One of the reasons the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class struggles in debt is because the subject of money is taught at home, not in school. Most of us learn about money from our parents. So what can a poor parent tell their child about money? They simply say “Stay in school and study hard.” The child may graduate with excellent grades but with a poor person’s financial programming and mind-set. It was learned while the child was young.

Yesterday my friend Dan and I were approached outside of Central Station in Sydney by two college students. They asked if we were free to answer a few questions on record. We agreed and they asked us a series of questions alluding to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. At first I could not understand why our replies were exciting the two so much. Each question was a variation of the same one, whether we would holiday in New Zealand due to a cheap economy following the earthquake. We answered that we would, in order to help the business and community in New Zealand recover.

When the interview was concluded one of the students said “if only we could get ten more like you”. Turns out most people were stating that they would visit New Zealand purely because of the cheap air-fares.

Rich Dad Poor Dad is not just a single book explaining the importance of financial awareness. It has blossomed into a mini-industry, a franchise managed by co-authors Kiyosaki and Lechter. However, all I knew about this book before this afternoon was that Will Smith really admires it.

‘cough’ Occasionally I have watched an episode of Oprah.

The book opens with an introduction from Lechter, explaining how she met Kiyosaki, a guru of finances and entrepreneurship skills. Confusingly the book’s opening, and much of the novel, features extended dialogue sequences with teenagers and children speaking in quite a verbose manner. This confuses me as the whole style of Rich Dad Poor Dad is to present a series of educational fables, supposedly drawn from ordinary life and yet the ‘characters’, speak in this stilted prose.

Kiyosaki is the ‘son’, of this rich dad – a mentor figure who instructs him in the finer points of capitalism – and the poor dad – who is his biological father, financially crippled due to his public servant mentality. The one father-figure advises pragmatic individualism, the other reliance upon the state, or pension funds, or health care. When presented with a choice between which philosophy he will adopt, Kiyosaki of course opts for the ‘rich dad’. He learns the value of a good day’s work; that schools do not educate students to become dynamic leaders, but unimaginative employees; that the most important thing in life is to learn how to make money work for you and not the other way around.

When Kiyosaki’s biography approaches the present day, rich dad drops out of the story. We learn that his own father was eventually fired from his government job and embraced trade unionism itself, but died with personal debts. ‘Rich dad’, created a vast business empire, which he then passed on to his son. Kiyosaki explains how he has become a public speaker and an educator, attacking the archaic educational systems in public schools for failing to prepare students to cope with the real world.

I was left immensely conflicted by this book. On the one hand I absolutely agree that schools should teach more to students about balancing cheque books and managing debts. On the other this ‘rich dad’, figure seems like a hybrid of Uncle Tom and John Galt. Government is depicted as the source of all evil and taxes a conspiracy theory designed to exploit the middle classes and the poor. In effect the poor dad is a straw man for Kiyosaki’s argument, a target for a series of rebuttals to any residual socialist principles in the American bureaucratic system.

I am a former art student and tax worker. I imagine Kiyosaki would have me burned at the stake.

This book suffers from the same blinkered perspective as A Colossal Failure of Common Sense. The world desperately does not need more ‘Bill Gateses’, more rich dads. It needs folk who are dedicated to the principles of a shared society if we are all to survive. The corporations had their shot with a deregulated world economy. It crashed. Lesson learned – if only.

A false dichotomy of greed.

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