Rich Dad vs. Poor Dad: 1
Why Leaving Financial Education to Parents Breeds
Financial Inequality & Economic Instability
By Afton Cavanaugh*
This Article asserts that financial education should be included in public school2 curricula
nationwide to avert future financial crises driven by the decisions of the financially illiterate, and
to ensure economic equality among all Americans. Why? Put simply, the world revolves around
money. 3 In America, money is necessary to a person’s basic survival because money is required
to purchase food, shelter, and medical care. 4 Not only is financial literacy helpful to ensuring
survival, but it is also an important factor in achieving one’s potential if one hopes to do more
than merely survive in this country. 5 The American Dream6 has brought many people from far
* St. Mary’s University School of Law, May 2013. I would like to thank Professor Angela Walch for her constructive criticism,
guidance, and encouragement on all aspects of this Article; the best teachers are those that treat you as an equal and push you to
behave accordingly. I would also like to thank David Ryan Quintanilla for spending hours debating this topic with me on the long road
between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. A very special thank you is owed to Nina and Stefanie Cavanaugh, both of whom have spent
countless hours supporting and encouraging my endeavors, to say the very least of their contributions. Thank you to my three little
girls, Brianna, Aurora, and Harmony, for always serving as my inspiration. Above all, thank you to my wife Mariah-your strength and
intelligence brighten my world every day; the accomplishments of the last few years are as much yours as they are mine.
1 See generally ROBERT T. KIYOSAKI & SHARON L. LECHTER, RICH DAD, POOR DAD: WHAT THE RICH TEACH THEIR KIDS ABOUT
MONEY-THAT THE POOR AND MIDDLE CLASS DO NOT! (1998) (providing a financial education for those who did not learn important
concepts from their parents, or who did not have parents capable of truly teaching them).
Money is one form of power. But what is more powerful is financial education. Money comes and goes, but if
you have the education about how money works, you gain power over it and can begin building wealth. The
reason positive thinking alone does not work is because most people went to school and never learned how
money works, so they spend their lives working for money.
Id. at 19.
2 In order to achieve true economic equality and stability it would be beneficial to ensure financial literacy is taught in private, charter,
and home schools as well as public schools. However, the federal government has even less ability to impact curriculum decisions at
those institutions. A discussion of how to incorporate financial literacy programs into these alternative education options is beyond the
scope of this Article; however, as a first step the government could incentivize the use of such curriculum through grants, much as it
would be doing in public schools under the proposals included in this Article.
3 “Money” is defined here as “the medium of exchange authorized or adopted by a government as part of its currency.” BLACK’S LAW
DICTIONARY 464 (3d Pocket ed. 2006).
4 Michael W. Kraus, The Happiness Chronicles II: Does Money Buy Happiness?, PSYCH. TODAY (Apr. 3, 2012),
PRESIDENT’S ADVISORY COUNCIL ON FIN. CAPABILITY, U.S. DEP’T OF THE TREASURY, INTERIM REPORT 8 (Jan. 18, 2012),
see also Exec. Order No. 13530, 75 Fed. Reg. 5481 (Jan. 29, 2010) (amended by Exec. Order No. 13591, 76 Fed. Reg. 74623 (Nov.
23, 2011)) (creating the advisory council and subsequently terminating it on January 29, 2013). The economy is negatively impacted
when Americans are forced to focus on daily financial struggles for survival. See generally BARBARA EHRENREICH, NICKEL AND
DIMED: ON (NOT) GET TING B Y IN AMERICA (2005) (examining the struggle of surviving on working class wages).
5 Gus Speth, What Is the American Dream?: Dueling Dualities in the American Tradition, GRIST (Jun. 25, 2011),
6 To many Americans the American Dream means owning a home, sending their children to college, having steady employment, and
social mobility. Robert D. Putnam, Crumbling American Dreams, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 3, 2013),
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/crumbling-american-dreams/?_r=0; see also Speth, supra note 5 (stating that the
term “American Dream” entered the lexicon thanks to The Epic Of America by James Truslow Adams). See generally JAMES
TRUSLOW ADAMS, THE EPIC OF AMERICA 363 (Simon Publ’g 2001) (1931) (explaining that America is a place where life should be
better and richer for every person, with bountiful opportunity for achievement). James Truslow Adams first coined the term
“American Dream,” but the meaning varies for different cultural groups and has changed over time. What Is the American Dream?,
CTR. FOR NEW AM. DREAM, http://www.newdream.org/programs/redefining-the-dream/the-american-dream (last visited Nov. 11,