This article is part of a series entitled: 9 Wise Men Who Taught Me How to Put Life Ahead of My Startup. We've already covered easy routines to energize your mornings, mindset shifts toward financial freedom, starting businesses for passive income, and Clayton Christensen's guide to a meaningful life.
Have you dreamed of being rich? What American hasn't? (Besides my hippy sister.)
My get-rich obsession started in elementary school. You see, my immigrant parents combined loans from coworkers with their hard-earned savings to buy the most expensive house in the best school system they could afford. Instead of gratitude for their courage and sacrifice, I felt envy for the unattainable Reebok Pumps and Starter Jackets worn by my classmates, and shame for our wood-sided station wagon. Each morning, I pleaded with dad to drop me a block before school. Each morning, he dropped me front and center, between Beamers and Benzes, to tickle himself and thicken my skin.
So, in elementary school I decided I had to be rich. It was my American Dream.
But what does rich mean in America? I learned it meant Mercedes, McMansions, and yacht club summers.
How do you get rich? Pick a rich career path. Study hard. Work hard. Get promoted. Work even harder. Invest in mutual funds.
Sound familiar? That was my plan from age eight up until age twenty-two when I met a Doug Fath (more on him later) gave me a book: Rich Dad, Poor Dad (RDPD) by Robert Kiyosaki. It made me realize that my American Dream of being rich was total bullshit. You see, there are...
Three Fallacies To The American "Get-Rich" Dream
Fallacy #1: A high salary will make you rich.
RDPD Truth: For most of us, as our salaries scale so does our spending. We tell ourselves, "I deserve this [luxury of choice]: I've worked my butt off and with my new raise I can now afford it." Kiyosaki teaches, "It's not how much you make, it's how much you keep."
Fallacy #2: Mutual funds will make you rich.
RDPD Truth: Mutual funds will make MBA fund managers and glossy-brochure-slinging financial advisors rich while they shuffle your hard-earned money around and UNDERPERFORM INDEX FUNDS. Think about what that means... A chimp throwing turds at a list of S&P 500 stock symbols will outperform these phonies and cronies. "It is not a winning portfolio. It is a portfolio of someone playing not to lose," writes Kiyosaki.
Fallacy #3: Your home is your greatest asset.
RDPD Truth: "Rich people acquire assets. Poor and middle class acquire liabilities and think they are assets." It's a simple yet profound lesson that highly educated people still don't understand. An "asset is something that puts money in my pocket. A liability is something that takes money out of my pocket." A rental property with positive cashflow is an asset. Your personal home is a liability.
When Doug Fath handed me RDPD, I learned that my get-rich goal was all-wrong. The American Dream "rich" meant slaving without saving until retirement - what Kiyosaki calls "The Rat Race.
So I redefined my American Dream to be not about wealth and consumption but rather freedom and fulfillment. (Cue heavenly-light shining down on 22-year-old-me while toga-clad angels sing and play harpsichords.)
A Redefined American Dream
First, you'll need new definitions in your financial vocab.
1. Financial Freedom: your monthly passive income exceeds your monthly expenses. What's passive income?
2. Passive Income: money that comes in each month as positive cashflow from investments that require no ongoing work from you. For example, an e-book, royalty payment or a three-family rental house makes money for its owner regardless of whether she gets out of bed in the morning. What's positive cashflow?
3. Positive Cashflow: is revenue minus all expenses. A vacation house rental that covers its mortgage each month is NOT positive cashflow. A vacation house that covers its mortgage, tax, insurance, and maintenance is positive cashflow.
In reality, is RDPD concepts probably aren't new to you. But why is it so hard to put into practice? I asked my high-salary, low asset MBA friends that very question. On the surface their answers sounded legit: lack of time, money, experience, etc. But after digging a little deeper, they all boiled down to one thing: fear. Understandable, but totally surmountable.
So why did I believe I could do it? Doug, the guy who handed me the book fifteen years ago, started buying abandoned rental properties in Philly while in college. I believed I could do it because I saw a peer doing it. All of a sudden it wasn't just words on paper - it was tangible. Achievable.
So how do you get started? My path to financial freedom was paved by real estate investing and I'll get into super-specific tactics in future articles but here's the most important thing I've learned: of course money can't buy you happiness. But passive income can buy financial freedom. And Freedom is the Godfather of Happiness and central to a Redefined American Dream.