Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Secrets of The Rich

In my previous post on confirmation bias I derided religious folk in general and network marketers in particular for pulling the wool over their own eyes. You might wonder why I care so much.

In the early fall of 1997 I left San Francisco—after living there for only a year—and moved to Phoenix. I had recently lost all interest in writing music, and I was faced with working in a career that I had basically fallen into by accident. On a whim in a Borders one day I picked up a copy of a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad. It had a profound effect on my psyche. Given the book’s success, as well as the continued success of the Kiyosaki franchise, I was obviously not alone in that regard. Kiyosaki’s book was—is—full of promises of an easy way out—out of the “rat race”… out of “wage slavery”… into “early retirement” and “financial freedom.” All you need, according to it, is the right attitude, some “financial intelligence,” and some “assets” that give you “passive income” (“let your money work for you, instead of you working for money” is a platitude endlessly and unhelpfully repeated throughout Kiyosaki's works) and your success and induction into the ranks of “the rich” is assured.

Even after only one semester of Accounting in college (in which I got a C) I realized he was using the terms “assets” and “liabilities” incorrectly. There were other seemingly minor things about the book that bothered me (I should have seen his endorsement of MLMs as entirely destructive of his credibility, for example). Nonetheless, enamored with the idea that becoming wealthy is actually easy, filled with foolish enthusiasm, and determined to “leave the rat race,” I embarked on a mission to “learn the secrets of the rich” and then to become rich myself—even though I hadn’t the slightest clue how to go about it.

I’ll discuss a few of the details of that crazy ride (ultimately to enlightenment—or, at least, wisdom) in upcoming posts. For now I just want to admit the extremely embarrassing fact that the allure of Kiyosaki’s message and his endless promises to reveal “the secrets of the rich” (if you only buy his next book, or tape set, or attend his next seminar…) held me in sway for several years, effectively counteracting my usually healthy and alert skepti-sense. In fact, its grip on my mind was tight enough to keep a hold of me for several months after I stumbled onto John T. Reed’s guru ratings page, and read his probing and comprehensive analysis and refutation of Rich Dad Poor Dad.

All told—and this is painful to admit—I must have spent well over $500 on Kiyosaki crap, all of which promised and none of which offered any significant content beyond what little he had already covered in Rich Dad, and all of it repetitively feeding that unfocused enthusiasm and burning desire to “leave the rat race” with “passive income” and thus join the ranks of “the rich.” It was as I was reading his third book, Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, that I suddenly got the distinct and very disturbing impression that I was, in fact, reading Neo-Tech, instead. An odd sensation came over me. I guess that was the moment when I could no longer continue to lie to myself.

At this point I find it very disheartening to visit Blogs and discussion forums filled with people who are currently in thrall to Kiyosaki’s brand of snake oil, because I know that they are—like I once was—unwilling to face the reality that making money quickly (especially a lot of it) is inherently difficult and risky. That it often requires extraordinary talents or proclivities. And that, as the name “work” implies, it is not usually very much fun. Had Kiyosaki been honest in his books, those would have been the “secrets of the rich.” Of course he wouldn't have sold quite as many books that way—another “secret” of the rich being “give the people what they want.”


Solan said...

I've read Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad myself, and was initially inspired. Some of his advice are helpful, but those pieces of advice are really just the ones that are common sense anyway. The rest is - well, hokum.

He should be credited with waking me up from my slumber through his fictional course in economics, though. The best part were his fictitious childhood memories, and his advice (that he contradicted in other parts of his book) to save/invest first, and only spend from the part of the money that remained. That helped me curbs some seriously dysfunctional spending habits and close some seriously heavy credit cards.

But aside from that initial wake-up call, Kiyosaki's advice are a messy nuisance. Read Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett instead.

Einzige said...

I know exactly what you mean by the "wake up call." I obviously had a similar epiphany.

Too bad it didn't just end there.