Assets vs. Liabilities

By | September 11, 2006

A reprise of Rich Dad Poor Dad. There has been much discussion of the authenticity of RDPD’s and the background of the author. You can read about that at other blogs: Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Liar Dad, Thief.  However, one criticism of the book is below along with my own interpretation of RDPD’s theories.

Jeff writes – “You tried to demonstrate that a house is a liability because you pay property tax on it. That is irrelevant. You also have to pay a tax on your car (license fee). Does that make your car a liability? You pay taxes on your income. Does that mean that earned income is a liability?”

Actually, RDPD clearly defines an asset as something that puts money in your pocket and a liability as something that takes money out of your pocket. So, if you live in your house, you pay a mortgage, taxes, etc., it is effectively a liability because the money comes out of your salary to pay this stuff. In other words, the house is costing YOU money.

Whereas if you rent out a house to someone who pays rent, as long as the rental income covers ALL expenses (inc. taxes) plus a little, the house becomes an ASSET, ie. it is making money for you.

In truth, this is a simplification of the situation, as in a balance sheet, a house with a mortgage would be recorded twice, as an Asset and a Liability. Anyway, he makes an interesting point that our passion for buying houses to live in really isn’t such a great way to make wealth (except through capital gains) as it produces no regular benefit.

But I do think he makes an interesting point: somethings that we attribute as having asset value aren’t really assets at all. A Car is a quickly depreciating asset, and if you are paying car loans, some of the time, the net difference between the value of your car and your outstanding loan may turn it into a clear liability on your personal balance sheet, esp. in the first six months where you haven’t paid anything off, and the car has suffered the sharpest decline in its value.

“A house is an asset, period. ”

Another point that RDPD makes is that yes, the house is an asset, but the question is whose? If you buy a house and its price decreases, your mortgage (assuming you have one) shifts into negative equity position, ie. if you sold, you would still have to repay the amount of the loan beyond the sale price of the house. Could it be said to be an asset then?

And if you don’t believe, do you honestly think that housing prices will keep heading up as they have been doing so ‘Mmm’.

Does this clarify things a little?

What I admire is RDPD’s ability to string simple observations out to a whole book! That’s quite an achievement. I did enjoy playing the game, though it is pricy.

Kenneth