Financial Fiction Friday #21

Rich Fad/Poor Fad

As the cross-over event of the year, this week’s Fiction Friday will be on Wednesday to briefly discuss the author of one of the standout Personal Finance books of the past four decades.  I plan to do a deeper dive into the yawning chasm between solid, prudent financial advice and “financial guru” advice, and this will be a brief foray into that topic.  

Robert Kiyosaki is one of the co-authors of the book Rich Dad/Poor Dad (published in 1997) which has rocketed him to fame and wealth.  He is viewed as one of the premier financial gurus (by himself certainly) and is unfortunately still sought after for easy headlines and speaking engagements on personal finance and building wealth.  

Rich Dad/Poor Dad has been rated as one of the top personal finance books of all time and spent a total of 6 years on the New York Times best-seller list.  It has undoubtedly been an impactful book for millions of readers.  If you have read it, you know it is filled with stories and anecdotes about money lessons Robert learned growing up from his “Dads”.  

Since being written, the plausibility of these stories being real has been called into question more than once.  I am not here to restart that debate because I don’t think that really matters.  I think of Rich Dad/Poor Dad similarly to the book The Richest Man in Babylon.  They use allegories used to demonstrate simple financial lessons.  Did those stories happen exactly as laid out 4,000 years ago in Babylon? Probably not, but the readers can clean the lessons nonetheless.   Same with Rich Dad/Poor Dad. 

The value of books like this isn’t even in the exact lessons, since most are very basic or tied closely to the time and environment they were written in.  The real benefit is to awaken a fire of interest in the reader to learn more and improve their situation financially.  Both books did this very successfully.  

Where this story (and others) gets disappointing is when we watch these bastions of financial know-how actually live their lives and open their mouths.  Unfortunately, egged on by attention-greedy media for the past few decades, Robert Kiyosaki is an embarrassing dud of a financial coach and a bad attempt at an economist.  

Between seminars and coaching sessions over the years, Robert has charged anywhere from $500 to $45,000 for advice, support, and guidance for individuals willing to pay.  Most of these seminars are glorified real estate scam investing pitches akin to Trump University.  It was reported in 2012 that Robert’s company Rich Global LLC filed for corporate bankruptcy after a court judgment declared it owed Learning Annex (a promoter) $23.7M.  While this doesn’t impact Robert personally, it is a huge black mark on him as a person and businessman.  It is shady to renege on a contract and disappointing that he managed his operations so poorly.  

In recent years, Robert is a staple of unsavory broadcasts and fast-finance print news organizations.  If you need someone to shill for precious metals promotional material, crypto-as-a-savior businesses, or real estate money pits, he is your man.  Like many of the major financial gurus like Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Jim Cramer, or the small-time Fintok/Finsta coaches, there is enough credibility to attract an audience, but not enough to keep them from claiming the “entertainment” copout that would limit them to the ethical boundaries the real financial advisory industry is actually required to abide by.  

If you pay close enough attention, you can watch him contradict himself almost in real-time.  For instance, on his podcast (May 11) he mentions that he feels Bitcoin has no inherent value.  If you read his comments on any pro-cryptocurrency site (example) he sings a different tune.  

Since 2013 he has been predicting all-out armageddon in the stock and bond markets, a collapse of the US dollar, and recommended at every opportunity the massive wealth that will come from gold and silver.  Any investors who have been listening to him are in dire straights.  Over the past decade, silver is -40%, and gold is -3%.  Not only have these been two of the worst investments of the decade but US stocks have been in the longest uninterrupted bull market in history.  

I would recommend leaving the '90s financial gurus in the '90s.  There are plenty of real economists and real financial experts who can provide nuanced and researched positions on how to weather recessions and build your wealth.  

All Fiction