It’s a game about cashflow

By KARA McGUIRE, Star Tribune 

Every other Tuesday night, Mike Jacka and at least a dozen others can be found in a Minneapolis hotel meeting room, buying and selling real estate, evaluating stock investments and leveraging their assets in the hopes of getting out of the rat race. In just hours, millions are made and lost.

Lucky for the losers, it’s only a game — called Cashflow 101. The object: To save your colorful plastic rat from too much work for too little pay and transport it onto the “fast track” to wealth. The winner escapes the rat race by making wise investments that increase passive income until it exceeds expenses.

Cashflow 101 was created by Robert Kiyosaki, best known for his “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” personal finance books. A new, similar game, the Millionaire Maker Game, was launched last year by Loral Langemeier, an author and former Cashflow 101 distributor.

Langemeier claims it takes three to five years to become a real-life millionaire if you read her “Millionaire Maker” books and play her game. She says most people have a hobby or perform tasks such as dog-walking or tutoring that could be turned into a business. “But we’re not taught to do that,” she says. Her game opens people’s minds to the possibility that they can “create an unlimited amount of cash.”

Langemeier and Kiyosaki are trying to tap into the growing market for personal finance help. The market has moved beyond financial self-help books to include an ever-expanding array of seminars, websites, games and televisions shows, all aiming to teach people about the tools to financial freedom.

Langemeier and Kiyosaki, based in California and Arizona, respectively, claim that their games help lay the foundations for becoming successful real estate investors, business owners and, ultimately, millionaires.

But some are skeptical of their advice, which often goes against the suggestions of financial planners and conventional wisdom. In a video that Jacka showed to the group at one meeting, Kiyosaki says boldly that investing in a 401(k) is “a suicide mission,” and that savers are “losers.”

“I don’t want to save for retirement,” he says. “I want somebody else to pay that for me.”

But paying for his advice can be pricey; Cashflow 101 costs $195. A Kiyosaki seminar running in the Twin Cities Jan. 8-10 (more information: http://www.richdadeducation.com/), purports to be free, but his materials will be for sale. And with workshops in multiple locations around the country during that time period, Kiyosaki can’t attend them all.

According to the Millionaire Maker Game’s website, pay $500 to distribute the game and you’ll receive sales training, two games, additional Langemeier materials and the option to buy additional games for $75. Her game sells online for $74.95 at Barnes & Noble ($67.45 “members price”).

Willing to pay

But devotees like Jacka gladly pay the price. He charges participants $10 to play Cashflow 101 with his real estate club, a group of veteran or wannabe real estate investors who pay as much as $399.50 per year for a membership for the group’s guest speakers, networking and educational events.

Jacka became a real estate investor in 1992, after being inspired by a late-night infomercial that touted the benefits of being a landlord. But without the game to play or a real estate club to join (he founded the Minnesota Real Estate Investors Association in 2002), he said he made “tons” of mistakes, selling properties too early and failing to generate extra cash.

Before Cashflow 101, “I couldn’t make heads or tails of my real-life balance sheets,” he says, and he credits the game for helping him grow his business of running the club, taking care of four single-family homes and evaluating potential deals.

Danny Hecker, who is pursuing real estate investing full time, says the game helps him with “the mind-set of minimizing your expenses and maximizing your assets.” He and his wife are thinking about selling their boat and possibly downsizing their North St. Paul home in order to free up cash for investing. “Instead of bringing on bigger luxuries, we’ll probably pursue more assets,” he said.

Hecker has played the game three times after reading some of Kiyosaki’s books. On this particular December night, he drew the lawyer identity — high income, but also high expenses. Joe Pepka, a part-time real estate investor, selects the janitor card. But it’s not long before he begins to clean up, despite his small salary.

Pepka draws a card. “Oh, yeah!” he shouts before reading aloud his option to buy real estate for zero down. “Oh, sweet. You got a good one off the bat,” says Jacka, who says you can still find zero-down offers in the real world despite tighter mortgage lending. That night, Hecker just wasn’t drawing cards that allowed him to reduce his expenses or increase his income.

For Pepka, he’s drawn to real estate in his real life because “it’s a way to make money — if you do it right — without a lot of investments.” He says he’s beginning to use strategies that he learned from playing the game, such as “partnering with people and using other people’s money to do deals.” After several profitable investments that night, Pepka won the game.