It has been 25 years since the original publication of Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money—That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, a book that was originally self-published in 1997 through author Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Cashflow Technologies. Since its release, the book has remained a bestseller, having sold upward of 44 million copies.
Beyond the sales success of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Kiyosaki has always viewed the book as part of a bigger mission—one that began when he was nine years old. “Why don’t we teach kids about money?” he mused. Kiyosaki grew up in Hawaii, and his father served as the state’s secretary of education and had a doctorate but made only a modest salary.
“I grew up in this kind of poor, lower-middle-class neighborhood,” Kiyosaki said. When his father received a promotion, they moved across town and Kiyosaki ended up going to a school whose students were mostly wealthy. It led to him being ensconced in a different world, causing him to wonder, as he said, “How are these kids rich?”
The culture shock resulted in Kiyosaki asking his father about the best way to get rich, and he was told to “stay in school.” Though he was only nine years old, he already knew, he said, that his father’s views about education leading to wealth were “bullshit.” His friend’s dad proved it wrong, being very wealthy yet lacking any university degrees. It prompted Kiyosaki to develop an understanding of the power of passive income—how those who are rich don’t work for their money; the money works for them. The poor work for a paycheck and thereby never get ahead.
“Most people don’t really know about money,” Kiyosaki said. “America is $30 trillion in debt. That’s 32 zeros!” It’s been 25 years since Rich Dad, Poor Dad called attention to the basic lack of financial understanding for a generation of young professionals. “I thought somebody would stop it by now,” Kiyosaki said. “Nothing’s changed.”
The goal of the book was to spread understanding of how money works. Perhaps this is why Kiyosaki struggled to find a publisher for it, resulting in his decision to self publish. “I was rejected by every publisher in New York,” he recalled. “They said I had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t have a degree from Princeton or Stanford.” With no interest from the big houses, Kiyosaki self-published the title and focused on effective marketing tactics, including getting the book in places that normally don’t sell books, like gas stations.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad began to attract New York publishers after it appeared on the New York Times bestsellers list. “I was working at Time Warner Book Group in early 2000,” said Rick Wolff, acquiring editor of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. “Part of my routine was to check the New York Times bestseller list every Sunday. Sure enough, I notice a book I’ve never heard of before that was published by something called Cashflow Technologies.”
Wolff went to his boss, Larry Kirshbaum, telling him about Rich Dad, Poor Dad and its surprise appearance on the list. “He told me, ‘Let’s not fool with this,’ ” Wolff said. But Wolff flew to Phoenix to meet Kiyosaki, who picked him up in a black Porsche and took him to lunch with the Cashflow team. Wolff was impressed with their operation, and was keen to gauge their interest. “They made it clear that there was another offer,” he said.
Somewhat defeated, Wolff tried to come up with a way to make it work and hit on the idea of securing audio rights. In the early 2000s, it was less common to snap up audio rights along with print rights. Sure enough, the audio rights were what eventually led Kiyosaki to take Wolff’s offer.
From the moment of signing, Kiyosaki began recording the audiobook of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and he continued to market it. Not long after the Warner deal was done, Wolff received a call from Kiyosaki’s office with what Wolff said was “good and bad news.” The good news was that Kiyosaki was going to appear on Oprah. The bad news was that the appearance was in about a month. “It was unheard of to crash a book that quickly,” Wolff noted, but the Warner production team was able to get 300,000 copies of it to clients and bookstores in time for the hourlong Oprah appearance.
In 2010, Kiyosaki moved publication of Rich Dad to his Plata Publishing company, which also produces a series of titles related to personal finance. To keep the book in the public eye, he still takes nearly every interview offered; he estimated that he has done more that 2,000 spots.
“Robert is a rags-to-riches story,” Wolff said. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad is the #1 bestselling personal finance book of all time. What’s even more remarkable is that the book is routinely at the top of parenting lists, too.” (According to NPD BookScan, for the 12 months ended in April, Rich Dad, Poor Dad was the top-selling personal finance book.)
Kiyosaki has kept the book’s core message about financial literacy intact over the past 25 years and has made only occasional updates. Beginning with the 20th anniversary issue, Plata added callouts and sidebars on subjects like student loan debt and consumer debt, and updated most of them again for the 25th anniversary edition.
Kiyosaki takes pride in the fact the book has produced multiple generations of readers, with parents handing it to their children so that they may learn about how money works. “I only write about what I’ve done,” Kiyosaki explained. “People go to school and they learn nothing about money. What I put in the book still stands today.”