Rich Dad Poor Dad is really a story about my poor dad. My poor dad is a metaphor for the inadequacy, obsolescence and delusions of modern education’s inability to prepare students for the real world.
As I have asked millions of people, countless times: What did school teach you about money? That question is a spear, directed into the soul of modern education.
As I learned in Sunday school many years ago . . .
“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”
I am not selling religion, I am simply quoting ancient wisdom.
In my opinion, the powers behind our modern educational system need to look into a mirror and ask themselves:
What knowledge am I rejecting?
What are we not teaching?
Why is the institution of education under attack?
Why do so many people say going to school was a waste of time?
Why is the subject of money — a life skill — not taught in school?
In many ways, these questions are a reflection on my poor dad, a great man who dedicated his life to education. Unfortunately, it was and still is an educational system that rejects the subject of money . . . a subject worthy of study. Is there a day in which money — in some shape or form or implication — does not play a role in our lives?
My Inspiration: My Mom
I loved my mom. She was my role model for unconditional love. She constantly hugged and kissed all of her four children, as well as all the friends of those four children. You could not be around my mother and not feel loved.
She was also a poster child for self-sacrifice, giving more love than she allowed herself to receive. She was like a battery — storing energy, sharing and giving — but not receiving enough in return. Ultimately, her ‘battery’ ran out and she passed away at the age of 49.
The story of Rich Dad Poor Dad begins with my mom. One night, when I was about seven years old, I awoke to the sound of my mom crying. My dad was away on a business trip, and my mom was alone, sitting in the dining room, with a stack of papers in front of her.
It was after midnight and I was supposed to be in bed, asleep. Mom was startled when I entered the room and asked her, “Mom, why are you crying?” “You’re supposed to be in bed,” she said, shifting automatically to her role as mother. “Why are you crying?” I asked again. “What are all those papers in front of you?”
Finally, we began to talk, and she answered my questions. “These are bills,” my mom said, holding up several pieces of white paper. She then showed me another piece of paper. This one was darker in color, a golden yellow. “This is our bank statement,” she said to me.
Since I was only seven years old, the differences between the white pieces of paper and the darker yellow one were beyond me. Holding up the golden-colored bank statement, Mom said, “Do you see the numbers at the top of his paper? They start out black . . . and then turn red?” I nodded, and asked, “What do the colors mean? Why are some numbers black and then others red?”
“It means we do not have enough money in our account with the bank,” she answered. “The red numbers mean I have been writing checks without enough money in the bank to cover them.” The worry and despair in her voice was unmistakable.
Again, since I was only seven years old, my mom’s explanation was over my head, save for the significance of numbers going from black to red. I wondered how someone could write a check for money they did not have.
Suddenly, anger welled up inside of me. Anger at my dad, anger that he was hurting my mom and our family. I did not understand why or how money, or the lack of money, could hurt my mom, someone I loved so much and who I knew loved me, and bring her to tears.
Mom went on to explain that while dad was in graduate school working toward his PhD, five of the six members of our family were sick or in the hospital. The only healthy person in our family was my dad. As the hospital bills started to come in, my dad took a break from his education and took a job as an assistant to the Superintendent of Education to pay the bills. He would eventually become the Superintendent of Education for the state of Hawaii and ultimately earn his PhD.
Understanding why our family had so many bills softened my anger at my dad. That anger evolved into concern and compassion for our family. At the age of seven, I had a glimpse into the power of money. How essential it was. And how charged with emotion it was.
Two years later, when I was in the fourth grade, I raised my hand and asked my teacher, “When will we learn about money?” My teacher replied, “We do not teach the subject of money in school.” With those words echoing in my brain, I went in search of a new teacher.
That is how the story of Rich Dad Poor Dad began. It started with my mom, the person who taught me life lessons of self-sacrifice and unconditional love. The Rich Dad story has taken on a life of its own and has resonated with millions of people in cities around the world. Everyone’s life is touched by the effects, good and bad, of money.
There are a few things about my childhood that are as vividly etched in my memory as the night I found my mother crying and struggling to pay our bills. The thought of my mother crying, all because of money problems, still breaks my heart. And the emotions it evokes have fueled a life-long mission of advocacy for financial education. What I felt as an impressionable seven-year-old — the fear and the anger and the powerlessness — has stayed with me . . . and a part of me hopes those emotions never fade. They are a daily reminder of the role money plays in our lives as well as the power it has to change lives.