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 dear friend of mine, Keith Cunningham, 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,” said Keith. “Most of the MBA students thought Ray was just fooling around.”
No one answered, so Ray asked the question 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 does not know that you’re in the hamburger business.”
Ray chuckled. “That is what I thought you would say.” He paused and then quickly said, ‘ladies and gentlemen, I’m not in the hamburger business. My business is real estate.”
Keith said that Ray spent a good amount of time explaining his viewpoint. In their 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 real estate and its location was the most
significant factor in the success of each franchise. Basically, the person that bought the franchise was also paying for, buying, the land under the franchise for Ray Kroc’s organization.
McDonald’s today is the largest single owner of real estate in the world, owning even more than the Catholic Church. Today, McDonald’s owns some of the most valuable intersections and street corners in America, as well as in other parts of the world.
Keith said it was one of the most important lessons in his life. Today, Keith owns car washes, but his business is the real estate under those car washes.
The previous chapter ended with the diagrams illustrating that most people work for everyone else 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.
As 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 No. 3 of the rich.
The secret is: “Mind your own business/’ Financial struggle is often directly the result of people working all their life for someone else. Many people will have nothing at the end of their working days.
Again, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a diagram of the income statement and balance sheet that best describes Ray Kroc’s advice:
Your Profession -> Your Income
Your Assets -> Your Income
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. And after developing scholastic skills, they go on to higher levels of schooling to enhance their professional abilities. They study 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.
There is a big difference between your profession and your business. Often I ask people, “What is your business?” And they will 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. Ray Kroc was clear on the difference between his profession and his business. His profession was always the same. Me was a salesman. At one time he sold mixers for milkshakes, and soon thereafter he was selling hamburger franchises- But while his profession was selling hamburger franchises, his business was the accumulation of income-producing real estate.
A problem with school is that you often become what you study. So if you study, say, 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, as opposed to your income column. As stated earlier, the No. 1 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 to go back to school to get more training so I can get a better job.” “I am going to work overtime.” “Maybe I can get a second job.” “I’m quitting in two weeks. I found a job that pays more.”
In some circles, these are sensible ideas. Yet, if you listen to Ray Kroc, 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. They have to play it safe.
When downsizing became the “in” thing lo do, millions of workers | found out their largest so-called asset, their home, was eating them alive, j
Their asset, called a house, still cost them money every month. Their car, another “asset,” was eating them alive. The golf clubs in the garage that cost $1,000 were not worth 51,000 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.
1 assume most of us have filled out a credit application for a banker to buy a house or to buy a car. It is always interesting to look at the “net worth’1 section. It is interesting because of what accepted banking and accounting practices allow a person to count as assets.
One day, to get a loan, my financial position did not look too good. So I added my new golf clubs, my art collection, books, stereo, television, Armani suits, wristwatches, shoes and other personal effects to boost the number in the asset column.
But I was turned down for the loan because I had too much investment real estate. The loan committee did not like that 1 made so much money off of apartment houses. 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. First, their personal assets can generally be sold for only a fraction of the value that is listed in 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 of the gain, 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 not a true asset even if your banker lets you list it as one. My $400 new titanium driver was worth S150 the moment I teed off.
For adults, keep your expenses low, reduce your 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 most 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 several different categories:
1. 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.
4. Mutual funds.
5. Income-generating real estate.
6. Notes (lOUs).
7. Royalties from intellectual property such as music, scripts, patents.
8. And anything else that has value, produces income or appreciates and has a ready market.
As a young boy, my educated dad encouraged me to find a safe job. My rich dad, on the other hand, 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. 1 could look at them all day long. When problems arise, the problems are not so bad that it changes my love for real estate. For people who hate real estate, they shouldn’t buy it.
I love stocks of small companies, especially startups. The reason is that 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.
For years, even while I was with the Marine Corps and Xerox, I did what my rich dad recommended. I kept my daytime job, but I still minded my own business. I was active in my asset column. I traded 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.
I would not encourage anyone to start a company unless they really want to. Knowing what I know about running a company, I would not wish that task on anyone. There are times when people cannot find employment, where starting a company is a solution for them. The odds are against success: Nine out of 10 companies fail in five years. Of those that survive the first five years, nine out of every 10 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 daytime job and mind your own business. When I say mind your own business, 1 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 daytime job, be a great hard-working employee, but keep building that asset column.
As your cash flow grows, you can buy 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 such as 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, built their asset column first. Then, the income generated from the asset column bought 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 and I had extra money coming from our apartment houses, she went out and bought her Mercedes. It did not take any extra work or risk on her part because the apartment house bought the car. She did, however, have to
wait for it for four years while the real estate investment portfolio grew and finally began throwing off enough extra cash flow to pay for the car. But the luxury, the Mercedes, was a true reward because she had proved she knew how to grow her asset column. That car now means a lot more to her than simply another pretty car. It means she used her financial intelligence to afford it.
What most people do is they 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 sooner or later actually resent that luxury because the debt on the luxury becomes a financial burden.
After you’ve taken the time and invested in and built your own business, you are now ready to add the magic touch-the biggest secret of the rich. The secret that puts the rich way ahead of the pack. The reward at the end of the road for diligently taking the time to mind your own business.