Who wants to be a millionaire?
- 29 November 2011
- From the section Business
In these tough economic times, thousands are flocking to wealth creation seminars and purchasing their products in the hope they will unlock the key to becoming rich and "financially free", like their gurus. But are these courses costing attendees more than they are worth?
"According to the plan, I will be a millionaire in 10 years' time.
"I owe £4,000 on my credit card, but I will be financially free. It's going to happen," says Janice Geddes, a 38-year-old nursery nurse from Ilford, Essex.
She has an unshakeable belief that the wealth creation courses she has paid thousands to attend will teach her the skills and mindset she needs to be rich.
Every day she wakes at 05:45 and spends her time doing a series of exercises known as "wealth conditioning", before leaving for work at 07:00.
She says that although she loves her job she wants to be able to have the option of not doing it.
"There are some days when I feel peed off, and I get up in the morning and I think I want to stay in my bed, but I am not financially free yet so I have to get out of bed," she says.
Once only the domain of Americans, the wealth-creation market is now a huge industry in the UK, where attendees part with their own hard-earned cash for training courses, and buy the books, internet site subscriptions and other "must-haves".
On one of the plans, financial freedom is described as "the ability of living the lifestyle you desire, without having to work or rely on anyone else for money", or as another describes it, the goal of earning enough "passive income" (income created by assets) to fund your lifestyle.
It is this lifestyle which so many of the founders of wealth creation schemes have attained, that their devotees aspire to.
Niki Duffy, from New Romney, Kent, began looking for alternative ways of thinking and reading wealth creation books when her nephew developed cancer.
She estimates she has spent about £50,000 on attending the seminars after she fell in love with the idea of "multiple streams of income".
She says that despite spending an inheritance on the schemes, she could not stop and began paying for them on her credit cards. "We got to the brink of bankruptcy, nearly lost our home, nearly lost everything. But we're coming back from that," she says.
She believes she is now better off as she has "the knowledge now and the strategy", and wants to earn £7m in the next five to 10 years.
But just what are these methods that attract such cult followings? One global success story is the Rich Dad, Poor Dad theory, a book written in 1997 by Robert Kiyosaki. It is a parable about two so-called dads.
One dad believed in studying at school and getting a good job and the other, a family friend, put his emphasis on making money.
Robert Kiyosaki says: "I did have two dads, one was a socialist and one was a capitalist. I really decided I would rather be a capitalist. Assets put money in your pocket, whether you work or not, and liabilities take money from your pocket.
"We're not saying do real estate, oil or whatever, it's just knowing an asset from a liability, so if I had a car but rented it out as a cab, it would be an asset.
"But if I drive my car it's a liability. So we have a big house right now, but this is a liability not an asset."
His wife, Kim, says they have one rule: "All of our cash flow from our assets, pays for all of our liabilities."
"If I want a new toy because I am a toy king (I came back yesterday and had ordered a new Ferrari) well she knows I have to create a new asset to pay for that liability," says Robert.
"The idea of 'go to school and get a job' is probably the most destructive thought in your brain today. And that is the core of the Rich Dad message," he says.
One person who managed to achieve this level of wealth from reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, was Maria Davies, who left school at 15.
She began investing in rental properties and gave up work 11 years ago at the age of 39.
"I have properties I have never seen. I have properties throughout the country and the world," she says.
But for her, it is not about owning the trappings of wealth.
"There is a tendency to think, if I have this flashy thing or that flashy thing, it will make me happy.
"It's easy for me to say that… but those things are not as important as being able to have the freedom to actually buy them in the first place, or the freedom to do anything else that you want.
"I want to spend my day doing what I choose to do rather than what I have to do to bring the money in. If I want to spend all day in bed reading a book, then I can."
David and Shirley Harwood, who own 29 properties, valued at between £4m and £4.5m, also made their fortune using the Kiyosaki method, and now teach it. Their "passive" income is between £36,000 and £40,000 a year from their rentals and they also bring in about £100,000 a year as consultants and teachers.
They said that between them they earned a lot teaching others; David brought in about £60,000 and Shirley £40,000. "That well exceeds what we earned in our ordinary lives and jobs," says Shirley.
They also make a point of keeping up to date with their wealth studies, and Shirley says she is currently reading a series called The Way Forward.
"It's up to you what you make of your life. If you are happy with your life and quite content with where you are, there's nothing wrong with that," she says.
"We need the people who don't want to go out to work and be DSS tenants, otherwise we wouldn't have those tenants in our properties."
While some offer asset-creating strategies, other programmes put the focus of getting rich on having the right mental belief.
T Harv Eker is the author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, and claims he is known as "a cross between Donald Trump and Buddha".
His programme gets followers to do daily exercises to reinforce their "new money-making attitude" and he doesn't care if people don't believe in his system.
He says: "I am met with some scepticism everywhere, but that's OK, because I think that's a healthy thing. One of the first things I tell people when I get on stage is 'Don't believe a word I say'.
"Now why would I suggest that? Because whose experience can I come from? Just my experience. All I can let you know is the principles that you're learning totally transformed my life and now have transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people."
As Kim Kiyosaki says: "People say 'I want to be rich'. The question is, are you willing to do what it takes?"
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? will be broadcast on 29 November at 21:00 GMT on BBC Two as part of the Money season.