The title of this post is “Fit Dad Fat Dad” partially in honor of Rich Dad, Poor Dad and partially to stir up some controversy in the same way that RDPD does.

RDPD has a fairly poor reputation amongst personal finance bloggers. I think the reason is that it questions widely held beliefs on personal finance. The aim of RDPD is to get the reader to stop thinking like a middle-class person and start thinking like a capitalist or an investor. This is about as hard as convincing a Democrat to become a Republican or vice versa. Many readers completely miss this point and instead complain that RDPD does not contain lists of baby steps towards getting out of debt or 100 ways to save money, out of which they can pick a handful and believe they are on their way to financial health. That is to say, the complaint is that the book does not show how to become rich while thinking like a poor person.

Fit Dad, Fat Dad follows the same prescription: I remember a dinner once where the conversation fell on the subject of calories. I was pointing out various parts of the meal, explaining that the lettuce and vegetables were around 40–80 kcal/100g, while the dressing was around 600 and the bread was around 300, etc. Then one of the 220-pound guys at the table commented how funny it was that I knew these things, when I was exactly the one who didn’t need such knowledge. This is similar to when fit people are told that since they are so fit, they don’t need to exercise. Of course, the fact that fit people exercise is exactly the reason why they don’t need to.

If I wrote a book, I would have my “fat dad” personify the attitude that one loses weight by counting calories and taking small steps by cutting out the weekly ice cream, while my “fit dad” would personify the attitude that eating the wrong kinds of food (taking on caloric debt) is simply bad for you. Since “fit dad” would know the true value of food, “fit dad” would subconsciously choose to eat healthily and in moderation. “Fat dad” would tend to value food according to what tastes good. Now, counting calories works, but it is unlikely to work well until “fat dad” understands why he is counting calories—namely to see what is nutritious and what is detrimental. Similarly, setting up a budget is not the end but only a means of understanding how some cash flows are good and some are bad.

When it comes to exercising, “fat dad” sees the ripped abs and bulging biceps, whereas “fit dad” sees the ability to do 200 sit-ups or 30 pull-ups. “Fat dad” sees exercise as a chore or at least something to be endured to reach his end goals of looking good. “Fit dad” sees exercise as a way of testing his limits and being physically capable. Looking good without a shirt on is merely a side effect. “Fat dad” would stop exercising as soon as he has reached his goal of looking good; “Fit dad” would keep pushing. Hence, machines for easy abs in just 10 minutes and liposuction are for “fat dad”. “Fat dad” drives to the gym a couple times a week and exercises for a bit on a recumbent while reading a magazine. The financial equivalent of “fat dad” is setting up automatic contributions to a 401k, forgetting about it, and going through the motions. The financial equivalent of “fit dad” is a focused search for high-ROI opportunities, whether they are found in the stock market, through cheaper insurance, or at the supermarket.

Originally posted 2008-03-06 07:07:24.