At age nine, after being taught how to play Monopoly, Robert Kiyosaki knew he was going to be wealthy. Author of the Rich Dad Poor Dad books and founder of the financial education company Rich Dad, Kiyosaki, as a young adult, attended seminars led by the visionary Buckminster Fuller. Fuller’s 1983 posthumously published book, The Grunch of Giants, altered the course of Kiyosaki’s life. “This was one of his first books on the economy,” he says, “that was in my strike zone, which I understood. When he wrote about GRUNCH, an acronym that stands for Gross Universal Cash Heist—how the ultra rich were ripping off the world through our monetary system—I could see the economic crisis coming, so I decided that I’d better say something about it. That’s why in 1996, I created the Cash Flow board game, and in 1997 wrote a brochure to help sell the game.”

That brochure became his first book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Kiyosaki shopped it around to different publishers, but no one was interested, he says. “The book was so radical because I said savers are losers; your house is not an asset; and the rich don’t work for money. Those three comments are what kicked us out of the publishing industry. They said, ‘You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.’ ”

So he self-published it in 1997, and it hit the New York Times bestseller list in 2000, which caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who wanted him on her show. That invitation gave the final push to a handshake deal with Rick Wolff, at Warner Books at the time. Warner printed 400,000 copies of Rich Dad, Poor Dad in the few weeks before his Oprah appearance. Kiyosaki says, “I was the only guest for an hour, and, as they say, my life changed. An overnight success! As I walked off the stage, Oprah looked at me and said, ‘Hey, rich dad, I just sold a billion copies of your book!’ So I said, ‘Thank you!’ ”

Six years later, he collaborated with Donald Trump on Why We Want You to Be Rich, and in 2011, Midas Touch. “We’re both real estate guys, and we got together as teachers who encourage financial education outside the school system,” says Kiyosaki. “The first book was about the demise of the middle class, the second about entrepreneurship.” A third book with Trump was quashed by his presidential campaign. Asked if that book will happen, Kiyosaki chuckles and says, “It depends on how many years he’s president.”

What began as a self-published book with a first printing of 1,000 has grown into an empire. The Rich Dad, Poor Dad series of books, now published by Plata Publishing, has global sales of more than 35 million (see sidebar). Mona Gambetta, director of Global Publishing for Plata, cites three reasons for his continuing success. “It’s the right message, to take control of your life. Robert is a fearless advocate of financial literacy and financial education. And it’s the right time. Twenty years ago, it was a fertile field for this message, and today the need is greater. The world is moving faster; everything about what used to be job security is changing. It’s becoming more and more important to have some personal sovereignty tied to your finances.”

Kiyosaki is at BookExpo to promote a 20th anniversary edition of Rich Dad Poor Dad, with an update and study guides, as well as a new book just out in May called Why the Rich Are Getting Richer. “The publishing world has been very good to me, considering I’m not an author, I’m a real estate investor. For a kid who flunked out of high school and was told he couldn’t write, to be in BookExpo is either going to heaven or nirvana!” He adds, “I can hear my English teacher saying, ‘What the hell is he doing there?’ ”

Rich Stats

Rich Dad Poor Dad is the #1 personal finance book of all time.

◗ The books in the Rich Dad series have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide.

◗ The Rich Dad series has been translated into 43 languages.

Rich Dad Poor Dad had a nearly seven-year run on the New York Times bestseller list.

Rich Dad Poor Dad is one of the first self-published books to appear on the New York Times bestseller list.

Rich Dad Poor Dad continues to make bestseller lists around the world, most recently in Germany, the Philippines, and lists across Asia, where the book is called “The Purple Storm.”

Today and tomorrow, 10–11 a.m. Robert Kiyosaki will sign Rich Dad Poor Dad at the Plata booth (2562).

Today and tomorrow, 2–3 p.m. Kiyosaki signs ARCs of Why the Rich Are Getting Richer at the Plata booth (2562).