything to rich dad. Many very skilled, talented people struggle financially. They are one skill away from great wealth. Financial intelligence is a mix of four skills, Kiyosaki believes, and when it comes to money most people know only to work harder. Most try for skill specialization, but rich dad said you want “to know a little about a lot.”
Thus, Kiyosaki quit a good paying job for Standard Oil to fly in the Marine Corps to learn to lead people, then he worked at Xerox to learn to sell. Educated dad was horrified but rich dad was proud of him. Most people work for pay and benefits that reward them in the short run but are disastrous in the long run. Education, in his view, is more valuable than money in the long run. The world is filled with talented poor people who are great at one specialization but don’t have the other skills to be financially successful.
Kiyosaki identifies the main management skills needed for success as:
- Management of cash flow
- Management of systems
- Management of people
The most important specialized skills are sales and marketing; the ability to sell is the base skill of personal success.
Communication skills are crucial to a life of success. Educated dad worked harder as he became more competent. He also became trapped as he became more specialized. His salary rose but his choices diminished.
The better you are at communicating, negotiating, and handling your fear of rejection, the easier life is. Kiyosaki has friends who are brilliant but can’t communicate well so they earn little. The most important law of money is this—give and you shall receive. His educated but poor dad said when I have extra money I will give, but there was never any extra.
Dealing with Fear of Failure
The primary difference between a rich person and poor person, Kiyosaki says, is how they manage fear. He identifies five main obstacles preventing financially educated people from developing the asset base to provide them with significant cash flow as follows:
- Bad habits
It’s okay to feel fear about losing money. To learn to win, he writes, you must learn to handle failure. Starting to invest at a young age can be helpful in this process, as it gives you plenty of time to improve. Take your failures and let them inspire you to turn them into successes.
For winners, failure inspires winning, so they don’t fear losing. He says the biggest reason 90% of the American public struggles financially is that they play it too safe. They play not to lose rather than playing to win. Thus, they go to a financial planner and build a balanced portfolio, but while this may be better than those who do nothing, if you want to build wealth you need to be focused not balanced. Those who have earned great wealth, Kiyosaki states, did not start off by being balanced. Put a lot of your wealth in a few eggs and focus to start. Losers avoid failing but it is failing that can turn losers into winners.
The cynic, like Chicken Little, lets fear and doubt impede his or her financial vision and clog the mind. These fears create noise inside a person’s mind that clouds their thought processes and makes it hard to make good investment decisions. He uses real estate as an example of this, because when prices dipped, he was able to buy while some he knew were too scared to purchase at what turned out to be rock bottom prices. Doubts and cynicism keep people poor by causing them to play it safe and miss good opportunities. The rich dad said that cynics criticize while winners analyze. He cites the example of Colonel Sanders who lost his business at age 66 and then started up Kentucky Fried Chicken and became a millionaire.
Busy people, he says, are often the laziest because they use being busy as a way of avoiding things they don’t want to face. For instance, they work hard and neglect their marriage. Or they neglect their health by working too hard. A little greed, he says, can help overcome laziness.
Rich dad forbade the words, “I can’t afford it.” Instead, he would say, “how can I afford it?”
The lazy mind says I can’t afford it. It causes sadness, while “how can I afford it?” opens up possibilities and generates excitement. A little greed can motivate you to do what needs to be done to improve.
To overcome poor dad’s condition of paying his bills first and usually not having anything left for himself, rich dad suggests paying yourself first as a way of overcoming the bad habits that could lead to a person not making enough to set aside something for the future. By paying yourself first, you learn to work harder or smarter so that you can always make enough to pay your bills and still have funds to set aside for your own investments.
Rich dad says what you don’t know loses you money. When you are arrogant and think you know what you don’t know, you are likely to lose money. Many people use arrogance to hide their own ignorance. When you know you don’t know enough about a subject, use education to teach yourself about the subject.
Tips for Awakening Your Financial Genius
Getting started is akin to riding a bike. It takes determination to get through the inevitable wobbling that accompanies the learning process. To find great deals requires unleashing the financial genius that lies within us all. However, our financial genius often lies asleep, he says, since our culture has trained us to believe that money (rather than the love of) is the root of all evil.
The message of our society is work hard, spend money, and if you need more you can always borrow it, and depend on the government or the corporation to care for us.
This message hurts us and our kids, who find out it is not true. 90% of the Western world believes in this financial dogma, he says.
Instead, we need to break free from the old paradigm and embark on a new way of thinking.
Kiyosaki’s Top 10 Financial Tips
We’ll close this review with the ten tips Kiyosaki offers in Rich Dad Poor Dad to awaken his readers’ financial genius. He also says that reader can use their own financial genius to develop their own list if they are so inclined. These are the 10 tips he has followed himself.
- Find a reason greater than reality: the power of spirit. If you don’t have a strong reason or purpose, anything in life is hard. Find your purpose.
- Make daily choices: the power of choice. Our spending habits reflect who we are. Poor people make poor spending choices. Invest in education, the only real habit we have is our mind. Most people just buy investments first rather than starting out by learning about investments. Choose to be rich by investing in education.
- Choose friends carefully: The power of association. You can learn both from your friends who have money and those who don’t. Learn what to do from those who are successful and what not to do from those who aren’t. Having successful friends can help you via access to information that can be valuable to you.
- Master a formula and then learn a new one: The power of learning quickly. Be careful of what you learn because that is what will determine what you do. Most people learn to work hard rather than learning how to invest intelligently. As technology brings about change in the ways things are done, the formulas for making money change too, so be prepared to learn new formulas rapidly.
- Pay yourself first: The power of self-discipline. Personal self-discipline, he believes, is likely the main factor separating the rich from the poor. If you don’t have it naturally, it is one of the hardest traits to learn. To start a business, or to manage any personal business, the three things you need to manage are cash flow, people, and personal time. When it comes to finance, having the self-discipline to pay yourself first is vital to success. By putting aside money to build assets, you force yourself to work hard or smart enough to make enough money to pay your expenses without foregoing adding to your assets. To do this, it is imperative to have the self-discipline to avoid consumer debt and other such traps that make it difficult to pay yourself first.
- Pay your brokers well: The power of good advice. In the information age, the power of good information is very valuable. If your broker is making good money off of you that likely means you are making good money. You might sell your home yourself or research investments yourself but doing so costs time and we all know that time means money. He recommends finding a broker who has your best interests at heart. One who is not just a salesperson.
- Be an Indian Giver. The power of getting something for nothing. Look for investments that don’t just give you back your money, but also offer a bonus that enables you to earn a significant ROI.
- Use assets to buy luxuries: The power of focus. Don’t use debt to buy luxuries you can’t afford. Instead, develop the self-discipline to build up your assets and then use the cash flow they provide to purchase luxuries.
- Choose heroes: the power of myth. Find heroes who make investing look easy and emulate them to help boost your results.
- Teach and you shall receive. The power of giving. Whatever it is you wish to receive, whether money, sales, etc. first give it away, it will then come back to you in a spirit of reciprocity. Teach so that others can teach you.