What Should I Invest In?
In 1973, I returned home from my tour of Vietnam. I felt fortunate to have been assigned to a base in Hawaii near home rather than to a base on the East Coast. After settling in at the Marine Corps Air Station, I called my friend Mike and we set up a time to have lunch together with his dad, the man I call my rich dad. Mike was anxious to show me his new baby and his new home so we agreed to have lunch at his house the following Saturday. When Mikeís limousine came to pick me up at the drab gray base BOQ, the Bachelor Officersí Quarters, I began to realize how much had changed since we had graduated together from high school in 1965.
"Welcome home," Mike said as I walked into the foyer of his beautiful home with marble floors. Mike was beaming from ear to ear as he held his seven-month-old son. "Glad you made it back in one piece."
"So am I," I replied as I looked past Mike at the shimmering blue Pacific Ocean, which touched the white sand in front of his home. The home was spectacular. It was a tropical one-level mansion with all the grace and charm of old and new Hawaiian living. There were beautiful Persian carpets, tall dark green potted plants, and a large pool that was surrounded on three sides by his home, with the ocean on the fourth side. It was very open, breezy, and the model of gracious island living with the finest of detail. The home fit my fantasies of living the luxurious life in Hawaii.
"Meet my son James," said Mike.
"Oh," I said in a startled voice. My jaw must have been hanging open as I had slipped into a trance taking in the stunning beauty of this home. "What a cute kid." I replied as any person should reply when looking at a new baby. But as I stood there waving and making faces at a baby blankly staring back at me, my mind was still in shock at how much had changed in eight years. I was living on a military base in old barracks, sharing a room with three other messy beer-drinking young pilots, while Mike was living in a multi-million-dollar estate with his gorgeous wife and newborn baby.
"Come on in," Mike continued. "Dad and Connie are waiting for us on the patio."
The lunch was spectacular and served by their full-time maid. I sat there enjoying the meal, the scenery, and the company when I thought about my three roommates who were probably dining at the officerís mess hall at that very moment. Since it was Saturday, lunch on the base was probably a sub sandwich and a bowl of soup.
After the pleasantries and catching up on old times was over, rich dad said, "As you can see, Mike has done an excellent job investing the profits from the business. We have made more money in the last two years than I made in the first twenty. There is a lot of truth to the statement that the first million is the hardest."
"So business has been good?" I asked, encouraging further disclosure on how their fortunes had jumped so radically.
"Business is excellent," said rich dad. "These new 747s bring so many tourists from all over the world to Hawaii that business cannot help but keep growing. But our real success is from our investments more than our business. And Mike is in charge of the investments."
"Congratulations," I said to Mike. "Well done."
"Thank you," said Mike. "But I canít take all the credit. Itís dadís investment formula that is really working. Iím just doing exactly what he has been teaching us about business and investing for all these years."
"It must be paying off," I said. "I canít believe you live here in the richest neighborhood in the city. Do you remember when we were poor kids, running with our surfboards between houses trying to get to the beach?"
Mike laughed. "Yes I do. And I remember being chased by all those mean old rich guys. Now Iím the mean old rich guy who is chasing those kids away. Who would have ever thought that you and I would be living...?"
Mike suddenly stopped talking once he realized what he was saying. He realized that while he was living here, I was living on the other side of the island in drab military barracks.
"Iím sorry," he said. "I...didnít mean toÖ"
"No apologies necessary," I said with a grin. "Iím happy for you. Iím glad youíre so wealthy and successful. You deserve it because you took the time to learn to run the business. Iíll be out of the barracks in a couple of years as soon as my contract with the Marine Corps is done."
Rich dad, sensing the tension between Mike and me, broke in and said, "And heís done a better job than I have. Iím very proud of him. Iím proud of both my son and his wife. They are a great team and have earned everything they have. Now that youíre back from the war, itís your turn Robert."
May I Invest With You?
"Iíd love to invest with you," I eagerly replied. "I saved nearly $3,000 while I was in Vietnam and Iíd like to invest it before I spend it. Can I invest with you?"
"Well, Iíll give you the name of a good stockbroker," rich dad said. "Iím sure heíll give you some good advice, maybe even a hot tip or two."
"No, no, no," I said. "I want to invest in what you are investing in. Come on. You know how long Iíve known you two. I know youíve always got something that youíre working on or investing in. I donít want to go to a stockbroker. I want to be in a deal with you guys."
The room went silent as I waited for rich dad or Mike to respond. The silence grew into tension.
"Did I say something wrong?" I asked finally.
"No," said Mike. "Dad and I are investing in a couple of new projects that are exciting but I think it is best you call one of our stockbrokers first and begin investing with him."
Again there was silence, punctuated only by the clinking of the dishes and glasses as the maid cleared the table. Mikeís wife Connie excused herself and took the baby to another room.
"I donít understand," I said. Turning to rich dad more than Mike, I continued, "All these years Iíve worked right along side the two of you building your business. Iíve worked for close to nothing. I went to college as you advised and I fought for my country as you said a young man should. Now that Iím old enough and I finally have a few dollars to invest, you seem to hesitate when I say I want to invest in what you invest in. I donít understand. Why the cold shoulderĖare you trying to snub me or push me away? Donít you want me to get rich like you?"
"Itís not a cold shoulder," Mike replied. "And we would never snub you or not wish you to attain great wealth. Itís that things are different now."
Rich dad nodded his head in slow and silent agreement.
"Weíd love to have you invest in what we invest in," rich dad finally said. "But it would be against the law."
"Against the law?" I echoed in loud disbelief. "Are you two doing something illegal?"
"No, no," said rich dad with a chuckle. "We would never do anything illegal. Itís too easy to get rich legally to ever risk going to jail for something illegal."
"And it is because we want to always remain on the right side of the law that we say it would be illegal for you to invest with us," said Mike.
"Itís not illegal for Mike and me to invest in what we invest in. But it would be illegal for you," rich dad tried to summarize.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because youíre not rich," said Mike softly and gently. "What we invest in is for rich people only."
Mikeís words went straight through me. Since he was my best friend, I knew they were difficult words for him to say to me. And although he said them as gently as possible, they still hurt and cut like a knife through my heart. I was beginning to sense how wide the financial gap between us was. While his dad and my dad both started out with nothing, he and his dad had achieved great wealth. My dad and I were still from the other side of the tracks, as they say. I could sense that this big house with the lovely white-sand beach was still far away for me, and the distance was measured in more than miles. Leaning back in my chair and crossing my arms in introspective thought, I sat there nodding quietly as I summarized that moment in our lives. We were both 25 years old but in many ways, Mike was 25 years ahead of me financially. My own dad had just been more or less fired from his government job and he was starting over with nothing at age 52. I had not even begun.
"Are you OK?" asked rich dad gently.
"Yeah, Iím OK," I replied, doing my best to hide the hurt that came from feeling sorry for myself and for my family. "Iím just doing some deep thinking and some soul searching," I said, mustering a brave grin.
The room was silent as we listened to the waves and as the cool breeze blew through the beautiful home. Mike, rich dad, and I sat there while I came to terms with the message and its reality.
"So I canít invest with you because Iím not rich," I finally said as I came out of my trance. "And if I did invest in what you invest in, it would be against the law?"
Rich dad and Mike nodded. "In some instances," Mike added.
"And who made this law?" I asked.
"The federal government," Mike replied.
"The SEC," rich dad added.
"The SEC?" I asked. "What is the SEC?"
"The Securities and Exchange Commission," rich dad responded. "It was created in the 1930s under the direction of Joseph Kennedy, father of our late President John Kennedy."
"Why was it created?" I asked.
Rich dad laughed. "It was created to protect the public from wild unscrupulous dealmakers, businessmen, brokers, and investors."
"Why do you laugh?" I asked. "It seems like that would be a good thing to do."
"Yes, it is a very good thing," rich dad replied, still chuckling a little. "Prior to the stock market crash of 1929, many shady, slippery, and shoddy investments were being sold to the public. A lot of lying and misinformation was being put forth. So the SEC was formed to be the watchdog. It is the agency that helps makeĖas well as enforceĖthe rules. It serves a very important role. Without the SEC, there would be chaos."
"So why do you laugh?" I persisted.
"Because while it protects the public from the bad investments, it also keeps the public out of the best investments," replied rich dad in a more serious tone.
"So if the SEC protects the public from the worst investments and from the best investments, what does the public invest in?" I asked.
"The sanitized investments," rich dad replied. "The investments that follow the guidelines of the SEC."
"Well, what is wrong with that?" I asked.
"Nothing," said rich dad. "I think itís a good idea. We must have rules and enforce the rules. The SEC does that."
"But why the chuckle?" I asked. "Iíve known you too many years and I know you are holding back something that is causing you to laugh."
"Iíve already told you," said rich dad. "I chuckle because in protecting the public from the bad investments, the SEC also protects the public from the best investments."
"Which is one of the reasons the rich get richer?" I asked tenuously.
"You got it," said rich dad. "I chuckle because I see the irony in the big picture. People invest because they want to get rich. But because theyíre not rich, theyíre not allowed to invest in the investments that could make them rich. Only if youíre rich can you invest in a rich personís investments. And so the rich get richer. To me, that is ironic."
"But why is it done this way?" I asked. "Is it to protect the poor and middle class from the rich?"
"No, not necessarily," Mike responded. "I think it is really to protect the poor and the middle class from themselves."
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"Because there are many more bad deals than good deals. If a person is not aware, all dealsĖgood and badĖlook the same. It takes a great deal of education and experience to sort the more sophisticated investments into good and bad investments. To be sophisticated means you have the ability to know what makes one investment good and the others dangerous. And most people simply do not have that education and experience," said rich dad. "Mike, why donít you bring out the latest deal we are considering?"
Mike left the table for his office and returned with a three-ring binder that was about two inches thick filled with pages, pictures, figures, and maps.
"This is an example of something we would consider investing in," said Mike as he sat down. "It is known as a non-registered security. This particular investment is sometimes called a private placement memorandum."
My mind went numb as Mike flipped though the pages and showed me the graphs, charts, maps, and pages of written text that described the risks and rewards of the investment. I felt drowsy as Mike explained what he was looking at and why he thought it was such a great investment opportunity.
Rich dad, seeing me begin to fade away with the overload of unfamiliar information, stopped Mike and said, "This is what I wanted Robert to see."
Rich dad then pointed to a small paragraph at the front of the book that read "Exemptions from the Securities Act of 1933."
"This is what I want you to understand," he said.
I leaned forward to be better able to read the fine print his finger was pointing to. The fine print said,
"This investment is for accredited investors only. An accredited investor is generally accepted to be someone who:
ē has a net worth of $1 million or more; or
ē has had an annual income of $200,000 or more in each of the most recent years (or $300,000 jointly with a spouse) and who has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year."
Leaning back in my chair, I said, "This is why you say I cannot invest in what you invest in. This investment is for rich people only."
"Or people with high incomes," said Mike.
"Not only are these guidelines tough, but the minimum amount you can invest in this investment is $35,000. That is how much each investment Ďunit,í as it is called, costs."
"$35,000!" I said with a gasp. "That is a lot of money and a lot of risk. You mean that is the least someone can invest in this deal?"
Rich dad nodded. "How much does the government pay you as a Marine Corps pilot?"
"I was earning about $12,000 a year with flight pay and combat pay in Vietnam. I really donít know what my pay will be here now that I am stationed in Hawaii. I might get some COLA, cost of living allowance, but it sure isnít going to be much, and it certainly will not cover the cost of living in Hawaii."
"So for you to have saved $3,000 was quite an accomplishment," said rich dad, doing his best to cheer me up. "You saved nearly 25% of your gross income."
I nodded yet silently I realized how very, very far behind I was from becoming a so-called accredited investor. I realized that even if I became a General in the Marine Corps, I would probably not earn enough money to be considered an accredited investor. Not even the president of the United States, unless he or she were already rich, could qualify on salary alone.
"So what should I do?" I finally asked. "Why canít I just give you my $3,000 and you combine it with your money and we split the profits when the deal pays off?"
"We could do that," said rich dad. "But I wouldnít recommend it. Not for you anyway."
"Why?" I asked. "Why not for me?"
"You already have a pretty good financial education foundation. So you can go way beyond just being an accredited investor. If you want, you could become a sophisticated investor. Then you will find wealth far beyond your wildest dreams."
"Accredited investor? Sophisticated investor? Whatís the difference?" I asked, actually feeling a spark of renewed hope.
"Good question," Mike said with a smile, sensing that his friend was coming out of a slump.
"An accredited investor is by definition someone who qualifies because he or she has money. That is why an accredited investor is often called a qualified investor," rich dad explained. "But money alone does not qualify you to be a sophisticated investor."
"What is the difference?" I asked.
"Well, did you see the headlines in yesterdayís newspaper about the Hollywood movie star who lost millions in an investment scam?" asked rich dad.
I nodded my head saying, "Yes I did. Not only did he lose millions, he had to pay the tax department for untaxed income that went into that deal."
"Well, that is an example of an accredited or qualified investor," rich dad continued. "But just because you have money does not mean youíre a sophisticated investor. This is why we often hear of so many high-income people such as doctors, lawyers, rock stars, and professional athletes losing money in less-than-sound investments. They have the money but they lack the sophistication. They have money but donít know how to invest it safely and for high returns. All the deals look the same to them. They canít tell a good investment from a bad one. People like them should stay only in sanitized investments or hire a professional money manager they trust to invest for them."
"So what is your definition of a sophisticated investor?" I asked.
"A sophisticated investor knows the 3-Es," said rich dad.
"The 3-Es," I repeated. "What are the 3-Es?"
Rich dad then turned over the private placement memorandum we were looking at and wrote the following on the back of one of the pages.
3. Excessive cash
"Those are the 3-Es," he said, looking up from the page. "Achieve those three items and you will be a sophisticated investor."
Looking at the three items, I said, "So the movie star had excessive cash, but he lacked the first two items."
Rich dad nodded. "And there are many people with the right education but they lack the experience, and without real life experience, they often lack the excessive cash."
"People like that often say, ĎI knowí when you explain things to them, but they do not do what they know," added Mike. "Our banker always says, ĎI knowí to what dad and I do, but for some reason, he does not do what he claims he knows."
"And that is why your banker lacks the excessive cash," I said.
Rich dad and Mike nodded.
Again, the room went silent as the conversation ended. All three of us were deep in our own private thoughts. Rich dad signaled the maid for more coffee and Mike began putting the three-ring binder away. I sat with my arms crossed, gazing out upon the deep blue Pacific Ocean at Mikeís beautiful home and contemplating my next direction in life. I had finished college as my parents had wished, my military obligation would soon be over, and then I would be free to choose the path that was best for me.
"What are you thinking about?" asked rich dad, sipping from his fresh cup of coffee.
"Iím thinking about what I want to become now that I have grown up," I replied.
"And what is that?" asked Mike.
"Iím thinking that maybe I should become a sophisticated investor," I replied quietly. "Whatever that is."
"That would be a wise choice," said rich dad. Youíve got a pretty good start, a financial education foundation. Now itís time to get some experience."
"And how will I know when I have enough of both?" I asked.
"When you have excessive cash," smiled rich dad.
With that, the three of us laughed and raised our water glasses, toasting, "To excessive cash."
Rich dad then toasted, "And to being a sophisticated investor."
"To being a sophisticated investor and to excessive cash," I repeated again silently to myself. I liked the ring of those words in my head.
Mikeís limousine driver was summoned and I returned to my dingy bachelor officers quarters to think about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was an adult and I had fulfilled my parentsí expectations... expectations such as getting a college education and serving my country during a time of war. It was now time for me to decide what I wanted to do for myself. The thought of studying to become a sophisticated investor appealed to me. I could continue my education with rich dad as I gained the experience I needed. This time, my rich dad would be guiding me as an adult.
20 Years Later
By 1993, rich dadís wealth was split between his children, grandchildren, and their future children. For the next hundred years or so, his heirs would not have to worry about money. Mike received the primary assets of the business and has done a magnificent job of growing the balance of rich dadís financial empire, a financial empire that rich dad had built from nothing. I had seen it start and grow during my lifetime.
It took me 20 years to achieve what I thought I should have been able to do in 10 years. There is some truth to that saying, "Itís the first million that is the hardest."
In retrospect, making $1 million was not that difficult. Itís keeping the million and having it work hard for you that I found to be difficult. Nevertheless, I was able to retire in 1994 at the age of 47, financially free with ample money with which to enjoy life.
Yet, it was not retirement that I found exciting. It was finally being able to invest as a sophisticated investor that was exciting. To be able to invest alongside Mike and rich dad was a goal worth achieving. That day back in 1973, when Mike and rich dad said I was not rich enough to invest with them, was a turning point in my life and the day I set the goal to become a sophisticated investor.
The following is a list of some of the investments in which so-called "Accredited Investors and Sophisticated Investors" invest:
1. Private placements
2. Real estate syndication and limited partnerships
3. Pre-initial public offerings (IPOs)
4. IPOs (while available to all investors, IPOs are not usually easily accessible)
5. Sub-prime financing
6. Mergers and acquisitions
7. Loans for startups
8. Hedge funds
For the average investor, these investments are too risky, not because the investment itself is necessarily risky, but because all too often, the average investor lacks the education, experience, and excessive capital to know what he or she is getting into. I now tend to side with the SEC that it is better to protect unqualified investors by restricting their access to these types of investments because I made some errors and false steps along the way.
As a sophisticated investor today, I now invest in such ventures. If you know what youíre doing, the risk is very low while the potential reward can be huge. Investments such as these are where the rich routinely invest their money.
Although I have taken some losses, the returns on the investments that do well have been spectacular, far exceeding the few losses. A 35% return on capital is normal, but returns of 1,000% and more are occasionally achieved. I would rather invest in these investments because I find them more exciting and more challenging. Itís not simply a matter of "Buy me 100 shares of this or sell 100 shares of that." Nor is it "Is the p/e high or is the p/e low?" That is not what being a sophisticated investor is about. Investing in these investments is about getting very close to the engine of Capitalism. In fact, some of the investments listed are venture capital investments, which for the average investor are far too risky. In reality, the investments are not risky, itís the lack of education, experience, and excessive cash that makes the average investor risky.
This Book is not about investments.
This Book is about the investor.
This book is not necessarily about investments. This book is about the investor specifically, and the path to becoming a sophisticated investor. It is about you finding your path to acquiring the 3-Es: education, experience, and excessive cash.
Rich Dad Poor Dad is a book about my educational path as a child. CASHFLOW Quadrant is Rich Dad Poor Dad part II and is my educational path as a young adult between the years 1973 and 1994. This book, Rich Dadís Guide to Investing, builds on the lessons from all previous years with my real life experiences and converts the lessons into the 3-Eís in order to qualify as a sophisticated investor.
In 1973, I barely had $3,000 to invest and I did not have much education and real-life experience. By 1994, I had become a sophisticated investor.
Over 20 years ago, rich dad said, "Just as there are houses for the rich, the poor, and the middle class, there are investments for each of them. If you want to invest in investments that the rich invest in, you have to be more than rich. You need to become a sophisticated investor, not just a rich person who invests."
The Five Phases of Becoming a Sophisticated Investor
Rich dad broke my development program into five distinct phases, which I have organized into phases, lessons, and chapters. The phases are:
1. Are You Mentally Prepared to Be an Investor?
2. What Type of Investor Do You Want to Become?
3. How Do You Build a Strong Business?
4. Who Is the Sophisticated Investor?
5. Giving It Back.
This book is written as a guide. It will not give you specific answers. The purpose of this book is to help you understand what questions to ask. And if this book does that, it has done its job. Rich dad said, "You cannot teach someone to be a sophisticated investor. But a person can learn to become a sophisticated investor. Itís like learning to ride a bicycle. I cannot teach you to ride a bicycle, but you can learn to ride a bicycle. Learning to ride a bicycle requires risk, trial and error, and proper guidance. The same is true with investing. If you do not want to take risks, then youíre saying you do not want to learn. And if you do not want to learn, then I cannot teach you."
If youíre looking for a book on hot investment tips, or how to get rich quick, or the secret investment formula of the rich, this book is not for you. This book is really about learning more than investing. It is written for people who are students of investing, students who seek their own path to wealth rather than look for the easy road to wealth.
This book is about rich dadís five phases of development, the five phases that he went through and that I am currently going through. If you are a student of great wealth, you may notice while reading this book that rich dadís five phases are the same five phases that the richest business people and investors in the world went through in order to become very, very rich. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Warren Buffet, Americaís richest investor; and Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric, all went through these five phases. They are the same five phases that the young new millionaires and billionaires of the Internet or the "dot com" generation are currently going through while still in their twenties and thirties. The only difference is that because of the Information Age, these young people went through the same phases faster...and maybe so can you.
Are You Part of the Revolution?
Great wealth, vast fortunes, and mega-rich families were created during the Industrial Revolution. The same is going on today during the Information Revolution.
I find it interesting that today we have self-made multi-millionaires and billionaires who are twenty, thirty, and forty years of age; yet we still have people forty and over having a tough time hanging on to $50,000-a-year jobís. One reason causing this great disparity is the shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. When we shifted into the Industrial Age, people like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison became billionaires. Today, shifting into the Information Age, we have Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and the founders of the Internet companies becoming young millionaires and billionaires. These twenty-somethings will soon be passing Bill GatesĖwho is old at 39Ėin wealth. That is the power of a shift in ages, the shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. It has been said that there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come...and there is nothing so detrimental than someone who is still thinking old ideas.
For you, this book may be about looking at old ideas and possibly finding new ideas for wealth. It may also be about a paradigm shift in your life. It may be about a transition as radical as the shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. It may be about you defining a new financial path for your life. It may be about thinking more like a businessperson and investor rather than an employee or a self-employed person.
It took me years to go through the phases, and in fact, I am still going through them. After reading this book, you may consider going through the same five phases or you may decide that this developmental path is not for you. If you decide to embark upon the same path, how fast you choose to go through these five phases of development is up to you. Remember that this book is not about getting rich quickly. The choice to undergo such a personal development and education program begins in phase one...the phase of mental preparation.
Are You Mentally Prepared to Be an Investor?
Rich dad often said, "Money will be anything you want it to be."
What he meant was that money comes from our minds, our thoughts. If a person says, "Money is hard to get," it will probably be hard to get. If a person says, "Oh Iíll never be rich," or "Itís really hard to get rich," it will probably be true for that person. If a person says, "The only way to get rich is to work hard," then that person will probably work hard. If the person says, "If I had a lot of money, I would put it in the bank because I wouldnít know what to do with it," then it will probably happen just that way. Youíd be surprised how many people think and do just that. And if a person says, "Investing is risky," then it is. As rich dad said, "Money will be anything you want it to be."
Rich dad warned me that the mental preparation needed to become a sophisticated investor was probably similar to the mental preparation it would take to climb Mt. Everest, or to prepare for the priesthood. He was kidding, yet he was putting me on notice that such an undertaking was not to be taken lightly. He said to me, "You start as I did. You start without any money. All you have is hope and a dream of attaining great wealth. While many people dream of it, only a few achieve it. Think hard and prepare mentally because you are about to learn to invest in a way that very few people are allowed to invest. You will see the investment world from the inside rather than from the outside. There are far easier paths in life and easier ways to invest. So think it over and be prepared if you decide this is the path for your life."
Copyright © 2000 by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
Excerpt Courtesy of Time Warner Book Group
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Rich Dad's Guide to Investing: What the Rich Invest in, That the Poor and the Middle Class Do Not! (Paperback)
by Robert Kiyosaki
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