There is a Need
Does school prepare children for the real world? “Study hard and get good grades and you will find a high-paying job with great benefits,” my parents used to say. Their goal in life was to provide a college education for my older sister and me, so that we would have the greatest ch made the learning of these two subjects both fun and exciting. The process was so well disguised that while we were diligently working to get out of the “Rat Race,” we quickly forgot we were learning.
Soon a product test turned into a fun afternoon with my daughter, talking about things we had never discussed before. As an accountant, playing a game that required an Income Statement and Balance Sheet was easy. So I had the time to help my daughter and the other players at my table with concepts they did not understand. I was the first person-and the only person in the entire test group-to get out of the “Rat Race” that day. I was out within 50 minutes, although the game went on for nearly three hours.
At my table was a banker, a business owner and a computer programmer. What greatly disturbed me was how little these people knew about either accounting or investing, subjects so important in their lives. I wondered how they managed their own financial affairs in real life. I could understand why my 19-year-old daughter would not understand, but these were grown adults, at least twice her age.
After I was out of the “Rat Race,” for the next two hours I watched my daughter and these educated, affluent adults roll the dice and move their markers. Although I was glad they were all learning so much, I was disturbed by how much the adults did not know about the basics of simple accounting and investing. They had difficulty grasping the relationship between their Income Statement and their Balance Sheet. As they bought and sold assets, they had trouble remembering that each transaction could impact their monthly cash flow. I thought, how many millions of people are out there in the real world struggling financially, only because they have never been taught these subjects?
Thank goodness they’re having fun and are distracted by the desire to win the game, I said to myself. After Robert ended the contest, he allowed us fifteen minutes to discuss and critique CASHFLOW among ourselves.
The business owner at my table was not happy. He did not like the game. “I don’t need to know this,” he said out loud. “I hire accountants, bankers and attorneys to tell me about this stuff.”
To which Robert replied, “Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of accountants who aren’t rich? And bankers, and attorneys, and stockbrokers and real estate brokers. They know a lot, and for the most part are smart people, but most of them are not rich. Since our schools do not teach people what the rich know, we take advice from these people. But one day, you’re driving down the highway, stuck in traffic, struggling to get to work, and you look over to your right and you see your accountant stuck in the same traffic jam. You look to your left and you see your banker. That should tell you something.”
The computer programmer was also unimpressed by the game: “I can buy software to teach me this.”
The banker, however, was moved. “I studied this in school-the accounting part, that is-but I never knew how to apply it to real life. Now I know. I need to get myself out of the `Rat Race.’ ”
But it was my daughter’s comments that most touched me. “I had fun learning,” she said. “I learned a lot about how money really works and how to invest.”
Then she added: “Now I know I can choose a profession for the work I want to perform and not because of job security, benefits or howmuch I get paid. If I learn what this game teaches, I’m free to do and study what my heart wants to study. . .rather than study something because businesses are looking for certain job skills. If I learn this, I won’t have to worry about job security and Social Security the way most of my classmates already do.”
I was not able to stay and talk with Robert after we had played the game, but we agreed to meet later to further discuss his project. I knew he wanted to use the game to help others become more financially savvy, and I was eager to hear more about his plans.
My husband and I set up a dinner meeting with Robert and his wife within the next week. Although it was our first social get-together, we felt as if we had known each other for years.
We found out we had a lot in common. We covered the gamut, from sports and plays to restaurants and socio-economic issues. We talked about the changing world. We spent a lot of time discussing how most Americans have little or nothing saved for retirement, as well as the almost bankrupt state of Social Security and Medicare. Would my children be required to pay for the retirement of 75 million baby boomers? We wondered if people realize how risky it is to depend on a
Robert’s primary concern was the growing gap between the haves and have nots, in America and around the world. A self-taught, self-made entrepreneur who traveled the world putting investments together, Robert was able to retire at the age of 47. He came out of retirement because he shares the same concern I have for my own children. He knows that the world has changed, but education has not changed with it. According to Robert, children spend years in an antiquated educational system, studying subjects they will never use, preparing for a world that no longer exists.
“Today, the most dangerous advice you can give a child is `Go to school, get good grades and look for a safe secure job,’ ” he likes to say. “That is old advice, and it’s bad advice. If you could see what is happening in Asia, Europe, South America, you would be as concerned as I am.”
It’s bad advice, he believes, “because if you want your child to have a financially secure future, they can’t play by the old set of rules. It’s just too risky.”
I asked him what he meant by “old rules?” .
“People like me play by a different set of rules from what you play by,” he said. “What happens when a corporation announces a downsizing?”
“People get laid off,” I said. “Families are hurt. Unemployment goes
“Yes, but what happens to the company, in particular a public company on the stock exchange?”
“The price of the stock usually goes up when the downsizing is announced,” I said. “The market likes it when a company reduces its labor costs, either through automation or just consolidating the labor force in general.”
“That’s right,” he said. “And when stock prices go up, people like me, the shareholders, get richer. That is what I mean by a different set of rules. Employees lose; owners and investors win.”
Robert was describing not only the difference between an employee and employer, but also the difference between controlling your own destiny and giving up that control to someone else.
“But it’s hard for most people to understand why that happens,” I said. “They just think it’s not fair.”
“That’s why it is foolish to simply say to a child, `Get a good education,’ ” he said. “It is foolish to assume that the education the school system provides will prepare your children for the world they will face upon graduation. Each child needs more education. Different education. And they need to know the rules. The different sets of rules.”
“There are rules of money that the rich play by, and there are the rules that the other 95 percent of the population plays by,” he said. “And the 95 percent learns those rules at home and in school. That is why it’s risky today to simply say to a child, `Study hard and look for a job.’ A child today needs a more sophisticated education, and the current system is not delivering the goods. I don’t care how many computers they put in the classroom or how much money schools spend. How can the education system teach a subject that it does not know?”
So how does a parent teach their children, what the school does not? How do you teach accounting to a child? Won’t they get bored? And how do you teach investing when as a parent you yourself are risk averse? Instead of teaching my children to simply play it safe, I decided it was best to teach them to play it smart.
“So how would you teach a child about money and all the things we’ve talked about?” I asked Robert. “How can we make it easy for parents especially when they don’t understand it themselves?”
“I wrote a book on the subject, ” he said.
“Where is it?”
“In my computer. It’s been there for years in random pieces. I add to it occasionally but I’ve never gotten around to put it all together. I began writing it after my other book became a best seller, but I never finished the new one. It’s in pieces.”
And in pieces it was. After reading the scattered sections, I decided the book had merit and needed to be shared, especially in these changing times. We agreed to co-author Robert’s book.
I asked him how much financial information he thought a child needed. He said it would depend on the child. He knew at a young age that he wanted to be rich and was fortunate enough to have a father figure who was rich and willing to guide him. Education is the foundation of success, Robert said. Just as scholastic skills are vitally important, so are financial skills and communication skills.
What follows is the story of Robert’s two dads, a rich one and a poor
one, that expounds on the skills he’s developed over a lifetime. The contrast between two dads provides an important perspective. The book is supported, edited and assembled by me. For any accountants who read this book, suspend your academic book knowledge and open your mind to the theories Robert presents. Although many of them challenge the very fundamentals of generally accepted accounting principles, they provide a valuable insight into the way true investors analyze their investment decisions.
When we as parents advise our children to “go to school, study hard and get a good job,” we often do that out of cultural habit. It has always been the right thing to do. When I met Robert, his ideas initially startled me. Having been raised by two fathers, he had been taught to strive for two different goals. His educated dad advised him to work for a corporation. His rich dad advised him to own the corporation. Both life paths required education, but the subjects of study were completely different. His educated dad encouraged Robert to be a smart person. His rich dad encouraged Robert to know how to hire smart people.
Having two dads caused many problems. Robert’s real dad was the superintendent of education for the state of Hawaii. By the time Robert was 16, the threat of “If you don’t get good grades, you won’t get a good job” had little effect. He already knew his career path was to own corporations, not to work for them. In fact, if it had not been for a wise and persistent high school guidance counselor, Robert might not have gone on to college. He admits that. He was eager to start building his assets, but finally agreed that the college education would also be a benefit to him.
Truthfully, the ideas in this book are probably too far fetched and radical for most parents today. Some parents are having a hard enough time simply keeping their children in school. But in light of our changing times, as parents we need to be open to new and bold ideas. To encourage children to be employees is to advise your children to pay more than their fair share of taxes over a lifetime, with little or no promise of a pension. And it is true that taxes are a person’s greatest expense. In fact, most families work from January to mid-May for the government just to cover their taxes. New ideas are needed and this book provides them.
Robert claims that the rich teach their children differently. They teach their children at home, around the dinner table. These ideas may notbe the ideas you choose to discuss with your children, but thank you for looking at them. And I advise you to keep searching. In my opinion, as a mom and a CPA, the concept of simply getting good grades and finding a good job is an old idea. We need to advise our children with a greater degree of sophistication. We need new ideas and different education. Maybe telling our children to strive to be good employees while also striving to own their own investment corporation is not such a bad idea.
It is my hope as a mother that this book helps other parents. It is Robert’s hope to inform people that anyone can achieve prosperity if they so choose. If today you are a gardener or a janitor or even unemployed, you have the ability to educate yourself and teach those you love to take care of themselves financially. Remember that financial intelligence is the mental process via which we solve our financial problems.
Today we are facing global and technological changes as great or even greater than those ever faced before. No one has a crystal ball, but one thing is for certain: Changes lie ahead that are beyond our reality. Who knows what the future brings? But whatever happens, we have two fundamental choices: play it safe or play it smart by preparing, getting educated and awakening your own and your children’s financial genius. – Sbaron Lecbter
Rich Dad, Poor Dad