In January 1998, I was watching a very popular morning television show. The two very attractive hosts, one male and one female, smiled toothy grins and said, "This morning we have our network's investment expert in the studio to give us her financial advice for the start of the year."
The camera cuts away to an extremely attractive young woman who smiles into the camera and says, "For 1998 my advice is to work hard, save money, get out of debt, invest for the long term, and diversify."
The female host smiles and says, "That is such good advice. I hope everyone follows it."
The male host, frowning a little in an attempt to appear more thoughtful and intelligent, asks, "What do you recommend they invest in?"
The attractive young woman smiles her perfect smile and says she recommends a well-diversified portfolio of mutual funds with an emphasis on the technology sector.
"Great advice," say the male and female hosts in unison. Once again, they smile to the camera and thank the financial expert for her advice and for appearing on the program. And they cut to a commercial. A commercial for a mutual fund company.
Over the next few years, all the way through 2005, this same TV program invited the same financial expert on the program and each time the advice was exactly the same: "Work hard, save money, get out of debt, invest for the long term, and diversify." The only thing that changed was the year and the clothes worn by the three people. If they had simply rerun the January 1998 show, the effect would have been largely the same -- same advice, same smiles ... but horrible results.
Between 1995 and 2005 the millions of people who followed that advice lost an estimated $7-9 trillion. And much worse than losing $7-9 trillion, the people who followed that advice missed out on what the Economist magazine called the biggest financial boom in history. So not only did those investors lose money from the 2000-2003 stock market crash, they failed to make a lot of money in the financial boom in real estate and commodities. That is the price of bad advice.
In upcoming columns, I'll explain in detail why the standard financial advice of "work hard, save money, get out of debt, invest for the long term, and diversify" is bad financial advice because it's obsolete. The world has changed. The advice hasn't.
Rich Dad's Advice
In 1997 my wife Kim, our partner Sharon Lechter, and I self-published a little book titled "Rich Dad Poor Dad." It is a true story of my two dads -- one a highly-educated teacher and the head of education for the State of Hawaii and the other a man who dropped out of school at the age of 13. The superintendent of education is my real dad, the man I call my poor dad. My rich dad is my best friend's father.
The reason the book was self-published was because the major publishing houses rejected it. No one thought it would sell. Today "Rich Dad Poor Dad" has been on The New York Times bestseller list almost five years, a feat accomplished by only three other books in the history of The New York Times. The book has been published in over 44 languages and has sold nearly 23 million copies.
One of the reasons for the book's popularity is because it explains why the rich are getting richer and why millions of others are following risky and obsolete financial advice -- advice such as save money, invest for the long term, and diversify. Another reason for the book's popularity is because many of those who followed my rich dad's advice became very rich during the same period of time when millions of people were losing trillions of dollars in the stock market.
So, I am honored to have been asked by Yahoo! Finance to write this column. For those of you who are familiar with my work, thank you and welcome. For those of you who are not, I think you'll find this column different, a divergence from the standard financial car wash.
If you're looking for new ideas about the world of money, business, and investing then I believe this column will provide it. The information may not be comforting or popular, but it will be factual and come from real life experience. Also, this column is not about advice. What I invest in, while not risky for me, may be too risky for most people. Also, I have no investments to sell you. Although I have founded gold, oil, silver, publishing, manufacturing, and real estate companies, I am not writing to sell you shares in any of them. If I have anything to sell, it would be financial education products -- products that are created to support your financial education.
The reason I write is to enlighten, to open eyes, to entertain, and, most importantly, to educate those who are looking for new ideas about money -- even if unpopular. There are more opportunities to become rich today than ever before, but you may not get rich if you follow the obsolete advice of "work hard, save money, get out of debt, invest for the long term, and diversify." In fact, following that advice may make you poorer.
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