Author of "Rich Dad Poor Dad", Robert Kiyosaki TalkAsia Interview
Airdate: February 26th, 2005
LH: Lorraine Hahn
RK: Robert Kiyosaki
LH: Welcome to TalkAsia. I'm Lorraine Hahn. Most people worry about how to make ends meet. Well, our guest Robert Kiyosaki is doing what he can, to change that.
In his debut book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", he used semi-autobiographical anecdotes to showcase how a 9-5 job does not necessarily guarantee security. And gave examples of how he learned to make money, work for him. The book struck a chord with readers, selling millions of copies and topping the New York Times Bestseller's list. And the "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" franchise, was born. Since then, he's released a series of books, audiocassettes, television info-mercials, and board games. And travels the world as a motivational speaker. The underlying mission is the same - to help people improve their financial literacy.
So let's get some insights from the man himself. Robert - thank you very much coming here and stopping by. I'm so interested to find out really really why do you think 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' created such a storm?
RK: Well I think it's controversial first of all, because my 'poor dad' was the, you know, a PhD, head of education, candidate for Lieutenant governor as a republican in Hawaii. (LH: Ouch) He always said the same things that most of us had heard, "Go to school, get good grades, get a job, work hard, get out of debt, save money, buy a house". And as we know in America today, that's not the formula. And my 'rich dad' was my best friend's father -- also from Hawaii -- and he taught me how to have money work hard for me, so I didn't have to be a hard-working man like my poor Dad.
LH: Right, you didn't do too badly, I mean I read you flunked out of...what, English? (Robert laughs) I was going to say school, but you flunked out of English. You consider yourself not a very good writer, correct?
RK: That's correct, I flunked out of high school twice because I couldn't write. And it's ironic that I would have one of the five books in the world that has been on the New York Time's Bestseller list for over four years now. It's unheard of (LH: That is amazing). So I'm going to call up my English teachers and say, "See?" (LH: See. Lorraine laughs)
LH: Now the first time, you had to print the first few copies of your book, right?
RK: Right, 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' was turned down by most publishing houses because again they said, "You can't write," and because I can't spell and my grammar is incorrect, yet it is the way we speak. So there's a difference between the way a person writes and a person speaks. So I write like we speak and it's exactly as the way my rich dad talked to me. So I think that's one of the reasons for success is I'm not trying to impress any literary critic, I'm trying to communicate with the masses of people, money.
LH: So that is why you would say the average person picked up your book could sort of relate to it then? (RY: Yes, yes) Do you think?
RK: And the intellectuals in the world really don't like my book because I kind of make fun of them, you know? (LH: Right) Because they're like my poor dad
LH: How did you come up with this financial mantra of yours -- was it courses that you took, was it just you know trial and error?
RK: It's a true story. My rich dad began teaching his son and me when I was just nine years old, growing up in Hawaii. And my, it was really tough as a kid because here's one dad saying, "Go to school, and get good grades and get a job," and here's my rich dad saying, "You wont get rich that way and you have to start your own companies, learn to invest in real estate and then learn how to take companies public through an IPO". So the education was completely different from my poor dad and my rich dad, and I think that's why today we have such a gap between the rich, middle class and the poor.
LH: But Robert, it's not so easy. I mean if you say, "Don't save money, you know, buy stock or you know, start up your own company, use other people's money to invest", I mean it's tough to get money from banks, it's tough to get people to believe in you as you I'm sure well know...I mean...
RK: The reason it's tough is there's three kinds of education: There is scholastic, which is reading and writing -- which I didn't do well at -- there's professional, whether you become a doctor or a journalist, and three is financial. And the reason it's tough is because most people may be good at school, may be good professionally, but they've never had a good financial education. If you have a good financial education you don't need money because you have a financial education. You know, I walk into my bank and my bank likes me because you know I show them my financial statements and all this, and my financial statements are my report card. As my rich dad often said my banker has never asked me for my report card yet. My banker doesn't care if I had good grades, my banker doesn't care if I have a high paying job, my banker wants to see my financial statement simply because the bank wants to see my financial I.Q. If I can take a dollar and turn it into 100 dollars, my bank will give me all the money I want, so will the stock market. But if you're a financial idiot, you know they don't care if you went to Harvard they're not going to give you any money (LH: True, true, true)
LH: Some of your critics would argue though that some of the situations you've written about really could never happen and that you might be leading some of these novice investors on, what do you say to that?
RK: Well, first of all it takes no experience to be a critic, you know the world is full of critics and I ask those critics, "Have you sold 20 million copies of a book so far? Are you a multi-millionaire? Have you taken a company public? Have you invested in real estate?" I think one of the things about 'Rich Dad Poor Dad,' the reason it works is I'm not writing about stuff, I'm not an academic writing about things I've never done. What I write about are real life experiences. I've actually taken companies public, I've actually busted companies, I've actually gone broke. You know, I've been in the dirt with everybody else. I've had to come up again, so I'm not this academia or some critic who hasn't done anything in their lives but can sit there and criticize. It takes no experience to criticize (LH: It's easy to do that, isn't it? RK: Oh yes)
LH: How much of the book is real -- based on real stuff, and how much is based on something made up?
RK: It's 100%. The lessons are (LH: Real?) 100%. The story of me taking toothpaste tubes melting them down, at 9 years old, and turning them into coins and making lead nickels. Until my Dad taught me that's called "counterfeiting". Oh, I'm 9 years old you know, I'm a little kid. And my rich dad did teach me to be a real estate investor playing monopoly. Whereas my poor dad -- the school teacher -- said, "Put that silly monopoly game away, go back to school, get good grades and get job". And my rich dad would tell me, "Monopoly is...the formula for great wealth is found in monopoly". And we all know the formula to play a great game -- four green houses, 1 red hotel. And I'm like, "Is that all it takes?" And he says, "Yeah". So the difference was my rich dad was actually playing monopoly in real life, so I would go with him -- starting at the age of 9 -- and I actually saw what looked like his 'green houses', they weren't green but he says, "These are my green houses". Then by the time I was 19 -- ten years later -- my rich dad bought a major chunk of Waikiki Beach, he had the 'red hotel' right in the middle of Waikiki Beach. So in ten years I saw him go from nothing to one of the richest men in Hawaii. Meanwhile my poor dad is saying, "You should go back to school, get your masters degree and PhD". And I'm going, I'd rather have the red hotel!
LH: Mr. Kiyosaki, we're going to take a very short break. More with Robert Kiyosaki just ahead.
LH: Welcome back to TalkAsia and our conversation with Robert Kiyosaki. Most people know him as the author of bestseller "Rich Dad, Poor Dad". But prior to that, Robert was already a successful entrepreneur and had already retired-at just 47.
Now you were raised in Hawaii, you mentioned that briefly, but when you made it rich you never went back, did you?
RK: The big mistake was I went from...in 1965 I went to school in New York, and then from New York I traveled the world on ships throughout the world, and so it was tough to go fit back in the small mentality of Hawaii. I mean, Hawaii is beautiful, but the world is full of beautiful places.
LH: Now you went to school, you went to the Military Academy, you joined the marines, you were in Vietnam. Any of this training helped you at all in terms of where you are today and how you think?
RK: That's a great question, I went to Vietnam twice. I think the thing I learned most was to overcome my fears because most people are poor -- not because they are not smart -- most people are poor or struggle financially because they're fearful of losing. So the marine corp. really did teach me to conquer fear, and then to go for higher causes, higher purposes.
LH: When did you make you first dollar, can you remember?
RK: Oh yes, that's in 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' - aged 9 - and my poor Dad says the way to get rich is to make money. So I took him literally and that's when I started melting down lead and actually pouring, you know, making coins and that's when my dad...(LH: And then he said that was counterfeit, right?) RK: That's counterfeit, I went, "What? You can go to jail...But I didn't mean to!"
LH: So, that's what he said, that was the only advice? Did he sort of see the entrepreneurial talent coming in slowly at that time?
RK: It kind of was, but that's when he turned me over to my rich dad, because my rich dad was an entrepreneur. My rich dad and my poor dad really did not like each other, but they did respect each other and there's a difference. Because my poor dad was a schoolteacher, very smart man, but more socialistic and my rich dad was a capitalist. So it's a classic story of socialism versus capitalism. And I think I'm more like my poor dad, I am more a schoolteacher, I'm more an educator. So once I've made my money, that's when I wrote 'Rich Dad Poor Dad', because the one thing I didn't like about school was a lot of times you could talk about theories, but the person had no real life experience. So I'm writing from real life experience what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
LH: And when do you think your career in business really took off?
RK: When I lost my company. Something you may remember was those nylon and Velcro surfer wallets, well I started that business, (LH: Yeah, they are still around by the way). I started that business in 1975. It was my first major major world business -- international. And I was in my 20s -- late 20s, and my friends, my two partners and I were just these punky kids, you know, and we became millionaires and all this money and fame poured in on us. But the trouble is it went straight to our heads and the big mistake we made was that just because your income goes up, it doesn't mean your IQ goes up. In fact a lot of people when their income goes up their IQ goes down. And that happened for my two friends and I -- we were single guys who bought porches and Mercedes, and then we started dating fast women and soon the money was gone. (LH: And that was the high life right there, right? RK: Yes, I recommend it highly, although I lost everything, I lost the company - it was a lot of fun)
LH: Yeah, and it consumed you, right?
RK: Yes. I mean I was so embarrassed. You know, I lost my investor's money, I went from being the 'Wonder-boy' to just 'The Boy'. You know, from a rock star to just a rock. It was horrible. But my rich dad said, "Congratulations". My poor dad said, "That's bad because you failed". But my rich dad said, "Congratulations because most entrepreneurs will lose one or two companies in their lifetime and just learn from it."
LH: Right and you were very poor right, you lost everything, right? I mean you and your first wife at the time were poor?
RK: Yeah, we were gone. We were wiped out. So it was the best lesson, it was how to get out of debt using no money paying off all my investors. And I actually, so that experience was the best thing that ever happened to me because I became a successful entrepreneur after that. Not a flash in the pan, not a playboy, not a glamour boy and all that stuff.
LH: So, how did you make the comeback-briefly? How did you pick up the pieces you know?
RK: Well, you know how most people say, "It takes money to make money?" That's not true I didn't have any money. So my rich dad then said, "There's three kinds of money: There's competitive money, there's cooperative money and there's spiritual money". So he says, "You are trying to compete, but you're not good at it". He says, "Learn to cooperate". So when you look at the shares of stock, stuff like that, that's cooperative money. So at that point I stopped competing, I put together a consortium, built another business -- with no money -- and I was out, it took me a year and a half.
LH: Wow, now with all the trading, business speaking -- everything you do -- where does the true passion lie, for you?
RK: My true passion lies, and I think our school systems need to start teaching young people about money. In America today, more young people declare bankruptcy because of credit cards, than graduate from universities. And every time I talk to schoolteachers and say, "Why don't we teach money in school?" They say, "Oh, that's not important, not important" -- but I've never seen a schoolteacher turn down their pay cheque yet, you know what I mean? And whether we're rich or poor, smart or stupid, we're all going to use money -- so why don't we teach people about money?
LH: When you finally did make it big, was your father around to see first hand with his eyes, how well you've done?
RK: Well my father was around to see me recover, and he was proud of me for that. But when it came to money, you know, he was really upset with me because he could see me learning more towards my rich dad than the college professor. He thought I had gone the way of the devil, you know, people think if you're rich you are evil (LH: Yes). But that's a real poor person's mentality. There are evil people poor and rich, it doesn't make any difference (LH: Right, right) -- politicians are some of the worse, but anyway, you know what I mean? Money is just money. It's how you earn your money and what you do with your money that makes you evil or a good person.
LH: Now, what was the biggest lesson he taught you -- your real dad?
RK: To be socially responsible. My poor dad, my poor dad and my mom had a peace core for South East Asia - so Malaysia, Sabha, Sarawak, Philippines, and stuff like this. So I noticed that in our family, when I was in high school -- that's when they were in the peace core with John Kennedy's peace core. That's the happiest our family ever was -- that's spiritual money. See when you're doing what you are supposed to be doing, you feel good about what you're doing. Like many people who are religious, very religious. Like my sister is a nun, she's spiritual, she dedicates her life -- she's one of the only women ordained by the Dalai Lama (LH: Wow). She is the happiest person I've met. And I've met people who are very rich, but they are doing it just to make them money and I don't think they are happy at that point. So it's ironic that when I wrote 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' it wasn't to make money, I just sort of felt it was what I was supposed to do. (LH: Right -- you never though it would get so far, did you? RK: No, no...) So I feel good about the money I make, but I feel better about the number of people that say, "It's helped me, I've turned around". So, my rich dad's lessons are actually funneled through my poor dad's lessons, because I'm more a schoolteacher than a rich man -- there are people a lot richer than me (LH: Right well, not me!)
LH: We're going to take another very quick break. Just ahead on TalkAsia- What's Robert's financial outlook, for the future.
LH: Welcome back to Talkasia and our conversation with Robert Kiyosaki. He's the author of bestseller "Rich Dad, Poor Dad". But what does he do when he's not busy helping people find a way to make money, work for them?
What do you do when you're not working when you're not thinking about what do to when you're not IPO-ing...
RK: My life is business, I start companies, I am an entrepreneur, I invest in real estate and I'm on the sales side of the stock market. In other words when an IPO comes out -- like Google and all that, those guys would sell and those I'd buy. The poor and middle-class are the buy side and the rich are on the sell side. So it's one of the things I teach people, if you're going to play the stock market and if you're smart enough play the sell side, don't play the buy side.
LH: Now looking at the global landscape, we obviously see China, you know coming up into the picture. We've got spiraling oil prices, things don't look really that great, right? What worries you the most these days in this environment?
RK: Well, first of all, you know, I'm investing in China because that's where you're supposed to be. I was there before the WTO and all that stuff. When I was investing in China everybody was in dot-coms, which was too stupid -- but anyway, they were there. And I'm invested heavily in oil. So, see something that is bad for somebody is good for the other person, and that's what an investor really does. You know, Hong Kong, was the best time to invest in Hong Kong was when the SARS epidemic, you know what I mean? So that's what an investor does. People call us opportunists; I call myself smart. So that's kind of the difference there. And that's what I have to say to people -- well, why am I in China? Because that's the future. But my biggest concern is America is broke. And America today -- if not for China and Japan -- America would sink, you know, financially go down. I think so many people are counting on the stock market and the federal governments to take care of them financially as well as medically, that America is the biggest detonation in the world. And I don't care who the president is -- whether Republican or Democrat, they can't save it (LH: Right). So America is on a collision course for disaster right now, and that's the worry. If America goes down, China, Japan, Europe goes down with it (LH: That's the worry), that's my concern.
LH: I mean for those listening out there what do you think is the first step to financial literacy?
RK: I think one you have to decide whether you are going to be poor, middle-class or rich. As many people will say, "I'll never be rich". Well, they are toast. Other people say, "All you have to do is have a good, safe, secure job and go to school" -- that's the middle-class viewpoint. And the rich are taught to own your own businesses, invest in real estate and take companies public. So it's a matter of what choice you want to make. And what I always say to people is inside each of us, there's a poor person. You know, there's a poor person inside of me that's real poor. You know I go to the store, "Ok, is Evian cheaper than brand x?" or "What's on sale today?" (LH: Right). That's the poor person talking. And the middle class person saying, "I need security, I need security, don't take risks". And then the rich person says, "To hell with it, you know, I'm going to take this risk I'm going to learn I'm going to get educated, I'm going to surround myself with smart people and I'm going to play the game". So inside all of us is three people, three people, and your choice is which one wins.
LH: What has been your best investment advice?
RK: My best investment advice was from my rich dad was to make mistakes. He said that if you want to get ahead you have to make more mistakes than your competition. So, most people, you know their culture is, you know I don't care where you are in the world, the educators sort of think mistakes are bad. But if you look at the way we truly learn, we learn by making mistakes. I learnt to walk by falling down and standing up, I learned to ride a bicycle by falling down standing up, I learned to be a pilot by going down a couple of times and coming back up again. So, we learn by trial and error. Except our families and our school systems teach us that mistakes are bad. Whereas if you look at it, the reason that people aren't successful is they haven't made enough mistakes yet (LH: Or they haven't learnt form their mistakes, right?) That's correct, or they pretend they haven't made them "I don't make any mistakes", or they say "I'm always right" and they lose.
LH: What is your main message to people when you address them?
RK: I think that money is a very important subject. You know, when somebody says, "Money's not that important," or the best one is, "Money doesn't make you happy". I say, "You must be a very unhappy person". You know, because I am happier when I have all the money I want. Money buys my lifestyle; it buys my freedom. I can travel the world I can work if I don't work. So I think it's to be more honest with yourself about your relationship with money. So if you are saying the rich are evil, then that's your world that's your reality. If you say you can't afford it, guess what, you're a poor person. My rich dad often said the difference between poor people and rich people, the poor always say, "I can't afford it" more than rich people do. I think the worst thing of all is people who hoard money, you know they save, save, save you know, live below the...live cheap (LH: Yep). So they actually make money God to them -- they worship their bank account. And I'm going, "Why would you want to live below your means?" (LH: And you can't take it to the grave, can you?) No, I have my Bentleys, my Ferraris, my Porsches, beautiful life, beautiful house, financially responsible and I love money, I love what money buys me. But I'm also responsible about it. But to live below your means, oh my god! (LH: God forbid). My wife calls me Imelda Marcos. So I say to people is you have to be true to yourself, if you like living below you means and worshipping money - have a good life. But, I'd rather make a lot of money and have a great life.
LH: Is there a happy medium between rich dad and poor dad?
RK: Yes, I think the thing is to be true to yourself. I've never made more money when I started being my poor dad and teaching people. Up until that time I always thought didn't like school and I didn't like teachers and all this. But in my heart ten years ago -- 1994 when I retired -- the question is, "What am I going to do for the rest of my life, I've already made enough money?" And at that point, the answer came -- I would not be rich unless I help other people get rich. I'm not saying that everybody needs to follow what I say. All I'm saying is that's just what I needed to do -- was to teach people what my rich dad taught me.
LH: Well, we appreciate you coming by and sharing that with us. Thank you very much
RK: Thank you
LH: Investor, entrepreneur, educator and author Robert Kiyosaki. And that is TalkAsia this week. Be sure to check out our website at cnn.com/talkasia for upcoming guests. And you can let us know who you'd like to see on the show. That address, email@example.com. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Lorraine Hahn. Let's talk again next week.