Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kiyosaki's Seminars Investigated

Canadian TV has a story on the Kiyosaki's Rich Dad seminars. The upshot seems to be that they are basically non-educational and nothing more than extended sales pitches for more products and seminars. (I do have to disagree with the story's characterizations of lease-options and preforeclosures - these are valid investments and I have made money using both of them.)

Personally, I tend to agree. I've never been to a seminar I had to pay for. I just don't see the point. Kiyosaki has written lots of books, many of which I've read. I also was an active participant on the discussion forumson his website, which is where I met other RE investors and got most of my financial and real estate education. These are free or low-cost methods of learning. The only Kiyosaki seminar I attended was a free one that lasted a couple of hours. This was long ago – back before he got the image consultant and was still wearing Hawaiian shirts to appearances instead of suits. I’ve gone to a couple of other events he’s been at, all of which were free.

I can see where he is going and he is going to face increasing criticism like this. At one of the events I was at, he was talking about cashflow and how one of his goals was to increase it. He said he was currently getting about a million dollars a month in cash flow and he had talked with Oprah, who was cashflowing about a million dollars a day. His goal was to get to her level of cashflow.

Now to get to that level, you need to sell to a lot of people over and over. Books alone aren’t going to cut it. So I can see him branching out into other areas – seminars, videos, etc. And you can’t give seminars to tens of thousands of people on your own, so he has to hire or partner with other seminar companies. To get the recurring revenue, you also need to promote the need for more seminars, which seminar companies are good at doing.

Oprah has created her empire through television. She has her own show and it is her alone that millions of people watch and identify with. She is not giving seminars using other people and companies to promote her name. That is the big difference. She has a level of control over her empire that Kiyosaki can never have, not with the model he is using. It’s possible he knows this. He tried to go the television route before. He had a show on a local Phoenix television station that lasted a couple of episodes before it was cancelled. His wife also had a show that lasted slightly longer. Since the television route failed, the only other option he has for reaching the huge number of people needed to obtain his cashflow goal is by using surrogates to spread his message. By definition, he has therefore given up some control of his message by allowing others to teach in his name.

The other problem is his subject matter. Oprah talks to people about books, feelings, ways to live your life, and other topics that typically do not require her fans to invest large sums of money. Kiyosaki however, is teaching about real estate and, increasingly, stocks. Investing in these can require (although not necessarily) large amounts of money. Unwise or poorly educated people can, and have, lose all their savings and wind up bankrupt. Further, the law of averages guarantees this will happen to some of Kiyosaki’s followers, no matter what he does. Because the losses can be so great, dissatisfied followers will be more vocal and receive more publicity than dissatisfied followers of Oprah would. If you buy a book that Oprah recommends and you don’t like it, you’re out $5 to $15 bucks. If you buy a rental property like Kiyosaki says and you can’t manage it, you could go bankrupt. That’s a big difference. It’s why, in my opinion, Kiyosaki will never reach his cashflow goal. The number of people required to reach such a goal ensures there will be people who fail and failures in his field of play are enormously magnified, which in turn, discourages others.

This is not to say I am anti-Kiyosaki. His first several books are still filled with valid advice: stop buying liabilities, start buying assets, increase your cashflow. I still believe substantial passive income should be a goal of everyone. But it’s hard to continue to create content on this narrow topic. I stopped reading his books after Retire Young Retire Rich because I felt he was repeating himself.

Bottom line: learn and live Kiyosaki’s core message from his first couple of books. Don’t bother with expensive seminars. Educate yourself by meeting with other real estate investors in your local area and from reading free on-line communities. Be skeptical but keep an open mind. Check out the accomplishments of those whose advice you feel inclined to take to make sure they know what they are talking about. Don’t expect to get rich overnight.


sergeson said...

I think Kiyosaki is so popular, and rich, simply because he has tapped into the ability to make people feel good about themselves by telling stories. That's why people buy every book, attend every lecture and buy his board games. Yet they don't invest.

You're right in that Robert doesn't delve into details about how to buy a property or what determines a good investment. The actual nuts and bolts of investing are missing. I think more and more people realize that early on.

I bought only his first two books. The other books I skimmed and realized they were just repeating the same story with different verbiage.

kwerner said...

Shaun, you mentioned that you were on the RichDad forums... if you don't mind me asking, what was your screen name? If you don't want to post it on your blog, email me. Thanks!

Shaun said...

I think my screen name was ShaunStu.

For Rent By Owner said...
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Mobile Home Gurl said...

Great post! I like the last line - it's really true. I think a lot of people go into it thinking they will get rich overnight only to find it takes work, a lot of work.

I think Kiyosaki is very good at telling stories and inspiring people. Though inspiration is nice, I think it's taking action that really does help people get to their goals.

I've skimmed a few of his latest books. I think his earlier work still was his best - I re-read some of it from time to time. And, nothing beats checking books out at the local library!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue, nice post!

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