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Who is The Real Life Rich Dad of Robert Kiyosaki?

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Have you ever wondered about the real life identity of Robert Kiyosaki‘s Rich Dad? Kiyosaki has kept the answer to this question a closely guarded secret since he first published his book Rich Dad Poor Dad in 1997. Now, over 20 years later, that book is the best selling personal finance book of all time and its main character, Rich Dad, has emerged as one of the most influential financial advisers in history, changing the way tens of millions of people look at the subject of money.

Since it was published, Rich Dad Poor Dad has been translated into 51 languages. It is now available in 109 countries with over 27 million copies sold worldwide. After reading this popular book, most people begin wonder, “Who was Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad?” You’re about to find out who this wise man actually is, as well as the lessons he taught Robert Kiyosaki about money.

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Robert Kiyosaki

Before talking about the real life man behind the Rich Dad character, it is important to learn more about the author of the book himself and why he wrote his now-famous book. Robert Kiyosaki is a famous entrepreneur who is well known for his best seller Rich Dad Poor Dad. He is also an investor, self-help author, educator, motivational speaker, financial literacy activist, financial commentator, and radio personality. Robert Kiyosaki has changed tens of millions of people’s lives and their view about money through his books. In addition, he has been featured on shows such as Larry King Live, Oprah, The Doctors, Bloomberg International Television and CNN.

Kiyosaki came from a Japanese middle-class family living in Hawaii, United States, in a town called Hilo. His father, Ralph H. Kiyosaki was an educationist who worked for the state; and his mother, Marjorie O. Kiyosaki was a nurse. Kiyosaki went to a local school in his hometown called Hilo High School where he graduated in 1965. Through the constant encouragement of his family as well as a former high school counselor, he finally decided to attend college at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York. Later in 1969, Kiyosaki graduated as a deck officer.

After graduation, Kiyosaki’s first job was at the Standard Oil’s tanker office playing the role of a third mate sailor. Six months later he joined the Marine Corps and participated in the Vietnam War in 1972. He was recognized for his bravery during the war and earned himself the Air Medal award. After the war, Kiyosaki was jobless and this led him to desperation. During this time his father pushed him to enroll in an MBA program, which he did, but later dropped out to attend a three-day real estate investing course. While this was a huge disappointment to his father and seemed to be a wrong choice, Kiyosaki claimed that this experience was the first time in his life he had ever felt he was taking a step towards his dreams. For a long time, he had been obsessed with business, eager to learn more about the practical aspects of running a business. Despite his eagerness, the opportunity hadn’t presented itself until this three-day real estate course enrolment.

Having already honorably left the Marine Corps in 1974, Kiyosaki opted to become a salesman for Xerox, selling copy machines with the aim of honing his business skills; he worked there for four years. In 1977 before resigning from Xerox, Kiyosaki founded his first company and called it Rippers. Rippers was a retailing company, which specialized in producing nylon and Velcro surfer wallets. Business boomed till his products received recognition from leading media platforms. Unfortunately, when his products were aired to a larger audience, the company went bankrupt since he had not taken the steps necessary to intellectually protect the product. The business couldn’t stand up to the financial complications this caused, especially as they occurred at the same time Kiyosaki was trying to cut down the costs. After this business folded, he went on to open a rock and roll retail entity, which dealt with licensing commodities such as T-shirts, wallets, and bags. Many of the products were in national chains like JC Penney, Tower Records, and Spencer Gifts. Unfortunately, the company followed Rippers’ fate in 1980.

His previous failures did not stop Kiyosaki. Five years later, he decided to venture into an international business education company, which offered thousands of people around the world the chance to attend training on topics of entrepreneurship, investing, and social responsibility. Despite the success of this business, he eventually sold the company and ventured into the real estate business in 1994. After several years of gathering knowledge and experience in business, especially in real estate, in 1997 Kiyosaki embarked on a new venture: offering financial and business education through his company called Cashflow Technologies, Inc. This was also the year when he self-published his famous book Rich Dad Poor Dad that has had a widespread impact all over the world.

The Book Rich Dad Poor Dad

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Rich Dad Poor Dad is not only a book of advice, but can be said to be Kiyosaki’s legacy. In his book, Kiyosaki mainly focused on teaching people how to achieve financial independence, drawing inspiration for his work mainly from his two dads, who were his role models, and from his mom who taught him love and kindness. His “poor dad” was his biological father, who was highly educated and became the superintendent of the Hawaii State Department of Education. Despite his career success, he was always struggling financially. Kiyosaki contrasted his own father with his “Rich Dad,” who was his best friend’s father. Although this man was a high school dropout, he had become a successful businessman and eventually was named “one of the richest men in Hawaii”. Despite his humble beginnings, Rich Dad had found the road to success and riches by investing the income from his businesses into income-producing investments such as real estate.

Throughout his life, Kiyosaki paid attention to all the advice both dads gave him, but as time passed, he grew fonder of the wisdom given to him by his wealthy father. As he thought back over his life, he realized that from the early age of seven, the desire to be successful in life began to grow in him. He started dreaming that one day he would be wealthy and fruitful. His vision began to manifest itself as he tried to start small businesses as a young boy. This early inquisitiveness eventually paid off, and was what led to his success today.

As Kiyosaki thought about the members of his family and extended family, he realized that there was none among them who had achieved the success he had always dreamed of, even among his relatives those had spent years in school pursuing higher education. After this revelation, he began to realize that to become a wealthy and successful man in the future, schooling alone was not enough. As he continued to grow up, he saw that the education in schools was faulty because it left out one of the most crucial aspects of education, failing to give students the financial knowledge on how to handle money. And that is reason why he wrote the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, with the mission to change people’s mindset about money.

Rich Dad as Described in the Book

With a little background information behind us, we will now delve in to answer our original question: Who is the real life Rich Dad and what was he like? From books, speeches and interviews of the author, the following detailed description was compiled: Rich Dad lived just down the street from Kiyosaki in Hilo, Hawaii, even having the same banker as Poor Dad. He worked long hours building an empire of different businesses and investments that eventually included restaurants, a construction company, warehouses and a convenience store chain. He was six feet tall, weighed 200 pounds, was five years younger than Poor Dad and looked like Poor Dad, only of a different ethnic background. Rich Dad spent three years in the Army. Later in life, he gave lots of money to his church, to charities and to his foundation. In 1990, his son “Mike” took over the Rich Dad’s empire.

Kiyosaki describes Mike’s father as a school dropout who never finished his eighth grade year, but nevertheless grew to be among the richest men in Hawaii at the time. Rich Dad was a strong believer in good education, though he questioned the way the school system was designed. Schools were more focused on offering academic skills while neglecting the financial skills, which Rich Dad thought were more important. He encouraged Robert Kiyosaki and his own son Mike to master the subject of financial literacy. Rich Dad drilled the importance of being financially independent into their heads. He vehemently opposed the entitlement mentality, arguing that it made people continue to be financially dependent. Rich Dad made it clear to the boys the difference between assets and liabilities, which was one of the most important rules to master on the quest for financial literacy. Rich dad viewed kids not as a liability, because though having children brings expenses and no cash flows, children also provide a motivation to work extra hard to be rich. He saw his house as a liability because it drained his pockets.

Rich Dad always referred to himself as being rich even when he was very broke. During such times, he used to say that being broke is temporary while being poor is constant. He believed that money is powerful and that the lack of money is the root of all evil. Even so, he maintained that being armed with sufficient information about how money works would give one control over money and make it work for them.

Mike and Robert Kiyosaki learned critical lessons towards financial independence from Rich Dad. They both learned to work in order to learn as opposed to working solely for money. This is clearly demonstrated in the text where Rich Dad employed Kiyosaki to work for free in one of his superettes. It was through this that Kiyosaki was able to keep his mind open to watch for various opportunities opening up at his workplace.  He was also able to identify a source for free comic books and, together with Mike, set up a comic book library which picked up quite well in the neighborhood before they were forced to shut down due to disturbance caused by some bullies.

Controversy Over Rich Dad

Once Kiyosaki’s book was added to the New York Times bestseller list, many journalists flocked to the author. An interviewer from Smart Money Magazine in 2002, asked Kiyosaki who his Rich Dad really was. Kiyosaki answered, “Why don’t you treat Rich Dad like Harry Potter?” This statement created a huge controversy, which led critics to think that Rich Dad does not exist, but that he was merely a figment of Kiyosaki’s creative imagination. There were some critics who even demanded that the book be reclassified as fiction.

In a subsequent interview with a Honolulu Advertiser, Kiyosaki clarified that there was in fact an actual person behind the Rich Dad but that others had also influenced this character he created in his books. Later in a second interview, Kiyosaki allegedly gave a journalist contact information for one of the actual Rich Dad’s sons. This journalist made a phone call and spoke with someone who said that Rich Dad was his father. Sadly, this call did not convince the journalist of Rich Dad’s authenticity, especially since that journalist had agreed prior to the call that he would not disclose the contact information or the name of the person to whom he spoke.

That last interview related to this controversy was in 2003. For thirteen years after this, nothing had been said about this subject. Kiyosaki kept people wondering, refusing to disclose identities, and citing a written agreement with Rich Dad’s family that he would keep his identity anonymous. Meanwhile, the public came to a conclusion that Rich Dad was a completely fictional character, a combination of the various influences in Robert Kiyosaki’s life, and not actually a real person.

The Fans’ Responses

For readers of Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad books, this initial report that Rich Dad was a made up character proved shocking. If Rich Dad is not a real person, his advice also is called into question, as well as the integrity of the author. For devoted fans who already were aware of this possibility, their typical response was, “So what, who cares? The majority of Rich Dad’s advice is still excellent, so move on.” Their response is a valid argument. But this Rich Dad character has impacted millions of people. Many people have been motivated to start their own businesses or to invest in real estate because of Rich Dad’s advice. Many, in their pursuit of becoming wealthy have based their approach on Rich Dad’s advice and have fallen flat on their face financially. So whether Rich Dad’s advice is good or bad, the impact he has made is enormous. Since people have been willing to radically change their lives, for example, quitting their jobs to start a business, simply from reading the Rich Dad’s advice, then identifying the real life Rich Dad seems like a necessary goal.

So who is this “Rich Dad” after all? Although many great fictional literary works have been formed by combining the author’s amazing imagination with real life people or events, still, the incredible detail Kiyosaki uses to describe Rich Dad in both books as well as his speeches and interviews makes it difficult to believe that this character is totally fictional. Kiyosaki mentioned the teachings of Buckminster Fuller as making a significant impact on him; but he has also described Rich Dad as a capitalist and “Bucky” as a socialist, which suggests that these were two very different people. Some have suggested that Marshall Thurber was the person behind Rich Dad, but examining Thurber’s life and background quickly shows that he would not at all be the inspiration behind the Rich Dad character. There are concepts in Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad books that were adapted from principles taught in seminars given by Keith Cunningham but he was Kiyosaki’s peer, not his father. Between all these people, there is certainly a vast richness of individuals in Kiyosaki’s adult life who influenced him, but none stands out as a viable possibility of being the person behind the real Rich Dad.

The Real Rich Dad Revealed

In 2009, a Hawaiian real estate titan and founder of the Sand & Seaside Hotels chain named Richard Wassman Kimi passed away. The Honolulu Advertiser obituary reported that, “Richard Kimi also enjoyed teaching and sharing his sales, marketing and business knowledge. One of his students was Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books, who based the “rich dad” of his books on Kimi.”

Richard Wassman Kimi

Then, on May 4 of 2016, Kiyosaki himself conducted an interview on his own Rich Dad Radio Show with Alan Kimi, which is identified as “Mike” in the book, confirming the fact that Alan’s father was Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad. This interview also confirmed that a confidentiality agreement had been made between Kiyosaki and Kimi, at the same time explains why the secrecy was very important to the Kimi family. An interesting anecdote was how Robert almost declined his lifelong dream of appearing on the Oprah show because Oprah’s producers demanded to know who the real life Rich Dad was. They eventually came to a suitable arrangement by having Alan Kimi talk to Oprah and her producers and confirm the identity and explain the importance of anonymity.

Real Life Rich Dad’s Biography

Richard Kimi was born February 3, 1925 and was the son of Territorial Senator William Kimi. Like many Hawaiians of Asian descent, he enlisted in the Army at a very young age right  after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

By the time he turned 19, Kimi had already been promoted to being a sergeant. After the war, Richard ceased from serving in the military and went back to Hawaii to work in their family business which sold goods to the army. The business was not doing well, and its situation deteriorated till it collapsed. That was when Richard started venturing into construction. When he started this, his friends demoralized him greatly; they even went so far as calling him crazy when he introduced his idea to them; nevertheless, Richard did not despair; instead, he continued to pursue his dreams.

Richard Kimi’s first real estate purchase was a low rent housing project, which came about through a joint effort with his brothers. He continued to work hard until later in 1956 he was able build a hotel in Hukilau for local tourists. It was a thirty-room hotel that hosted the local tourists at affordable prices. Kimi realized that there were two types of tourists: the very wealthy and the average tourist, whom he called “the budget conscious”. He studied the market and found out that most hotel businesses operating at the time only focused on hosting the rich. When Kimi realized this, he capitalized on the situation and developed a very effective strategy; he perceived that by focusing more on targeting the budget conscious tourists rather than the wealthy, business would do well for him. He was aware that the rich tourists mostly came to Hawaii on planes while the budget conscious tourists usually chose to come by ship. Richard’s efforts started paying off as he devised this unique strategy of capturing clients. He made sure that his hotels were neat and well-managed. He judged his target population’s tastes well, and these price conscious tourists loved his hotels and came in in large numbers. His budget conscious accommodations were a hit and he expanded, building Hukilau and Seaside hotels in Kona, Maui and Kaua’i, eventually buying the old Waikiki Biltmore hotel, now the site of the present day Hyatt Regency in Waikiki.

Kiyosaki’s own testament about Rich Dad in his book:

“And my rich dad did teach me to be a real estate investor playing monopoly. Whereas my poor dad — the school teacher — said, “Put that silly monopoly game away, go back to school, get good grades and get job”. And my rich dad would tell me, “Monopoly is…the formula for great wealth is found in monopoly”. And we all know the formula to play a great game — four green houses, 1 red hotel. And I’m like, “Is that all it takes?” And he says, “Yeah”. So the difference was my rich dad was actually playing monopoly in real life, so I would go with him — starting at the age of 9 — and I actually saw what looked like his ‘green houses’, they weren’t green but he says, “These are my green houses”. Then by the time I was 19 — ten years later — my rich dad bought a major chunk of Waikiki Beach, he had the ‘red hotel’ right in the middle of Waikiki Beach. So in ten years I saw him go from nothing to one of the richest men in Hawaii.”

Kimi never wanted to build large hotels but instead wanted to serve local residents and those travelers who were on a budget. Richard was a pioneer in taking reservations via fax and toll free numbers. He was one of the first to put together air, room and car packages too. His organization Sand & Seaside Hotels is now run by his son Alan. Alan recounted, “He always thought five to 10 years ahead,” Alan Kimi said. “When we had meetings and said, ‘This is what our quarter was and this is what our last six months were,’ he said, ‘I’m not interested. Just tell me five, 10 years what you guys are going to be doing.’ We were really blessed to have him as a mentor.”

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  2. Mr Smart says:

    There are many good books on personal finance out there. Rich Dad Poor Dad is one of such books. This book is neither a To-Do list nor it provides detailed strategies to get wealthy. Instead, this book inspires and motivates us to reprogram our minds and finances to escape from the Rat Race of “Get up, Go for Job and Pay Bill.” Robert Kiyosaki is not against having a job. But, he is certainly against the Rat Race. At one point in this book, he even suggests keeping day time job and minding your own business. It means to earn money through a job, set aside a sizeable portion of your earnings before spending a single penny and invest your savings in passive income producing assets. You can watch this animated video to know more about Robert’s philosophy of Mind Your Own Business:

    To learn more about Rich Dad Poor Dad, you can watch these videos:

    These videos will explain all important concepts of Rich Dad Poor Dad including Mind Your Own Business, Pay Yourself First, Buy Passive Income Producing Assets, Delay the Gratification for better financial prospects etc.

    1. Umer Asad says:

      Thanks for your informative comment, I’m 16 myself and I’m already planning to be a Molecular Biologist as a daytime job and save a good portion of my paycheck and invest it in Real Estate. Slowly slowly i would be able to quit my job and live off passive income.

      However, Can you tell me who is Mike from Rich Dad and Poor Dad book? Do you have any idea?

  3. Steven DeBolt says:

    I love to read Robert Kiyosaki!!


  4. clinton says:

    I like it when he said, “We were really blessed to have him as a mentor.”

  5. […] in traditional paths to success: good grades, a secure job, and a steady paycheck. In contrast, his “Rich Dad,” though less formally educated, understood the value of financial education, investing, and […]

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