The best-selling personal finance author of all-time has a new book out this week, and while he lays out some frightening allegations in his book, the thing you should worry about the most is falling victim to Kiyosaki’s fearmongering.
Kiyosaki, who wrote “Who Stole My Pension? How You Can Stop the Looting” with co-author Edward Siedle, believes that the decades ahead will see hundreds of millions of people worldwide – including millions of American senior citizens – slipping into poverty. It’s a note he actually has been sounding for years, hearkening back at least to the financial crisis of 2008.
Yet Kiyosaki – who self-published the first “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” book in 1997 – now is peddling hindsight without vision or action for the future. He’s pointing out a potential problem and suggesting that people react to the trouble without offering any real guidance as to what they should do.
His reasoning: The investment world is crooked.
If you believe that, you need to remove yourself from the den of thieves, but Kiyosaki doesn’t actually tell investors what to do and how to react.
That’s like noting that a room is full of flies but never suggesting a swatter, a zapper, a bug bomb or any other means of fixing the problem because each method is imperfect in its own way. You’re left with the bugs buzzing and your own complaining.
During an interview on “Money Life with Chuck Jaffe” this week, Kiyosaki blithely lumped defined-contribution plans – 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans provided by employers — along with individual retirement accounts (IRAs) as facing similar troubles to what he sees in traditional pension plans (and he noted that the portions of the book covering pensions were written by Siedle).
That’s scary because the traditional pension plan – also called a defined-benefit plan – is mostly dead or dying around the globe.
Defined-benefit plans determine the payout an employee is to receive ahead of time, setting a monthly retirement benefit based on the worker’s salary and tenure. Workers traditionally don’t pay into the plan and don’t have individual accounts; instead, they have a right to a stream of payments.
As life expectancy climbed – and with stock and bond markets delivering more volatility than consistency — employers had an increasingly difficult time amassing enough dough to ensure that pension funds could actually meet their promised payouts. Couple that with accounting rules that allowed for underfunded pensions and it was an unsavory recipe for financial disaster.
That story has been told. In fact, Kiyosaki has rung the bell on it, notably in the aftermath of the 2008 market meltdown in books like “Rich Dad’s Conspiracy of the Rich.”
That story isn’t done; the next time there are true market problems, it’s a good assumption that there will be more pension failures.
Still, those will be isolated events; as the pension realm slowly grinds to a halt, pension failures are less scary and meaningful to the general populace.
And yet Kiyosaki is pulling a Chicken Little now, warning that the market has gone sky high and that a fall is imminent, even as investors and their retirement plans have more than recovered from the market crash of 2000, the bear market of 2004 and the crisis of 2008.
Kiyoaski points to the disconnect between stock prices and fundamentals – a stock market at record highs when earnings are not at all-time peaks – as a point showing that the market and the system “are crooked.”
“I have been criticizing Wall Street for years because they are stealing our wealth,” he said on my show. He noted that “the average mom and pop can’t afford to retire on the money in their 401(k),” which certainly appears true when considering studies showing that the average 50-year-old has less than $50,000 in a defined-contribution plan.
But in a defined-contribution plan, unlike a traditional pension, the benefit isn’t known. Only the contribution – put in by the worker with additional deposits or matching monies from the employer – is certain. The worker has a personal account; the investment results are not predictable – though investors make assumptions based on historical market returns – so the ultimate payout at retirement is undefined.
That said, the employer does not have any day-to-day control over the monies, a financial-services company does. That protects the deposits against corporate malfeasance and the other problems that Kiyosaki fears in pension systems.
And yet he is railing against all retirement plans, and the ways they are invested.
“I wouldn’t touch mutual funds, ETFs and stocks right now,” he said on my show. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, but I am saying it’s not safe.”
Kiyosaki isn’t buying mutual funds and stocks because he’s “a professional investor.”
That’s a wishy-washy, nonsensical non-answer.
He’s not saying how to invest – his typical tropes have been real estate, gold and silver, but those have not come close to equaling equities for most of the current bull market – yet he’s warning people about being ripped off by “the Wall Street casinos” holding their retirement monies, even as the best way for most individuals to reach their retirement goals is through the very instruments he eschews.
Overcoming the statistics about retirement savings requires plowing more money into retirement accounts, not to back away or to look for more esoteric investments.
The easiest way to make sure that a defined contribution plan will deliver on its promises is to put more money into it throughout your career, rather than to shortchange the account and hope that the market will make up your shortfall.
Saving through a 401(k) or 403(b) is not, as Kiyosaki asserted on my show, merely “better than nothing, better than being flat broke.”
It’s the best opportunity most workers have to amass sufficient funds over a lifetime, coming through good times and bad with enough money to last through their retirement.
Yes, your financial future includes some measure of uncertainty and financial fear, but you don’t fix that problem by running away. In the end, if you want to make sure no one “loots” your retirement accounts, you have to make sure you aren’t shortchanging yourself as you amass those monies.