Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rich Dad and Belligerent Author (book review)

This week is something different. Instead of a novel, I'm reviewing a self-help book. It's supposedly non-fiction but I have doubts about that.  My own dad (whom I consider both "educated" and "rich") recommended it to me years ago. It's only now that I've gotten around to reading it. My opinion of it is mixed.  Kiyosaki  certainly has good advice but it's buried in a bunch of junk.

A lot of the stuff here is simple stuff: keep expenses low, be careful when buying luxuries, always watch for opportunities, etc. Beyond simple it's obvious, but still stuff that should be taught and especially with young people, like teenagers. If they have a credit card and no income (whatever it may come from) then they're going to have problems settling their debt at the end of the month. This kind of advice is likely to be met with a "duh" from adults. It's good advice but it's also basic stuff.

I'd say the most useful and unique thing here is something espoused in an early chapter: he says that there's a difference between "being poor" and "being broke". The former is permanent because it's a state of mind and the later is temporary because it is not. "Being rich" is not possessing a great deal of money but is also a state of mind. It's a matter of intelligence, rebounding from failure, and thinking creatively. It's too bad he doesn't focus more on this aspect.

Kiyosaki writes in a engaging voice. It sounds like the author is talking through the page. Combined with his frame narrative and it becomes an easier read then you would think something like "financial literacy" would be. Personally, I think he wanted to write fiction but called it non-fiction in order to market it to adults.

The first two points, while good in and of themselves, contribute to the bad points. There is outrageous arrogance in this book. It's in both Kiyosaki'a narration and the scenes with his idolized "rich dad". Both of them go on and on about the above simple and basic advice like it's revolutionary and they're among a rare and elite handful that understand it. He repeats it over and over again, which sounds condescending. He also repeats how wealthy and successful he is due to these lessons, which could be bragging and/or pleading with the reader to continue reading.

There's also a matter of fictionalization. His "rich dad" is never identified, and I've read that he dedicated his earlier book to his "poor dad" which he holds in poor estimate here. The childhood scenes sound like a morality play with everything fitting into place to espouse some aspect of "rich dad's" unparalleled brilliance.

Despite the previous two paragraphs, there are occasions where Kiyosaki pulls back and plays down expectations. He gives the line about how most self-starters fail within five years and how stocks are risky investments and stuff like that. He outright states that "I don't recommend anything I do." This one line makes any business advice in his book worthless, because he doesn't think anyone else should try it. In other words, don't bother trying to copy his success in real estate.

If not for business advice, then the point of the book must be motivational, right? No, it's not. Kiyosaki is belligerent in his attitude. That's the bulk of the "engaging voice" I spoke of earlier; It's this high and mighty sense of superiority. Everybody is wrong; teachers all over the place do a horrible job educating kids,  accountants and bankers are bean counters (yes, he uses the term "bean counter") that should never be charge, and parents are well-meaning idiots that are setting up their kids for a life of financial struggle.  Anyone that disagrees with him is a "poor dad", who simply doesn't get it.

After all of this, he tells the reader that if you follow his instructions, you will fail and that you should learn from this failure (instead of his book). If you're looking for a motivational text, I'd look for something else, unless you want kick-in-the-pants motivation.

Finally, there's this cross promotion thing. From the first chapter and occasionally through the lessons, Kiyosaki talks about the game he created, "CASHFLOW". It sounds like part of the purpose of the book is to push this game onto the reader. There's also a sense that the book itself is one of his "assets" and he's stroking his ego in the process.

I'm not going to critique his business practices because I'm not in that field. I can't say for sure if he's right or wrong, but from the things I've heard his ideas are sketchy at best.

My bottom line: read the first two chapters and then put the book away, or don't buy it at all.

Click here for the next book review (which was not a request): The Apprentices-Crimson Guard
Click here for the previous book review (which was a review request): Dark Communion

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