| Rich Dad's Who Took My Money? |
By Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter C.P.A.
Genre: Business & Money
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Ask a Salesperson
"One of the first things you need to learn if you want to be a better investor is
the difference between a sales pitch and sound investment advice."
"I have $10,000. What should I invest it in?" As mentioned in the introduction, for a number of years I really did not know how to answer this simple question. My early replies to this question were awkward, wordy, and rambling. The reason for my inability to answer such a simple question is simply because the appropriate answer is not that simple. We are all different. We come from different life paths, dreaming different dreams; emotionally we are wired differently, we have different financial backgrounds and different tolerances to financial risk. In other words, what I would do with $10,000 may not be what you should do with $10,000. In fact, what I did with $10,000 ten years ago is not what I would do with $10,000 today. As Einstein said, "It's all relative."
Finally, after being asked the same question enough times, I came up with an answer I believe is appropriate. Today, when asked the question, I reply, "If you do not know what to do with your money, put it in a bank, and do not tell anyone that you have money to invest." The reason I say this is because if you do not know what to do with your money, there are literally millions of people who do. When it comes to money, everyone has an opinion and advice on what to do with your money.
The Problem with Advice
The problem is that all advice is not good advice. Between March 2000 and March of 2003, millions of people lost $7 to $9 trillion in one of the biggest stock market crashes in history, many because they listened to the advice from so-called financial experts. The irony is, most of these financial experts are still handing out advice today and people are still listening to them. During one of the worst stock market crashes in the history of the world, financial experts were advising people to keep their money in the market. Rather than sell, the experts told them to keep buying. . . and many people did keep buying, all the way down to the bottom.
There is an old saying that goes, "When taxi drivers are handing out stock tips, it's time to sell." Maybe that statement should be expanded to include financial advisors.
Voices of Sanity
During the insanity of the boom between 1995 and early 2000, two voices of sanity were Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Warren Buffett, reportedly the world's greatest investor. Mr. Greenspan warned of irrational exuberance and Mr. Buffett simply stayed out of the stock market. During the boom and the bust, Warren Buffett's name was often used in reference to smart investing. Financial advisors used his name as the authority figure as to why a person should get into the market. Financial advisors were saying, "Warren Buffett this and Warren Buffett that." When Warren Buffett's name was mentioned, people seemed to put more money into the market. What the advisors failed to tell their faithful investors was that Warren Buffett was not in the stock market.
In an interview in the November 11, 2002, edition of Fortune magazine, entitled "The Oracle of Everything," Mr. Buffett says, "I bought my first stock 60 years ago. Of those 60 years, 50 have been attractive to buy common stocks. In probably 10 years, I've not been able to find anything." One of the reasons he stopped buying stocks is simple. For those ten years, the period between 1992 and 2002, stocks were too expensive. I find it interesting that the world's greatest investor could not find anything to invest in, yet millions of first-time investors and their advisors did.
Criticizing the World's Greatest Investor
The article continues, noting that it was not too long ago, specifically at the height of the boom in early 2000, when many respected financial experts and publications began criticizing Mr. Buffett for not being in the market. One such expert, Harry Newton, publisher of Technology Investor Magazine, wrote, "Warren Buffett should say 'I'm sorry.' How did he miss the silicon, wireless, DSL, cable, and biotech revolutions?" A month later, the technology market collapsed, taking billions of dollars of investor money with it. Who should be saying "I'm sorry" today?
As a person who is often lumped into the group of so-called financial experts, it is important that you be aware of my record. In 2002, I received a phone call from a stockbroker in Baltimore, Maryland. He said, "I just finished reading your third book, Rich Dad's Guide to Investing. I congratulate you for predicting the crash of 2000. I wish I had told my clients to read that book before the market went down." Now, I do not believe I predicted the crash, I simply warned of it. But if you want to read the book, you can decide on the accuracy of my forecast.
The best testament to my record is not found in my record but in the records found in Rich Dad's Success Stories, the records of my readers. This is a book filled with personal stories of everyday people who did well financially, many between 2000 and 2003, the same period millions were losing trillions. So rather than touting my own financial success, which was pretty good during the market crash, my most important results are measured in the success of my readers. If you would like to check my record, please read Rich Dad's Success Stories.
Answer the Question
Good advice is crucial for financial success. There were many times I wish I did have the time to better answer the question "What should I do with $10,000" rather than just say, "Put it in a bank." After years of not answering the question "I have $10,000. What should I invest it in?" I have decided to answer the question in this book, Who Took My Money? The reason I decided to write this book in answer to the question is simply because the question is a very important one.
The Price of Bad Advice
In June of 2003, I was in a taxi heading for the airport. On the radio was a financial expert offering some investment advice, saying, "Now is the time to get back into the stock market."
"Why do you say that?" asked the radio host. "Because all the lights are green," said the financial advisor. "This market is headed straight up." He then went on to his tirade of jargon and standard stock market talk that many of us have heard over and over again, before the crash, during the crash, and now after the crash.
Gazing out the window of the cab, I just tuned out the financial expert until the host took back control of the show. "Okay, let's open up the phone lines and let's hear from any callers who have questions for you." The first caller to get through said, "I'm seventy-eight years old. My wife is seventy-five. In January of 2000 we thought we had a nice safe retirement portfolio. We had about one million dollars in mutual funds."
"That's great," said the host. "Yes-but that was in January of 2000." "How much do you have now?" asked the financial expert. "Well that's the problem," the caller said. "In March of 2000, when the market began to crash, I called my financial planner for advice." "And what did he say?" asked the radio host.
"He said about the same thing your guest is saying now. He said the market was just about to bounce back up . . . it was only a minor correction caused by a little profit taking. He never told us it was a market crash. In fact, he never told us that markets could go down or that mutual funds were not safe. Instead, he advised us to continue to invest for the long term, buy, hold, and diversify." "So what did you do?" asked the host.
"We sat tight. We did as he told us to do. We held on and watched as the market kept falling. As the prices got lower, he even called to tell us to buy more while prices were low." "So did you buy more?"
"We certainly did. But the stock market kept falling and we kept calling him. By August of 2002 he stopped taking our calls. We were later told that he had left the firm and we were turned over to someone else. Anyway, we got sick of opening the envelope from the investment firm. I couldn't stand seeing the money we worked all our lives for disappearing as the market crashed. We aren't working anymore and are wondering what we can do now."
"So how much money do you have left?" the host asked again. "Well, after he stopped taking our calls, we took action and sold our mutual funds. My wife and I thought it was better to keep our money in cash. So after we cashed in our mutual funds, all we had left was about $350,000 and we put it in a CD at the bank."
"That's good," said the host. "At least you have some cash. "Three hundred fifty thousand dollars is nothing to sneeze at, you know."
"Well, the problem is, the certificate of deposit is only paying 1 percent interest per year. One percent of $350,000 is only $3,500 per year. Even with Social Security and Medicare, it's tough to live on that money. I'm afraid we might have to start eating into our savings, and if we do that, we'll be in even worse shape financially. What do you advise?" "Do you have a home?" asked the financial advisor.
"Yes we do," said the caller. "But please don't ask us to sell it. That's all we have left. Besides, it's only worth about $120,000 and we have a mortgage of $80,000 on it. The reason we have a large mortgage is because when interest rates dropped, we refinanced and took out some extra money from the equity in our home."
"And what did you do with money from your home?" asked the radio host. "It's gone. We lived on it. That's why I'm calling for some advice." "Well, what advice would you give to this couple?" the host asked the financial planner.
"Well first of all, you shouldn't have sold your shares," said the financial expert. "As I said the market is coming back." "But it kept going down for years," said the caller. "It's very frightening to lose so much when you're our age."
"Yes, yes, I know," said the expert. "But listen to me now. You should always invest for the long term. Buy and hold on. Keep diversified. Markets do go down but they will come back as they are now."
"So what should he and his wife do now?" asked the radio host. "It's time to get back in. As I said, the market is coming back. Always remember that over the past forty years, the stock market has gone up 9 percent per year, on average."
"You believe now is the time to get back in?" asked the host. "That's right," said the financial expert. "Get back in before you miss the next rally."
"Good advice," said the host to the seventy-eight-year-old man. "Thanks for the call. Next caller, please."
The taxi was now approaching the airport and my blood was boiling. "How can they keep handing out that same old advice . . . and get paid for it? How do they sleep at night?" I muttered to myself as I headed for the gate. As I waited in line to board the plane, I read a headline on a discarded newspaper that screamed, "Investors Pouring Money into Real Estate." Quietly, I shook my head and said to myself, "From one boom and bust to the next boom and bust."
The Same Old Advice
As the plane pulled away from the terminal, I began to recall when I was a first-time investor that knew very little about investing. My mind drifted back to 1965, when at the age of eighteen, I purchased my first shares of mutual funds. I purchased the shares even though I did not really know what a mutual fund was. All I knew was that mutual funds were connected to Wall Street and investing in Wall Street seemed like a cool idea at the time. I was at school in New York, attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, a federal school that trains students to be ship's officers on freighters, tankers, passenger liners, and other ships of commerce. Being a military academy, we were required to wear military uniforms, polish our shoes, and march to class. And being from Hawaii, where all I wore were shorts and T-shirts, I was finding the adjustment to this new life very difficult. It was fall, leaves were turning beautiful colors and falling, and I was getting ready to experience my first winter.
One afternoon, I received a note that a Mr. Carling wanted to see me. I did not know a Mr. Carling, but when you're a plebe, a freshman, you learn to do what you are told and do it promptly, without questioning what you are being asked to do.
"Start investing while you're young," said Mr. Carling's smiling face sitting across the table from me. "And always remember the secret of great investors. The secret is to buy and hold, and invest for the long term. Let your money grow. And always remember to be smart and diversify."
To this advice, I just nodded and said, "Yes, sir." I really did not know what he was talking about, but after four months at the academy, I was well trained in sitting or standing tall and straight and saying "Yes, sir." Mr. Carling was an alumnus of the academy who had stopped sailing ships and had gone into the field of financial planning. He knew what hell we as plebes were going through. He had gone through it himself. Instead of simply saying "Yes, sir" I really should have been questioning how he got on campus, since he was no longer a student or in the merchant marine, and how he got my name. All I knew was that he had contacted me and had set up an appointment to talk to me during study hall and I was saying "Yes, sir" to another authority figure even though he was in a suit and tie, not a military uniform. "How much do I have to invest?" I asked.
"Just $15 a month," the smiling face said. "Fifteen dollars," I said. "Where will I get that kind of money? I'm in school full-time, you know." Remember, this was 1965 and $15 was a lot of money to a college student.
"Be tough," said the smiling Mr. Carling. "The academy will teach you discipline. With that discipline of putting a little bit of money away each month, you'll soon have a sizable nest egg. Remember, always invest for the long term." Even though I agreed with everything he said, I still noted how much he was emphasizing the word always. For some reason, the word and how he said it made me feel just a little uneasy.
Time was precious. I needed to get back to my studies, so I simply agreed to everything he said. After selecting the mutual fund company he recommended I invest in, I signed an agreement to send a check in once a month to purchase more shares. Once the paperwork was completed, I hurried back to my studies and pretty much forgot about the investment plan. Once a month, starting in November of that year, I began to send in my check.
The first six months at the academy were difficult. They were some of the toughest days of my life. I was adjusting to being away from home for the first time, and in New York for the first time . . . my head was shaved and the course load was heavy. On top of that, as plebes we were not allowed off the academy grounds, except for Thanksgiving and now Christmas. As the cold winds of winter whipped across Long Island Sound, I counted the days remaining to Christmas break. I had just enough money left in my savings account to afford the price of a military personnel discount ticket home.
Finally I was back in the warm weather of Hawaii. The first thing I did was join my former high school classmates and go surfing from early in the morning to late into the night. Although my friends were laughing at me for my lack of hair, it was still nice to have this break and to be a kid again. Although I was badly sunburned, my tan was coming back.
A few days into my vacation, I stopped by my rich dad's office with his son, Mike. Mike and I had been surfing and he said his dad wanted to see me. After the usual pleasantries and catching up, I happened to mention to my rich dad that I had made my first investment . . . an investment in a mutual fund. I only mentioned the investment in passing. For me, discussing my mutual fund investment was just idle conversation. But for my rich dad, what I had done required far more than just idle conversation.
"You did what?" he asked. "I invested in a mutual fund," I replied. "Why?" he asked. He did not ask me which fund I had invested in. He only wanted to know why.
Rather than answer, I just stumbled and fumbled with words and thoughts, searching for a logical-sounding answer. "And who did you purchase the shares from?" asked rich dad before I could reply. "Do you know him?"
"Well, yes," I responded assertively and a little defensively. "He is a graduate of the academy. He is an alumnus, class of '58, who has permission to come on campus and sell investments to the midshipmen." Rich dad smirked and asked, "And how did he get your name?" "I don't know. I guess the academy gave it to him."
Again rich dad smirked. Rather than saying anything, he pushed back into his chair, extended his legs, placed his hands in a praying position under his chin, and just sat there searching for the words he wanted to say. Finally, I broke the silence, asking, "Did I do something wrong?"
Again there was just silence for a long ten seconds. "No," rich dad said finally. "First of all I commend you for taking the initiative to invest. Many people wait till it is too late, or never invest for their future. Many people spend everything they make and then expect the company they work for or the government to take care of them when their working days are over. At least you did something-you invested some of your own money."
"But did I do something wrong?" "No-what you did is not really wrong." "So why the concern?" I asked. "Are there better investments?"
"Yes and no. There are always better investments and there are even more bad investments," rich dad said, sitting up straight again. "It's not what you invested in that I am concerned about. Right now I am concerned about you." "Me?" I asked. "What about me?"
"I am concerned about what kind of investor you are becoming more than what investment you have invested in."
Sales Pitch Rather Than Investment Education
"I'm not a good investor?" "No, it's not that," said rich dad. "He advised you to 'invest for the long term, buy, hold, and diversify.' Is that correct?"
"Yes," I said softly. "The problem with that advice is that it is a sales pitch," said rich dad. "It's not a sound way to invest much less learn to invest. It's not a good way for you to gain the education you need to become a smart investor." "Why is it a sales pitch?" I asked.
"Well, think about it," replied rich dad. "How much do you learn about investing by simply sending a check in every month?" Thinking about the question for a moment, I finally replied, saying, "Not much. But why is it a sales pitch?"
"You keep thinking about it," smiled rich dad. "You keep thinking about the advice of 'Invest for the long term, buy, hold, and diversify.' " "You're not going to tell me?" I asked.
"No. Not now anyway. You're only eighteen years old. You have a lot to learn about the real world. Right now you have the opportunity to learn one of life's most important lessons. So think about it. When you think you have figured out why 'Invest for the long term, buy, hold, and diversify' is a sales pitch rather than sound investment education, you let me know. Most people never learn the difference between a sales pitch and investment education. That is why so few people ever become rich and why so many people lose money as investors. They lose because they think a sales pitch is investment education. And because they think that 'Invest for the long term, buy, hold, and diversify' is investment education, they actually believe it is the smart thing to do. There is a big difference between a sales pitch and true education."
As rich dad was talking, I was beginning to understand why the salesperson put such an emphasis on the word "always."
Millions Lose Trillions
As mentioned earlier, between March of 2000 and March of 2003, it is estimated that millions of people lost $7 to $9 trillion in the market crash. Those losses do not include the loss of jobs and the emotional pain that such losses bring with them. Why did so many people lose so much money? While the reasons are many-reasons such as a weakened economy, terrorists, corruption, bad analysis reports, fraud, market trends, and other oversights- one little-known underlying reason is because millions of people mistook a common industry sales pitch for sound financial education. Many always sent their check in, or did not sell . . . investing and holding on for the long term, even as the biggest stock market crash in history was crashing all around them.
The Money Was Not Lost
Michael Lewis is a respected financial writer best known for his bestsellers Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, and Moneyball. He has been the American editor of the British weekly The Spectator and senior editor at The New Republic. He has also been a visiting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.
In an article written for the October 27, 2002 New York Times Magazine, Lewis states, "Stock market losses are not losses to society. They are transfers from one person to another."
He further describes his own experience in the market. "I should have sensed that the moment I finally decided Internet stocks were a buy is precisely when they became a sell. Instead, I jumped into Exodus Communications at $160 a share and watched it run up a few points-and then collapse.
What happened to my money? It didn't simply vanish. It was pocketed by the person who sold me the shares. The suspects, in order of likelihood: a) some Exodus employee; b) a well-connected mutual fund that got in early at the I.P.O. price; or c) a day trader who bought it at $150."
In other words, between 2000 and 2003, $7 to $9 trillion was not lost . . . $7 to $9 trillion was transferred from one investor to another. Between 2000 and 20003, some investors got richer and other investors got poorer . . . which is why rich dad was more concerned about me, the investor, than what I was investing in.
When Do I Sell?
In 1965, after realizing that rich dad was not happy with my first investment, I asked, "Should I sell those mutual fund shares?" Grinning, he said, "No. I would not sell them just yet. You may have made a mistake but you have not yet learned your lesson. Hang on for a while longer. Keep making those monthly payments until you learn what you need to learn. If you will do that, this lesson will be priceless. If you learn from this event, you will gain something more important than money. You will be on your way to becoming a better investor. One of the first things you need to learn, if you want to be a better investor, is the difference between a sales pitch and sound investment advice."
Investing for the Long Term
Once Christmas vacation 1965 was over, I returned to school in New York. It was tough leaving the warm beaches of Hawaii and stepping back into the coldest part of winter in New York. Instead of surfing I was now shivering. Following rich dad's advice, I continued to send in my check to the mutual fund company once a month. Being in school, the extra money was hard to come by, especially since I had very little financial support from home. I still had expenses and an occasional social life to support. To make up for the shortfall there were many Saturdays I went out into the neighborhood to do odd jobs for $2 an hour. If I worked one or two Saturdays a month, I could afford to send the check in to the mutual fund company as well as pay for the necessities of life, such as fun.
Occasionally, I would open the newspaper to the investment section to find out how my fund was performing. The fund did not do much. It sort of sat at one price and stayed there, just like a sleepy old dog. Once a quarter, I received an envelope from the company with a statement verifying my contributions. After a while I began to dread opening the envelope because I was usually less than impressed with the fund's performance. The number of shares I owned was increasing but the price per share remained about the same. Truthfully I felt kind of stupid for buying such an under-performing investment.
Six months later, I was back in Hawaii, this time for summer vacation 1966. When I stopped by rich dad's office to say hello he invited me out to an early lunch. "How is your mutual fund doing?" he asked once we were seated at the restaurant.
"Well, I put in nearly $100 in six months, but the fund is not doing anything. The shares were about $12 when I first started investing in them and they're still at $12 today."
Rich dad chuckled. "Getting impatient?" "Well, I would like to see a little more action," I replied. "It's not good to be impatient," smiled rich dad. "Patience is important in investing."
"But the fund is not doing anything," I responded. Rich dad laughed out loud after my last comment. He obviously found it funny. "I'm not talking about the fund," he said. "I'm talking about you. You need to learn patience if you want to be an investor." "But I have been patient. My money has been in there for nearly ten months. The price per share remains the same."
"As I said, that is what happens when you are an impatient investor," rich dad said sternly. "Impatient investors often invest hastily-hence their impatience causes them to invest in under-performing investments."
"Under-performing investments . . . just because I invested with impatience?" Rich dad nodded, "How long did you talk to your mutual fund salesperson before you made the decision to invest?"
"We talked for about an hour. He asked me about my goals in life. He showed me a few charts showing me how the Dow Jones Industrial Average was going up and up. He explained the value of investing a little bit of money over a long period of time."
"And you made up your mind and bought the shares," rich dad said with a smile. "Yes," I replied.
"I'd call that impatience." Rich dad chuckled. "You invested impatiently and now you wait impatiently while your investment does nothing. How can you expect to find a great investment if you first of all don't know what a great investment looks like and you're not willing to invest the time to look for the investment? You got what you paid for. Your impatience caused you to find an investment that makes you even more impatient. And always remember this: The worst investments go to impatient investors. Got this lesson?"
"Yes, I have," I replied impatiently. "So am I wasting my money?" I asked. "No," said rich dad strongly. "Right now, don't worry about the money you're making or not making. Right now, you're learning a priceless lesson. Most investors never learn this lesson on impatience. Don't be so impatient. Take time to learn the lesson."
"Okay," I said. "I'll take time to learn this lesson. The next time I make an investment decision, I'll be more patient."
"Good," said rich dad. "Most investors blame the investment rather than themselves. In reality, the real problem is the investor not the investment. And right now you're learning about the price of your impatience. That is a pretty good lesson to start off with-if you learn the lesson." "But I'm a full-time student. I had to concentrate on my studies," I argued. "I didn't have time to learn more and do more research."
"And soon when you graduate and leave school, you will be working full-time. Maybe you'll get married, buy a home, and start raising a family. If that happens, expenses will go up as well as the demands on your time. If you think you're busy as a student, just wait till you're working and married with kids. If you do not make the time to learn to be a better investor now, you will be saying the same things tomorrow as you are today. You'll still be saying 'I didn't have time to learn more and do more research.' Because of your impatience, your laziness, and your lame excuses about not having enough time, you will do the same thing you just did, which is to hand your money over to total strangers and have no idea what they are doing with your money."
Sitting silently, I let rich dad's words sink in. I did not like what he was saying to me. I was getting angry. If only he knew how hard it was to attend a military academy, to carry a full academic load, play sports, and try to have a social life.
"Just admit you're impatient," said rich dad. "Just admit that you are not willing and too busy to invest the time to learn to be an investor. That would be more honest than to just say you're too busy. Then admit that you're not patient enough to find a great investment."
"And if I admit that, then I won't complain about my investment not performing well," I added.
"Or complain when your investment loses money," said rich dad with that smirk of his.
"You mean I can lose money in mutual funds?" I asked. "You can lose money in anything," rich dad replied. "But you know what is worse than losing money?"
"No," I replied, shaking my head. "I don't know. What is worse?" "The worst thing about not learning to be an investor is that you never see great investments," rich dad said matter-of-factly. "If you never invest the time to learn to be an investor you will live in fear of investing, constantly saying 'investing is risky.' By believing that investing is risky, you avoid investing, or you turn your money over to people you hope are investing wisely. But the worst thing is that when you avoid investing, you miss out on the hottest deals in the world. You live in fear rather than live with the excitement of searching for and finding great deals. When you play it safe, living in fear of losing, you miss out on the excitement of winning. You miss out on the excitement of getting richer. That's the worst thing about being impatient and not investing the time to become a real investor."
Thinking for a moment, again letting rich dad's words sink in, I began to recall the sales pitch of the financial advisor who sold me the mutual fund investment plan.
As if reading my mind, rich dad asked me, "Did your salesman friend tell you that the stock market goes up on average 10 percent per year? That's the standard canned sales pitch most salespeople in his business use. Did he tell you something like that?"
"Yes, he did say something like that," I replied. Rich dad roared laughing. "He probably thinks that's a great return. A 10 percent return is peanuts! On top of that, ask him if he will guarantee that tiny return. Of course he won't. He'll just send you a birthday card once a year to say thanks for the business. He wins, you lose. But the biggest loss to you is that you will never see the great investments because you will never become a great investor if you follow his advice of 'Invest for the long term, buy, hold, and diversify.' And on top of all that, while the best investments go to the most educated, the worse and riskiest of all investments go to the least financially educated investors."
"You're saying that mutual funds are the riskiest of all investments?" I asked. "No . . . that is not what I am saying," replied rich dad, now in a frustrated tone. Taking a deep breath and gathering his thoughts, he said, "Listen to me. I'll say it again. I am not talking about the investment. I am talking about the investor. If the investor is uneducated, anything he or she invests in will be risky. They may get lucky now and then, but generally in the long run, any money they make they end up giving most of back to the market. I've seen an uneducated investor take a great real estate investment and turn it into a run-down foreclosure. I've seen an uneducated investor buy a profitable well-run business and soon bankrupt it. I've seen an unsophisticated investor buy shares of stock in a great company, watch that stock climb in value, and fail to sell at the top. After the stock crashes, they hang on to the dead stock. So it's not the investment that is risky . . . it's the investor." I was beginning to understand what rich dad was saying. He was doing his best to get me to see a world very few people see . . . the world of a real investor.
Catching his breath, rich dad continued, "I've also seen a professional investor take over an investment that a bad investor has ruined and make it a good investment again. So the bad investor loses money and the smart investor makes money."
"Are you saying the smart investor never loses money?" I asked. "Of course not," replied rich dad. "We all lose now and then. The point I am making is that a smart investor focuses on becoming a smarter investor. The average investor focuses only on making money. I'm not here to tell you how to run your life. Right now, I want you to stop, take a moment, and think about what you are now learning . . . not how much money you are making or not making. Don't focus on the money. Focus on learning to be a better investor." "So I don't learn much about investing if all I do is write a check, stick it in an envelope, lick a stamp, and drop it in the mail . . . investing for the long term?"
"That is exactly what I am saying. You're not learning to be an investor. You're learning to be a saver and stamp-licker."
Rich dad stood and stretched. I could tell he was tiring of drumming this simple but important lesson into my head. Glancing back at me, he asked, "So what have you learned from your mutual fund investments and about yourself?"
"I've learned I'm impatient. I've learned that I make excuses for not taking the time to learn to invest." "Which causes what?" asked rich dad.
"Which means that I do not always get the best investments. It means I miss out on an exciting world, a world that very few people see. It also means that if I do not make some changes, I am a gambler more than investor." "Good insight," smiled rich dad. "And what else?" Thinking for a while, I could not come up with any more answers. "I don't know what else."
"What about turning your money over to a total stranger?" rich dad replied. "And what about not knowing who this stranger turns your money over to and what these even-more-faceless strangers do with your money? Do you know how much money in fees is being taken out of your money? Do you know how much of your money is actually invested and how much of your money is going into the pockets of the people who manage your money? Is any money coming back into your pockets? What happens if they lose your money? Do you have any recourse? Do you know the answer to any of these questions?" Shaking my head, I replied with a faint, "No."
"Did you ever ask the guy who sold you these mutual funds if he could live off of his own investments or was he living off the commissions from the money you invested with him?"
"No," I replied softly. "I never asked."
Conflict of Interest
When I realized that I may have made a mistake, I wanted to blame Mr. Carling, but I knew better. I was the investor. I made the choice to invest in mutual funds without doing enough due diligence about the investment.
Financial planners make their commissions through selling investments and other financial products (like insurance) to the average investor. We need to learn how to ask the right questions. Like, What are the fees related to this mutual fund? What is your commission from this sale? Rich dad was trying to impress on me that I needed to be in control of my own financial decisions and not give that power over to someone else.
A Slap on the Wrist
In 2002, some of the biggest companies on Wall Street were fined $1.4 billion by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for fraud and conflicts of interest. In a news conference, Spitzer said, "Every investor knows that the market involves risk. . . . But what every investor expects and deserves is honest investment advice-advice and analysis that is untainted by conflicts of interest." A $1.4 billion fine after $7 to $9 trillion was lost to investors is equivalent to paying a $1.40 fine for causing $7,000 to $9,000 in damages, a mere slap on the wrist-and less than the commissions these big companies earned from the investors who lost the $7 to $9 trillion.
As part of the settlement by which the $1.4 billion fines were levied, reforms were agreed to that establish a set of rules aimed at eliminating conflicts of interest between Wall Street research groups and stock-offering groups. The firms' stock analysts will be barred from being paid for stock research by the firms' investment banking arms.
A Bonus for a Job Well Done
Soon after the slap on the wrist and fine for fraud, The Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled:
"Merrill Lynch Awarded Officers Big '02 Bonuses"
To paraphrase the article: Merrill Lynch & Co. rewarded both its chairman and its chief executive with $7 million in bonuses last year despite the continued stock market rout that has eaten into many of the firm's key businesses. The article continued: During 2002, Merrill reduced its ranks by 6,500 employees, bringing its total job cuts to 21,700 since its employment peaked in 2000.
As I put the newspaper down, I could not help but wonder how a company could award millions of dollars in bonuses to company executives when this very same company had assisted investors in losing trillions of dollars, been charged with fraud, and rather than growing the business, the company's executives had fired nearly 22,000 employees. To be fair and not seem to pick on Merrill Lynch alone, The Wall Street Journal article also posted the annual paychecks of other CEOs from other financial institutions:
Morgan Stanley CEO $11.0 million
Goldman Sachs CEO $12.1 million
Lehman Brothers CEO $12.5 million
Bear Stearns CEO $19.6 million
Some of these companies were also in the group that was fined by the state of New York for fraud.
More Lawsuits Follow
In June and July of 2003, many smaller investors banded together to file lawsuits against Merrill Lynch. The little investors lost even though there was substantial evidence that misrepresentations were made. Although I do not like to see the little investors lose, I tended to agree with the judge's decision that all investors need to be aware when entering the world of investing. In other words, the judge said, "Tough luck."
Mutual Fund Fraud
The New York attorney general turned his attention to the mutual fund industry in early 2003. He stated, "There are undisclosed financial motivations in damn near every transaction involving mutual funds." He is looking into unseen fees charges by the funds and conflicts of interest in the way funds are sold. He is investigating two practices called "late trading" and "market timing." Late trading involves purchasing mutual fund shares at the 4:00 P.M. price after the market closes, allowing the favored investor to take advantage of after-market events not yet reflected in the closing price of the fund. Market timing involves short-term trading of mutual funds, which has a detrimental effect on the long-term shareholders of the mutual fund. While more is being revealed every day during this investigation, the inherent conflicts of interest and insider trading have shaken the average investor's confidence.
Become an Educated Investor
As stated earlier, in the world of investing, money is not lost. It just changes hands. That is why I am hesitant to tell someone what to invest their $10,000 in. If a person does not know what to do with their money, they should first invest some time in their investment education before investing their money. In my opinion, one of the primary reasons why millions of people lost trillions of dollars is because they invested their money but were not willing to invest their time.
So my answer to the question of "I have $10,000. What should I invest it in?" is invest the time learning to be a better investor before investing your money in what you hope and pray is a good investment. Always remember what my rich dad told me years ago. He said, "People without much financial education most often fall for a sales pitch . . . mistaking the sales pitch for advice." Hence, this book is about what my rich dad thought was important for me to invest my time in-seeking real investment education-before I invested my money. Rich dad also said, "The better your investment education the better [the] investment advice you will receive."
Recognizing a sales pitch from good investment advice is the subject of the first chapter of this book because it is a huge distinction that successful investors must learn. Is the advice you are paying for the best advice for you and your investments, or is the advice the best advice to generate more fees for your advisors? The salesman's goal is to make money from you, while the advisor's goal is to make money for you.
Park It or Accelerate It?
Most of the average investor's financial education today comes from financial institutions like banks and salespeople. They are telling the investor to invest, or "park," their money for the long term and to expect the market to increase each year. This advice of "saving for a rainy day" is the right advice for many people.
When you look at the table "Why the Rich Get Richer" in the introduction, the left side is where most people live-with the salesmen. They follow the advice of the financial institutions and salespeople and make the decision to save, or park, their money in the following ways and hope that the market will go up and that these investments will be there for them when they are ready to retire:
* Personal residence
* Mutual funds
* 401(k)s, IRAs, and SEPs
In addition, the most common answer to the question Who Took My Money? is the government, since most people are employees and see their largest expense-taxes-disappear from their paychecks (through withholding) before they get paid.
Rich dad teaches an alternative to the traditional savings and employee mentality. He teaches building or buying assets today that generate cash flow for you today-the method of professional investors. Do you feel trapped working hard for a paycheck? Is it hard to imagine having your money working hard for you? Who Took My Money? will help you make the transition from saver to investor.
Excerpted from Rich Dad's Who Took My Money? , by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter C.P.A. . Copyright (c) 2004 by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top