Chapter Three
                     The rich focus on their asset columns while
                     everyone else focuses on their income statements.
   In 1974, Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, was asked to speak to the MBA class at the University of Texas at Austin. A friend of mine was a student in that MBA class. After a powerful and inspiring talk, the class adjourned and the students asked Ray if he would join them at their favorite hangout to have a few beers. Ray graciously accepted.
   “What business am I in?” Ray asked, once the group had all their beers in hand.
   “Everyone laughed,” my friend said. “Most of the MBA students thought Ray was just fooling around.”
   No one answered, so Ray asked again, “What business do you think I’m in?”
   The students laughed again, and finally one brave soul yelled out, “Ray, who in the world doesn’t know that you’re in the hamburger business?”
   Ray chuckled. “That’s what I thought you would say.” He paused and then quickly added, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not in the hamburger business. My business is real estate.”
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   As my friend tells the story, Ray spent a good amount of time explaining his viewpoint. In his business plan, Ray knew that the primary business focus was to sell hamburger franchises, but what he never lost sight of was the location of each franchise. He knew that the land and its location were the most significant factors in the success of each franchise. Basically, the person who bought the franchise was also buying the real estate under the franchise for Ray Kroc’s organization.
   Today, McDonald’s is the largest single owner of real estate in the world, owning even more than the Catholic church. McDonald’s owns some of the most valuable intersections and street corners in America and around the globe.
   My friend considers this as one of the most important lessons in his life. Today he owns car washes, but his business is the real estate under those car washes.
   The previous chapter presented diagrams illustrating that most people work for everyone but themselves. They work first for the owners of the company, then for the government through taxes, and finally for the bank that owns their mortgage.
   When I was a young boy, we did not have a McDonald’s nearby. Yet my rich dad was responsible for teaching Mike and me the same lesson that Ray Kroc talked about at the University of Texas. It is secret number three of the rich. That secret is: Mind your own business. Financial struggle is often directly the result of people working all their lives for someone else. Many people will simply have nothing at the end of their working days to show for their efforts.
   Our current educational system focuses on preparing today’s youth to get good jobs by developing scholastic skills. Their lives will revolve around their wages or, as described earlier, their income column. Many will study further to become engineers, scientists, cooks, police officers, artists, writers, and so on. These professional skills allow them to enter the workforce and work for money.
   But there is a big difference between your profession and your business. Often I ask people, “What is your business?” And they will 72

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say, “Oh, I’m a banker.” Then I ask them if they own the bank. And they usually respond, “No, I work there.” In that instance, they have confused their profession with their business. Their profession may be a banker, but they still need their own business.
   A problem with school is that you often become what you study. So if you study cooking, you become a chef. If you study the law, you become an attorney, and a study of auto mechanics makes you a mechanic. The mistake in becoming what you study is that too many people forget to mind their own business. They spend their lives minding someone else’s business and making that person rich.
   To become financially secure, a person needs to mind their own business. Your business revolves around your asset column, not your income column. As stated earlier, the number-one rule is to know the difference between an asset and a liability, and to buy assets. The rich focus on their asset columns, while everyone else focuses on their income statements.
   That is why we hear so often: “I need a raise.” “If only I had a promotion.” “I am going back to school to get more training so I can get a better job.” “I am going to
Financial struggle is                         work overtime.” “Maybe I can get a
often the result of                             second job.”
people working all their                   In some circles, these are sensible
lives for someone else.            ideas. But you are still not minding your own business. These ideas all still focus on the income column and will only help a person become more financially secure if the additional money is used to purchase income-generating assets.
   The primary reason the majority of the poor and middle class are fiscally conservative—which means, “I can’t afford to take risks”— is that they have no financial foundation. They have to cling to their jobs and play it safe.
   When downsizing became the “in” thing to do, millions of workers found out their largest so-called asset, their home, was eating them alive. Their “asset” was costing them money every month. Their

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car, another “asset,” was eating them alive. The golf clubs in the garage that cost $1,000 were not worth $1,000 anymore. Without job security, they had nothing to fall back on. What they thought were assets could not help them survive in a time of financial crisis.
   I assume most of us have filled out a credit application to buy a house or a car. It’s always interesting to look at the “net-worth” section because of what accepted banking and accounting practices allow a person to count as assets.
   One day when I wanted a loan, my financial position did not look too good. So I added my new golf clubs, my art collection, books, electronics, Armani suits, wristwatches, shoes, and other personal effects to boost the number in the asset column.
   But I was turned down because I had too much investment real estate. The loan committee didn’t like that I made so much money from rent. They wanted to know why I did not have a normal job with a salary. They did not question the Armani suits, golf clubs, or art collection. Life is sometimes tough when you do not fit the standard profile.
   I cringe every time I hear someone say to me that their net worth is a million dollars or $100,000 dollars or whatever. One of the main reasons net worth is not accurate is simply because, the moment you begin selling your assets, you are taxed for any gains.
   So many people have put themselves in deep financial trouble when they run short of income. To raise cash, they sell their assets. But their personal assets can generally be sold for only a fraction of the value that is listed on their personal balance sheet. Or if there is a gain on the sale of the assets, they are taxed on the gain. So again, the government takes its share, thus reducing the amount available to help them out of debt. That is why I say someone’s net worth is often “worth less” than they think.
   Start minding your own business. Keep your daytime job, but start buying real assets, not liabilities or personal effects that have no real value once you get them home. A new car loses nearly 25 percent of the price you pay for it the moment you drive it off the lot. It is

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not a true asset even if your banker lets you list it as one. My $400 new titanium driver was worth $150 the moment I teed off.
   Keep expenses low, reduce liabilities, and diligently build a base of solid assets. For young people who have not yet left home, it is important for parents to teach them the difference between an asset and a liability. Get them to start building a solid asset column before they leave home, get married, buy a house, have kids, and get stuck in a risky financial position, clinging to a job, and buying everything on credit. I see so many young couples who get married and trap themselves into a lifestyle that will not let them get out of debt for most of their working years.
   For many people, just as the last child leaves home, the parents realize they have not adequately prepared for retirement and they begin to scramble to put some money away. Then their own parents become ill and they find themselves with new responsibilities.
   So what kind of assets am I suggesting that you or your children acquire? In my world, real assets fall into the following categories:
•  Businesses that do not require my presence I own them, but they are managed or          run by other people. If I have to work there, it’s not a business. It becomes my job.
•  Stocks
•  Bonds
•  Income-generating real estate
•  Notes (IOUs)
•  Royalties from intellectual property such as music, scripts, and patents
•  Anything else that has value, produces income or appreciates, and has a ready             market

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   As a young boy, my educated dad encouraged me to find a safe job. But my rich dad encouraged me to begin acquiring assets that I loved. “If you don’t love it, you won’t take care of it.” I collect real estate simply because I love buildings and land. I love shopping for them, and I could look at them all day long. When problems arise, the problems aren’t so bad that it changes my love for real estate. For people who hate real estate, they shouldn’t buy it.
   I also love stocks of small companies, especially start-ups, because I am an entrepreneur, not a corporate person. In my early years, I worked in large organizations, such as Standard Oil of California, the U.S. Marine Corps, and Xerox Corp. I enjoyed my time with those organizations and have fond memories, but I know deep down I am not a company man. I like starting companies, not running them. So my stock buys are usually of small companies. Sometimes I even start the company and take it public. Fortunes are made in new stock issues, and I love the game. Many people are afraid of small-cap companies and call them risky, and they are. But that risk is diminished if you love what the
Start minding your own                        investment is, understand it, and know
business. Keep your                               the game. With small companies, my
daytime job, but start                            investment strategy is to be out of the
buying real assets,                                 stock in a year. On the other hand, my
not liabilities.                                       real estate strategy is to start small and keep trading up for bigger properties and, therefore, delay paying taxes on the gain. This allows the value to increase dramatically. I generally hold real estate less than seven years.
   For years, even while I was with the Marine Corps and Xerox, I did what my rich dad recommended. I kept my day job, but I still minded my own business. I was active in my asset column trading real estate and small stocks. Rich dad always stressed the importance of financial literacy. The better I was at understanding the accounting and cash management, the better I would be at analyzing investments and eventually starting and building my own company.

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   I don’t encourage anyone to start a company unless they really want to. Knowing what I know about running a company, I wouldn’t wish that task on anyone. There are times when people can’t find employment and starting a company seems like the best solution. But the odds are against success: Nine out of ten companies fail in five years. Of those that survive the first five years, nine out of every ten of those eventually fail as well. So only if you really have the desire to own your own company do I recommend it. Otherwise, keep your day job and mind your own business.
   When I say mind your own business, I mean to build and keep your asset column strong. Once a dollar goes into it, never let it come out. Think of it this way: Once a dollar goes into your asset column, it becomes your employee. The best thing about money is that it works 24 hours a day and can work for generations. Keep your day job, be a great hardworking employee, but keep building that asset column.
   As your cash flow grows, you can indulge in some luxuries. An important distinction is that rich people buy luxuries last, while the poor and middle class tend to buy luxuries first. The poor and the middle class often buy luxury items like big houses, diamonds, furs, jewelry, or boats because they want to look rich. They look rich, but in reality they just get deeper in debt on credit. The old-money people, the long-term rich, build their asset column first. Then the income generated from the asset column buys their luxuries. The poor and middle class buy luxuries with their own sweat, blood, and children’s inheritance.
   A true luxury is a reward for investing in and developing a real asset. For example, when my wife Kim and I had extra money coming from our apartment houses, she went out and bought her Mercedes. It didn’t take any extra work or risk on her part because the apartment house bought the car. She did, however, have to wait four years while the real estate investment portfolio grew and began generating enough extra cash flow to pay for the car. But the luxury, the Mercedes, was a true reward because she proved she knew how to grow her asset column. That car now means a lot more to her than 

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simply another pretty car. It means she used her financial intelligence to afford it.
   Instead, most people impulsively go out and buy a new car, or some other luxury, on credit. They may feel bored and just want a new toy. Buying a luxury on credit often causes a person to eventually resent that luxury because the debt becomes a financial burden.
   After you’ve taken the time and invested in and built your own business, you are now ready to learn the biggest secret of the rich—the secret that puts the rich way ahead of the pack.


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