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Home > News > Columnists > B S Prakash

Get up and get rich

March 29, 2007

One Sunday, lazily flipping through television channels aimlessly -- who doesn't -- I stopped at an unusual sight. The screen showed the visage of Donald Trump, familiar to all American television watchers and to many Indians, as well, I suspect.

He was in the studio with another person in a suit who looked Chinese or Japanese. And the unusual aspect was that the great Trump was looking approvingly at this gent, not frowning at him, not glowering, not getting ready to 'fire' him.

Watching for a minute I learnt that the other was called Kiyosaki. Both were discussing 'money'; in fact were talking about their new book called Why We Want You To Be Rich.

Now, I watch a fair amount of television, all kinds, movies, series, news, views, sports, scandals, but business programmes is not one of my choices. I reluctantly came to the sad conclusion a long time ago that in this life at least, I will never understand, let alone master the money mantras.

Not that I have not tried. Ever since I got my first salary, I have sought advice on how to save, where to invest, what rates of return to expect. I have tried to read articles about stocks and shares, mutual funds, insurance linked growth plans, real estate opportunities and what not.

I try to keep up with news items on falling interest rates, rising lending rates or is it the other way around now, and living abroad intermittently, also try to decipher the volatile world of exchange rate fluctuations.

Alas, most of it escapes me and after five minutes a dull feeling of hopelessness descends. Everything depends on numbers, it seems: percentages, rates, yields, and the fact is that numbers have been the bane of my life all along. Giving up all dreams and desires, I resign myself to fixed deposits in state banks, earning a miserable whatever percent, but taking comfort in the belief that they are safe and secure, even if dull and deadening.

With this background and attitude, something in the discussion on the television caught my attention even in that brief second as I was flipping through the channels. "We teach so many subjects to our kids in school, all except how to understand money," Kiyosaki was saying.

Yes, I thought, how true. I have learnt a fair deal in life but was never taught anything about money in school or college. What a mistake, I thought to myself.

I again looked at the two personalities on television. They literally exuded prosperity and were oozing wealth. Expensive pin striped suits, pearl-white shirts, rich maroon ties, exquisite gold cuff links, a Rolex or an Omega watch peeping out of the cuffs. And confident and aggressive faces.

The super rich in India do not necessarily look like this. Aziz Premji radiates a sense of quiet confidence, Narayana Murthy erudition, and Ratan Tata purpose and determination. For that matter Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, does not look rich either, he only looks bright and uber-geeky.

But these are not men devoted to making money. They have made money almost as a by product in the process of using their skills and chasing their dreams. But these two American richies on the television screen were different. They were rich because they specialised in being rich, and now they were saying -- 'And we want you to be rich too'.

A word or two introducing them may be in order, since thank God, they are not household names exactly.

Donald Trump is now almost a brand name in America. He is the ultimate symbol of a real estate mogul and the Trump towers, Trump casinos and the Trump golf courses proliferating all over the big cities, be it New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta or Florida testifies to this.

He also looms large as a persona much like his properties. Every few years, he marries a newer and younger 'model' giving up the older one and his pre-nuptial, marriage and divorce contracts must have made a dozen lawyers also rich. In the nineties, Trump became broke, unable to repay the huge debts for all his property acquisitions and almost went to jail. But unfazed, he has emerged, more flamboyant than ever, and wears his bankruptcy like a badge of honour.

A few years back, he started starring in the television series The Apprentice. This reality television show has a number of ambitious young men and women competing in a mock business competition, say hiring a new corner building in Manhattan and turning it into a successful restaurant. At the end of each show Trump tells one contestant 'You are fired'-that ultimate weapon of merciless dismissal in corporate life.

Today, this line itself, 'You are fired' is a well known tag line like 'Lock kiya jai?' in the earlier KBC. (If this entire trivia was already known to you, my apologies, but I tend to think that all rediff readers are not necessarily frivolous like me.)

Kiyosaki is not so famous except in the world of the so called 'motivational speakers' on the American circuit. This breed can come in several avatars -- the religious zealot, the psychological pundit, the self-help sage or like Kiyosaki, the man with money mantras. They are all mesmeriSing speakers, full of anecdotes, clever formulas, quick-fix solutions to life's intractable problems. Their purpose is to motivate you, at a cost, of course.

The combination of Trump and Kiyosaki was compelling and I sat up to listen to their wisdom. I must now impart its essence.

Kiyosaki's famous parable is called 'Rich dad-Poor dad'. He tells his story of growing up in Hawaii and watching his father -- the biological 'poor dad' in the parable -- working very hard and notwithstanding, saving very little. The father told the young boy to study a lot, acquire an education, thereafter get a proper job, earn a salary, save as much as possible -- all the elements of familiar fatherly advice for most of us.

The precocious Kiyosaki had realised, however, that this was not the road to riches. He had as his neighbour another fatherly man, the 'rich dad' in the story. This man never worked, never saved, but was always drowning in money. He taught the techniques and the tools to Kiyosaki. He had put others to work, borrowed money successfully, created assets which spun off money and thus grew richer and richer by productive use of the capital resources. Kiyosaki learnt something watching his two dads and has now spent his life teaching about the two different models. And has made a ton of money in the process.

Those readers interested in the technique can easily find the details on the Internet. But the simple message is 'don't work for money'; 'make the money work for you'. Borrow, create assets which in turn generate money and sit back to see your money create its own momentum.

I watched all this with growing fascination and dismay. It ran counter to all that I had imbibed from my elders and teachers-study well, work hard, don't spend, save much, don't borrow, live within your means, avoid risks etc etc. How many percepts? No wonder I had not grown rich. It was now too late. My one or two untutored adventures in the past in this direction had disappeared like Harshad Mehta from the financial pages.

As I took the remote to mute this remorseless message, the duo was saying 'don't be satisfied with passive incomes'. I am not destined to develop a passion for outcomes, let alone 'active incomes', I thought and switched off the television.

B S Prakash, Indian Consul General in San Francisco can be reached at

B S Prakash