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BOOK REVIEW

A financial primer without a wealth of new advice

When our son Daniel, now 19, was about 10 years old, he was fascinated by the stock market, cattle futures, and pork bellies. He actually read newspaper financial pages. To Daniel, the game of money was an extension of his fascination with math.

Just the other day, though, I pulled a $20 bill out of the clothes dryer. ''Oh, I was wondering what happened to that," he said with a shrug.

Maybe Daniel needs a refresher course in money. I'm not sure, though, that the best advice would come from Robert T. Kiyosaki's newest money advice book, ''Rich Dad Poor Dad for Teens."

The book is the latest in the seemingly limitless series of ''Rich Dad Poor Dad" books.

To date, Kiyosaki has 16 books on the market, all variations of the original ''Rich Dad" book, which as of last week had been 206 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for ''advice, how-to and miscellaneous."

Why is this series so popular? Maybe it's because the book has a catchy title, a reasonable price tag (no more than a T-shirt at the Gap), and a sense of confidence that anyone can invest his money wisely and make it grow.

The book's theme is catchy, too. He contrasts his biological ''poor dad" with the rich dad of one of his childhood friends.

Kiyosaki's poor dad -- and I mean that in the sympathetic sense of the word -- was apparently superintendent of education for the state of Hawaii.

''Though my father was well respected, he didn't make lots of money -- or at least, not as much as other kids' fathers, who drove nice cars and owned beach houses," Kiyosaki writes.

Somehow this ''poor" dad didn't even have the means to send his son to college.

Then there is his pal Mike's unnamed ''rich dad," who worked for a sugar plantation, owned warehouses and other companies, made wise investments, and ended up retiring very rich.

Daniel breezed through the book in about an hour. (It's only 132 pages long, and filled with boxes, lists, and charts). His reaction surprised me.

''I like that it's about thinking positively of money," he said. At the same time, he pointed out, the book is mainly a recycling of an old idea championed by Benjamin Franklin: model yourself after rich people.

Here's some of Kiyosaki's advice: Decide what you want out of life. Figure out your style of learning and make your intelligence work for you. Have a confident attitude toward money. Learn something from your jobs. Be alert to business possibilities. Make good investments.

Think of your assets -- for teens, such things as CDs or a too-small bike -- as things that could be turned into money. Don't waste money on ''doodads" that will be out of style in no time (which makes me wonder if this fellow has ever lived with any teenagers). Oh, and play board games in order to learn all these rules. Conveniently, Kiyosaki just happens to have his own line of ''Rich Dad Poor Dad" games, which are shamelessly advertised.

There is one sage piece of advice coming out of the book. Kiyosaki notes that teens should resist the temptation of a credit card. Amen, I say.

What was Daniel's verdict? ''I think this could have been a good book if it had one clever investment idea for kids," he said. Kiyosaki talks at great length about buying up apartment buildings. ''I thought, 'Hey, wait! I can't buy an apartment!' " Daniel added.

Is it wrong to teach financial literacy, as it's called, or to encourage our children to use money wisely? Not at all. We see too many young Americans who can't figure out how to pay off their college loans, make a down payment on a house, or think beyond the next car payment. Even so, I don't think this book is a necessary investment.

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