Why Robert Kiyosaki’s Advice Fails To Cure Your Financial Woes
An analysis of Robert Kiyosaki’s advice and why following only that won’t lead to a prosperous financial future.
Me: “It’s all about how you frame it. I don’t tell myself ‘I can’t afford it.’ Instead, I tell myself ‘how can I afford it eventually?’”
“That’s from Robert Kiyosaki. Did you read his book?”
Me: “Yes, several years ago, and you?”
This was an exchange I had with one of the personal trainers at the local gym I go to every weekday. After a particularly long workout, I lingered around and spoke to him and we had an interesting conversation about all kinds of things.
Like myself, he is aspiring to make a business of his own and is passionate and caring about the people he works with. He’s an amazing individual.
And I believe that he will get there. He has the kind of attitude that inspires and pushes you to do more. It comes with the territory of being a personal trainer and helping people to get stronger, lose weight, and build the body they want.
But I know that he won’t get there from the various lessons that Robert Kiyosaki has said over the years. The reason I think that stems from an Instagram post I saw last month.
It inspired me to look at some of the people this post recommended. At the time of writing this, I’ve only researched Carl Rogers and found his work to be quite profound.
And like many other people aspiring to be more, I’ve been exposed to the likes of Napoleon Hill, Bob Proctor, Warren Buffet, Tai Lopez, and…
During those moments when you hear these conflicting stories, it’s difficult to imagine someone who brands themselves as trying to help you would actually be someone who would mislead you.
It’s a problem that I’ve only started to see recently because I’ve stopped trying to take everything at face value. I never read The Secret, but thought it was an alright book considering how many people were singing its praises. Now, I realize how terrible of a book it is.
I’ve listened to a few of Tony Robbin’s seminars and thought he was alright. I’ve even bought one of his finance books which had some good advice that I use (invest in index funds, ignore mutual funds). Little did I know he’s wrapped up in his own messes.
And the same can be said about Robert Kiyosaki. Someone I had an inkling of years ago but haven’t bothered addressing it until now.
It all started when I recall in his famous book Rich Dad, Poor Dad that he looked up to a great business tycoon. He’d emulate this business tycoon when going into negotiations.
The man Kiyosaki would try to emulate during those times was Donald Trump.
A man that has an exhaustive list of deplorable things he’s done as the former President of the United States. But also has a laundry list of failed businesses, a book that was widely misleading, a fraud university, and more.
The two of them even published a book together in 2006 called Why We Want You to Be Rich: Two Men, One Message.
Yeah, sure. Those two definitely want to make you rich.
That curiosity sparked again once I saw that Instagram post and started to look more at Kiyosaki’s work, message, and what he’s been doing over the years.
And while there are some things in his favour, he is not without a lot of concerning things about what he says and what he does.
His Famous Book Has A Flawed Story
Robert Kiyosaki became famous overnight thanks to his popular book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. This non-fiction book outlines how Robert Kiyosaki learned and grew up around two “Dads”. There was his biological father — Poor Dad — who had a way of thinking that Kiyosaki outlined as bad.
Then there was the “Rich Dad” — his best friend’s father. He was poor and eventually went on his way to become the best real estate company in Waikiki Beach and is one of the richest men in Hawaii.
It’s through this Rich Dad that we learn about various pieces of financial advice. Things about mindset, what’s really an asset and liability, the issues with the various systems we have (education, employee mindset, and the lack of financial education).
It all seems sensible on paper when you’re reading it for the first time, but there are some underlying aspects about this book that raise some eyebrows.
One of the most prominent ones is the existence of this Rich Dad he praises so much in the book.
Over the years, Kiyosaki has been dodging questions about this Rich Dad of his, often changing the story every time he is brought up in interviews and in Kiyosaki’s books.
In some cases, Rich Dad is dead. Other times he’s claimed Rich Dad is now an invalid. Other times, Rich Dad was asked to not be identified and that he’s safe.
And in some cases, Rich Dad isn’t a single person but rather multiple ones. Kiyosaki has claimed Rich Dad is a composite character inspired by multiple advisors, including his best friend’s father Dr. Buckminster Fuller — the original “Rich Dad”.
And as researchers from multiple magazines concluded, there are no real estate records of the individual Kiyosaki claimed in Hawaii. Not to mention Dr. Buckminster Fuller isn’t in real estate.
There was only one time when Kiyosaki shared the truth and it was in an interview by SmartMoney magazine, published in February 2003. In the interview when “Rich Dad” was brought up, he gave a sincere answer:
“Is Harry Potter real? Why don’t you let Rich Dad be a myth, like Harry Potter?”
With all of his actions and that answer, it seems to suggest that Rich Dad is a myth. That’s not a bad thing. The Wealthy Barber is a great financial book published by David Chilton.
But the audience knows the Wealthy Barber and the individuals in that book is a work of fiction. Still sound financial advice, but Chilton created imaginary characters to convey his message.
The problem with Kiyosaki is that throughout the book and in the way it was promoted suggests that Rich Dad is a real person.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a non-fiction book. Kiyosaki states several times in the book “this is a true story about my two dads.”
To figure out that Rich Dad — the figure that’s meant to pass on valuable life lessons and sound financial advice across all of his work — is all made up makes you wonder what else Kiyosaki has made up along the way.
His Tactics Don’t Help
I only read through the book once, but even then there were some things I considered unusual about it. Consider the tidbit of information I told the personal trainer.
The keyword to pay attention to is eventually.
Kiyosaki used the same bit of advice that has stuck with me: Instead of saying you can’t afford it, you say how can I afford it?
I tweaked it because in a realistic world — and assuming you’re not using credit cards or loans to pay for stuff — you’ll need to spend a few days or months building your wealth.
It made more sense to say I can’t afford something yet.
But as I’ve been doing research and looking at other people’s thoughts on his work, there are several other issues that come up.
The first is repetition.
Any kind of self-improvement book you’ll find will have some overlaying themes across books depending on the topic. While that’s to be expected, you don’t feel like you’re cheated out of a book. The author can present different angles to the same topic, even if it’s something you read before.
But this becomes an issue if you’re seeing this across multiple pieces of work by the same person.
While I haven’t read any other of Kiyosaki’s books, another has expressed that Kiyosaki has been providing similar advice or the same stories across multiple books. Some of these books leading to present-day where Kiyosaki is still mentioning his old, monotonous, grim stories of how the poor are exploited.
While the rest of the book provides some new ideas, it’s not a good return when half the book is the same story that’s being weaved over and over again.
The second is fear-mongering.
Aside from those stories being repetitive, they also serve another purpose: to instill fear. When I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I wasn’t really afraid as I was looking to grow myself further and would do anything to find some insight into making money.
However, if you were a die-hard fan of Kiyosaki and purchased a lot of his work, then I can imagine you would believe more and more of the picture that he has painted.
A picture that has some chilling views of the world and was underlying across his work.
The backdrop of this is that the financial world is crumbling and is about to collapse into itself. Over the course of his work, Kiyosaki has pointed to two reasons for this:
- Nixon taking the US currency off the gold standard in 1971
- Baby boomers reaching retirement and will deplete the paper asset market by spending their retirement funds and collapsing the entire market.
While Kiyosaki goes into detail about all this, ToughNickel did an analysis of those claims and found these to be false.
Nevertheless, Kiyosaki’s strategies have worked in allowing him to project all kinds of different ideas and theories onto people and people will listen to him.
Even though his advice in Rich Dad, Poor Dad is some decent advice, there is that underlying theme of doom and gloom throughout the story. There is a clear divide between poor and rich in the way they are thinking.
Of course, there is truth to that, but Kiyosaki twists it to an extreme point and people are eating it up regardless.
For example, while there are people who are unsatisfied and sad about work, there is a portion of them who hate being employees. And if you do end up working as an employee you are a loser. A nobody.
The problem with that reality is that every person — be they rich or poor — had some “loser” job at one point. Millionaires and billionaires didn’t get to that point by only settling on million-dollar ideas exclusively.
They had to work and build up from the ground up.
He’s also used this narrative to announce all kinds of things and push various ways to be living your life.
He sees real estate as the sensible option, however, he also expresses how expensive it is. The reality is real estate investing is competitive but not financially demanding. Some consider a $500 budget as a solid start.
His book expressed how MLMs (Multi-level marketing) are the way of the future. Even though MLM in the US hasn’t grown much and they’re inherently flawed and terrible for business.
Kiyosaki has also expressed interest in Bitcoin. Even though you can make insane amounts of money, cryptocurrency investing is basically gambling.
The third is legality.
Yes. Some of his tactics can put you in jail if they were ever applied. One example that comes to mind is one in Rich Dad, Poor Dad. A tactic that he uses to get out of contracts is that he mentions a “subject to approval of my partner” in them.
He encourages people to use this tactic as a good thing but then mentions that his partner could easily be his pet cat.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to get out of a contract what is wrong is implying you have a partner that isn’t human and making business decisions.
Kiyosaki’s cat isn’t able to make reasonable and sound business decisions. What Kiyosaki admitted in his own book is borderline fraud. If he ever did something like this, he is incredibly lucky he wasn’t sued as the judge would no doubt order to see his partner.
Finally is practicality & guidance.
One of the common themes that you’ll find in Kiyosaki’s work is how little he talks about financial freedom. Even though his book is all about being financially free, one thing I can remember after reading that book is the various lines I recalled, but no real strategy.
Kiyosaki praised MLMs, real estate, and being your own boss.
I was in a MLM at the time and was going absolutely nowhere with it.
If I was to get into real estate I’d need to get hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it a reality (or so I thought). I doubt anyone would lend me that kind of money back then.
Being your own boss is a good idea, but I didn’t know much about running a business, how to get started, or anything.
This brings me back to the point of practicality. Kiyosaki is quick to propose some ideas, but there is no step-by-step method. His overall message is:
“Financial doom is coming and his only answer seems to buy more of my stuff. Beyond that, you’re on your own.”
And his pricing for things is nothing but predatory.
The fact most of his work has half of the information spouting the same information over and over again is bad. But asking for $45,000 for real estate “training” is savage.
Especially with those seminars in which he sells this course pressures people to get into them. Often times telling people to increase their credit limit to $100,000 to afford this course.
The seminar leading up to that $45,000 ask isn’t too bad — at about $500 — in terms of pricing for financial advice. But it’s not practical in this context.
You’re spending $500 to be pressured into paying $45,000 on whatever kind of “training” you get.
The last thing you want to get after spending $45,000 on a course from Kiyosaki is Kiyosaki personally using that money to get you some good real estate to start your real estate empire.
There have also been times where Kiyosaki has dismissed some of his advice.
ToughNickel mentions an example where Kiyosaki has found houses valued at rediculous below market prices. Some as low as 72%. Those claims are false as ToughNickel states most real estate market prices are usually around the 20–30% off market price with the occasional 40% in there.
When Kiyosaki was questioned about the errors he immediately dismissed them. He stated that the examples were merely that: examples, not to be taken at face value.
But the problem is Kiyosaki is selling advice. That’s his brand. It says something of the man when he says one thing and dismisses the advice he’s providing in the first place.
His Character Is Hypocritical
You already have an idea of his character from some of the examples above, but there those sorts of themes are prominent in many other areas of his public life.
John T Reed performed an analysis of his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad and we see these themes time and again in several aspects.
One is about his privacy. Kiyosaki mentions that he keeps all of his holdings private. The reason he keeps them that way is lawsuits.
But him mentioning that is very hypocritical. I mean, the guy has been on Oprah, all of his books are best-sellers, and has made appearances on different TV shows, been in interviews with papers and magazines.
He’s even on speaking terms with Donald Trump. Surely Trump only deals with people who have lots of money let alone partner up with him and publish a book together right?
Kiyosaki is clearly living a high life, and yet he’s not going to mention anything because he doesn’t want people to think he has money.
Coming from someone who has a multi-millionaire uncle — whom I won’t mention because he does actually want to be left alone about it — I’m going to say Kiyosaki is doing something wrong if he’s agreeing to be on Oprah and publishing multiple books and selling $45,000 yearly seminars while not wanting to bring up anything about his life.
It sounds familiar…. like a particular individual's tax returns… A particular orange fellow’s tax returns…
But another interesting one was his guidance on ABC’s 20/20. The premise of the show is that three people are given $1,000 each and were asked to start a business and show a profit within the next 20 days. Kiyosaki was asked to guide these three individuals — presuming to be using his own tactics and lessons he’s mentioned in his books.
The end result of this was as follows:
- One person lost all the money.
- The second made no profit.
- The third made a $243 profit.
Even though you wouldn’t expect to double or triple your investment in that period of time, it says something about Kiyosaki and his coaching. Kiyosaki has been in this get-rich-quick business for decades and yet he was only able to help one person make a small margin of profit while the other two bombed.
It also doesn’t help his case much when the ABC reported that Kiyosaki was nothing short of useless. He’d whine about the entrepreneurs, the short time frame, amongst other things.
But despite that, he announced that all three of them were a success. The reason: “Because they learned from the experience.”
Sure, Kiyosaki. But the premise of all those books is that they would help to succeed. One would also think that being guided by Kiyosaki himself would lead you to success.
The ABC 20/20 story ends with an apt question:
“Which begs the question: Does anyone really need 18 books to learn to fail?”
He Only Hits The Mark Seldomly
Ultimately his advice only hits the mark on occasion. As much as this article has been tearing into Kiyosaki and everything he stands for, I do have to give him some credit where it is due.
The 18 books that he has published have some enticing titles that can rope you in.
And there are also some solid points made in Rich Dad, Poor Dad too.
His explanation in great detail what an asset and liability actually are is big. I’m familiar with the terms thanks to my accounting background, but others don’t have the attention span to handle those types of courses. Having a basic explanation and tying it to your personal life was a good thing.
I also agree with the idea that schools train people to be good workers but not necessarily people who are able to operate small businesses or look for other means of making money beyond working for someone else.
I also agree that many people are financially illiterate and the amount of financial education within our current systems is abysmal.
But there are many times where he misses the mark and that he’s predicted poorly.
His reliance on that doom and gloom story is one such example. From that viewpoint, he’s been calling out crashes for years. In 2018 he predicted the stock market would crash.
He also made headlines amongst others in 2015, and in 2011.
In 2011, there was a dip, starting with a bear market before hitting a decline of 21.58%. Hardly a crash compared to 2008.
There was an actual crash in 2015 though, but not in the US. The China stock market suffered massive volatility that resulted in a crash.
And in 2018, there was another crash but it occurred in the cryptocurrency markets.
His predictions were nothing short of stirring fear and doubt into people.
There is also his attitude in investing when he does provide some advice. Aside from having one of his seminars pressuring people to increase their credit limit to $100,000, we see some other examples in his writing. Rich Dad, Poor Dad mentions a strategy to get into real estate is to buy options. You pay a small fee to purchase the house and you can subsequently turn around and sell the house for a higher price before the option expires. The problem with that strategy — and paying for that $45,000 training — is that there are risks to that.
Kiyosaki masks this as an opportunity to make a much greater potential return, but it’s misleading. Not everyone is a master wordsmith that can convince someone to buy a house at that much.
Kiyosaki doesn’t believe in risk. Not with a motto of “go big, or go home.” And that’s troubling when he’s claiming to be helping the poor. People who are vulnerable and need a more sensible and gentler approach.
His Company Went Bankrupt
While bankruptcy is an aspect of a business, it’s another thing when your entire brand is built around finding success and making lots of money.
But what’s even more damning than that is the reason Kiyosaki filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The company — Rich Global LLC — was weight down by paying a lawsuit that was filed by Learning Annex. Learning Annex was one of the early backers who helped Kiyosaki arrange his public speaking platform.
The arrangement was Learning Annex would provide means of promoting his seminars — the free ones that would lead to the $500 training and the $45,000 training. In return, he’d give them kickbacks from those earnings.
The arrangement was sensible until Kiyosaki decided to say no. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t get his pet cat involved to weasel out of the contract and was slapped with a $23.7 million bill to pay.
What’s sad about this is the fact that the arrangement was percentage-based. Meaning that whatever money Kiyosaki made, he’d simply be making less per person.
For a man who preaches about success and wants to guide people to make money, he lost his business in the worst possible way one can imagine.
In the end, Kiyosaki is one of the hundreds of people that behave this way. His well-known presence reveals that these tactics are everywhere and they’re not going to be going away.
People have lost their lives to people like him and many others and there are many reasons for that. Kiyosaki promises success and people will take it the first chance they got.
I know this because I bought his book for that reason.
But after reading that book and reflecting on it now, I feel the same kind of way that others would experience from these kinds of individuals.
No real direction. A few tidbits of financial advice that don’t amount to much. And regret.