What Do You Work For?

Why the poor work for money…and the rich don’t

When I was a young boy, I had the advantage of two perspectives on money because I had two dads—a poor one and a rich one.

My poor dad was a government employee. As the superintendent of the Hawaii school district, he made a decent salary, had health benefits and enjoyed a pension. Though he had a good job, he didn't understand money. So, he struggled financially all his life.

My rich dad was a business owner with a financial education. Over the years, he invested in and built an empire that ranged from small convenience stores to large hotels. He didn't have a traditional job, but he understood money. As a result, he became very rich and didn’t struggle to make ends meet.

He taught his son, Mike, and me how to view and use money to become rich through a series of lessons, and the first lesson he taught me was, "The rich don't work for money."

My rich dad said, "The main cause of poverty is fear and ignorance."

His point was that most people are so afraid of not having money that they'll do anything to get it. Usually, this means working jobs they don't like, for people they don't like, for a salary they don't like.

The reasons for this is that while people know they want fine things, they don't know of any other way to attain them than trying to work for more and more money. The more they make, the more they buy, and the more money they need to make.

It's a vicious circle that rich dad called the Rat Race.

As people become accustomed to having more and more nice things, they become more fearful of losing all they've worked for. So, they work harder to please their boss and keep their jobs. All the while, they become more and more miserable.

Some of these people are poor in spirit because they are unhappy. Others are poor in actuality because even though they work hard, they don't make enough money to live a good life. Either way, they are living a life of poverty because they don't understand money and how to make it work for them.

As young boys, my rich dad wanted to teach Mike and me a valuable lesson about money. He did so by having us work at one of his convenience stores for three hours each Saturday. Our job was simple but mind numbing. We dusted the shelves each time a car drove through the parking lot, sending a wave of dust through the store doors that were open to keep the store cool since there was no air conditioning.

In return for this, we each received $0.30, which was not a lot of money, and a promise to learn how to be rich. At the end of each shift, I used my money to buy comic books and went home wondering when rich dad would teach me how to be rich.

As weeks went on, I got my $0.30, but I never got the teachings I expected on how to be rich. Finally, I was ready to quit. I was making poor money for hard work and it wasn't worth it—or so I thought. That is when I finally got my first lesson on money.

"I want to teach you the power of money," said rich dad.

He went on to explain that our desire for more money had the effect of blinding us. Rather than see opportunity, we let our lack of money give us tunnel vision. The only option was to have him pay us more. We were working for money.

He then explained that he didn't work for money, but did what he loved and made money work for him. Our eyes were opened.

After rich dad's financial education lesson, Mike and I put our heads together to see how we could make money work for us as well. The answer had been in front of our faces the whole time we were dusting the shelves and complaining about how little we were making.

Rich dad said, "The sooner you stop working for a paycheck, the sooner you'll see things other people never see."

After rich dad's lesson, Mike and I worked at his store for a couple weeks and noticed that the store manager would take the older comics, cut the covers in half, and give them to the distributor for a credit. This gave us an idea.

When the distributor came in to pick up the old comic books, we asked him if we could have them. Because we worked at the store, he said yes, but only if we didn't resell them.

Keeping our end of the bargain, we didn't sell them—we rented them out. Using a spare room in Mike's basement, we stockpiled hundreds of free comic books, and each Saturday we opened our library from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. to the kids in the neighborhood. Admission was $0.10 a day, a steal since each book was $0.10 and you could read five or six in the two hours we were open.

As things got rolling, we averaged $9.40 per week—a lot more than the $0.30 we were making each week at the store. But we'd never have had the opportunity had we not worked there and had our eyes open to opportunity. The best part of our new venture was that we made this money even if we weren't there at the comic library.

We'd learned to make money work for us.

So, the question I have for you today is, what are you working for?To find out more, check out our free, financial education tools here.

Portions of this post were adapted from Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach their Kids About Money—That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

Original publish date: October 02, 2012