Escape The Rat Race: What School Failed To Teach You About Money

Do you remember when you first started school? What was the goal by the end of kindergarten? To make it to first grade, right? Then it was to get into second, third, and fourth grade, etc. until you reached high school. That’s when the real pressure was put on to not only make good grades but do well enough on the ACT/SAT to get accepted into your college of choice.

And then what happened during college? You start going step by step to either go out into the real world or a professional school (for me it was dental school). After putting in a lot of hard work to start the career you’ve always wanted, now comes another struggle, one for success.

But that’s the American Dream, right?

And again, there seems to be a ladder before you in which you’re reaching all the time. Now suddenly you wake up one day staring at a 50-year-old person in the mirror… but you feel cheated. At this point you think you should have already “arrived” but you feel the same as you’ve always felt. 

You’ve thought during all of these working years you were going to get somewhere but you’re in the same place you started. Why? It’s because all along you’ve been in a race that can’t be won….the Rat Race.

What Is The Rat Race?

rat race

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “rat race” as the unpleasant life of people who have a current job that require them to work very hard in order to compete with others for:

  • money
  • power
  • status

This competitive struggle causes you to work year after year and yet you find that you’re spinning your wheels but not getting anywhere.

You’re trapped asking yourself, “There’s got to be more to life, right?”

The “REAL” Rat Race

The “real” rat race is someone that is living on the financial edge, working a day job and being one paycheck away from broke. 

This person feels as though the moment money enters their life, it immediately disappears. And the more responsibilities they have, the more dangerous this relationship becomes.

Their entire financial position could turn upside down with:

  • the loss of a job
  • unexpected health accident
  • any other “financial emergency”

If any of these issues happen, their job no longer becomes an option. It becomes a necessity in order to keep funding their lifestyle or to keep paying off their credit cards. They need to take a different approach to their financial situation but don’t know what to do.

The things you own end up OWNING you.” – Tyler Durden

Related article: Golden Handcuffs: The Ultimate Doctor Restraint

Where I First Learned About The Rat Race

I was first introduced to the Rat Race concept while reading Robert Kiyosaki’s, Rich Dad Poor Dad.

He defines it as the vicious cycle we learn from a young age that the only way to get ahead is to go to a good school, get a good job, and work harder to try and get ahead.

Kiyosaki also agrees with what other financial gurus preach…the Rat Race game is a losing one.

His reasoning is that it makes you entirely dependent on other people which includes your:

  • parents
  • teachers
  • boss

This dependency completely shuts off your mind from other possibilities and ways of functioning and thriving in today’s world.

cashflow quadrant

He also teaches in Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant that those on the left side (E – employees and S – self-employed) are stuck in the rat race.

If they don’t work, no income comes in.


He states the easiest thing to do is invest in assets that will provide financial freedom using active income along the way. 

This is how successful people operate.

It All Starts With Financial Education

Typically our perceptions of money are sometimes more crucial than our ability to generate it. Especially when our brains are wired in such a way that prevents us from being financially sensible.

Most white collar professionals in the U.S. earn a six-figure income. But does that really matter if by the end of the year, they have NOTHING to show for it?

Where is the disconnect? It’s time that we solved that mystery but also explore how we can go about better understanding money as we receive zero formal education on the topic (even in professional schools such as medical or dental).

What is money?

If we’re going to start down this road then this first question we should ask is, “What is money?”.

In other words, what exactly does money represent? Whether you purchase a pair of shoes from Zappos or paid for your time treating patients in a clinic, what’s the significance of money in these transactions?

Money is nothing more than a medium of exchange that facilitates the sale or purchase of goods between parties.

This tells us what it can do but not so much about what it represents. A better way of looking at money is that it’s an expression of VALUE.

You’ll pay a certain amount of money for something because you perceive its value to be equivalent to the amount of money that you handed over.

For instance, you may pay $300 for a pair of Tory Burch flip flops but would never consider paying over $15 for a “regular” pair. Why? It’s your perceived value of the two types of footwear. 

If money is an expression of value, now what? How does this change the reality of a surgeon living paycheck to paycheck? What about the person consumed by credit card debt?

To help answer these questions, we must first look at your relationship with money.

What is your relationship with money?

The word “cash flow” means that money will flow into your life and it will also flow out. These “flows” represent your income and expenses or your production and consumption.

Money will enter your life based on the value you’ve provided in the workplace. It will turn around and leave once you’ve consumed something such as:

  • YouTube TV subscription
  • snow skiing trip
  • new car

Many financial experts will look at someone’s net worth as a metric for determining their relationship between consumption and production.

What about your relationship with earning and spending? Think about all the money that has entered your life and exited.

How much of that do you still have whether in savings or investments such as mutual funds? Which part of the consumption vs production relationship do you feel needs improving?

The likelihood is both.

It doesn’t matter what you make a year, for the majority of us, the biggest issue has to do with our consumption.

Studies have found that in the U.S., 78% of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. What’s even worse is 4 out of 10 make over $100,000 a year.

When someone is paid well above the average salary and yet still finds a way to somehow spend it all (and then some), then the relationship with consuming MUST be corrected before addressing the relationship with production. 

Why do you think so many lottery winners and pro athletes file for bankruptcy?  It’s because their production means nothing when they have a problem with consumption.

How To Escape The Rat Race

The first step to escaping the rat race starts with something a Michael Jackson song instructs us to start with… the “Man in the mirror.”

Specifically, it begins with reflecting on your personal  relationship with money

Financial gurus such as Dave Ramsey teach his audience to start with calculating monthly expenses such as:

  • food
  • transportation
  • housing
  • entertainment
  • utilities

This will enable you to create a budget and decide each month how much you can spend within each category.

If you don’t take control over your behavior as a consumer, getting your financial life together will be impossible. 

Dave teaches frugality and the quickest way to wealth is living “below your means”. In other words, having a lifestyle that still leaves you with enough money leftover to save and invest for the future. 

7 Baby Steps

His entire philosophy revolves around 7 Baby Steps:


Emergency fund

Once you get your mind made up that you’re going to exit the rat race, starting an emergency fund should be on the top of the list.

Dave recommends saving 3-6 months of expenses in a checking or savings account. The idea is that if you have a financial emergency, use funds from this account instead going into further debt.

Unfriend the Joneses

Google defines “keeping up with the Joneses” as:  To show that one is as good as other people by getting what they have and doing what they do.

This phrase summarizes the massive problem of consumption. 

When the people around you are buying one thing, you buy it too. 

Typically this is done to avoid being outdone by them.

  • They buy a new SUV, you buy one too.
  • They get a new pool and hot tub, so do you. 
  • They take an exotic trip, you’re on a plane shortly thereafter.

All of this stems from one area: Social Pressure

Social media escalates this pressure.

My question to you is this:

Do you care more about appearing as though you have money or actually having money?

The rat race of life isn’t as much about working a 9-5 job but living life where you’re chasing the next thing, whether a paycheck or a material possession. Unfortunately, by living in this manner, you put your goals and ambitions on the back burner to stay in the race.

Figuring out where your money is going via a budget has proven time and time again to be the first stepping stone to exit the race.

Let’s be honest, the rat race sucks.

What’s the point of making money or imagining having as much wealth as possible when your relationship with money means losing it all or having to work nonstop in order to fund that lifestyle?

That is the real rat race. 

If you truly care about exiting the Rat Race, unfriend/unsubscribe to the Joneses channel ASAP

The Most Common Path To Escaping The Race

rat race

I’m not going to beat around the bush and make you read 1,000 words to get to the solution of how to exit the race.

I’m going to tell you now, even though you probably already know the answer.

It’s reaching financial independence as quickly as possible. 

That’s it.

That’s the first thing to do yet so few in the race will ever achieve it. 

The first step in order to become financially independent is to figure out your spending. Remember that budget we talked about earlier?

This is an important thing to do as your goal is to replace monthly expenses with passive income.

After that happens then congratulations…you’ve reached FI and can now EXIT the race.

Related article: How To Calculate Your FI Number

Here’s Robert Kiyosaki’s 3-step formula to achieve FI:

  1. Buy assets that generate cash flow (i.e. rental properties)
  2. Use the passive income from the assets to pay for living expenses
  3. Once monthly cash flow from assets is equal to or greater than monthly living expenses, you’re financially independent.

Traditional investments

The most commonly recommended path to escape the rat race is through traditional investments. Most of us are familiar with investing in the stock market where the goal is to amass a big enough nest egg during your working years and then slowly draw down on those savings after retiring with hopes of never running out.

But the problem is you’re miserable and in a race you can’t wait to get out of. And waiting 30+ years until you’ve saved enough is NOT a good exit strategy. 

Plus, should unexpected expenses pop up during retirement, your withdrawal rates and assumptions can go out the window.

Real estate

My favorite method that I’m personally using is real estate via passive syndications. Unlike the stock market, real estate is easy for me to understand.

You invest in a property (cash flowing asset), rent it out, collect a check which is the difference between income and expenses.

The great thing about syndications is that they are PASSIVE. This means you do NO ACTIVE work. The sponsor or general partner takes care of the day to day work while you enjoy quarterly distributions. 

This takes a mindset shift from the “accumulation” method to investing for cash flow instead.  Using this will slowly start chipping away at your monthly living expenses.

How I’m Teaching My Kids

As financial education is NOT taught in schools, it’s for this reason that I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands by teaching our two kids myself.

Besides encouraging my two boys to read books, I also purchased the CASHFLOW board game created by Robert Kiyosaki.

As a side note, I heard Kiyosaki in a podcast inform the audience that his Rich Dad Poor Dad book was originally written as a sales letter to sell the CASHFLOW game.   

The object of the game is to accumulate enough passive income to become independent from active income earned from a job. 

The passive income concept was NEVER mentioned during my 25+ years of formal education yet it’s what makes the wealthy, you guessed it, wealthy. 

Does it surprise you that the majority of the wealth is held by 1% of the population?

Kiyosaki’s hope was that by playing the game, participants would recognize the advantages of passive income and become entrepreneurs focused on real estate or starting businesses.

The winner of the game is the first one to escape the Rat Race.

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Comparison is the thief of joy.”- Theodore Roosevelt 

Why You Must Escape The Rat Race Before It’s Too Late

As a periodontist, I’m well aware of how prevalent doctor burnout is becoming with over 50% of doctors making this claim.

I recently watched Do No Harm. It’s a fantastic documentary on Amazon portraying individuals that are stuck and miserable with their career in medicine.

Many hate their jobs as they’re working 80-100 hours a week but feel trapped due to high amounts of debt.

One person on the show stated, “I have $300,000 in student loans. It’s not like I can go get a job tomorrow at Starbucks. I feel trapped yet have no training for anything else.”

When the pressure of treating patients are combined with the responsibility of family, the rat race can begin to lead to burnout.

I’ve taught my kids that there’s always going to be someone that is faster, stronger, smarter, and wealthier than they are. If we get caught up in always comparing ourselves with others instead of doing the best God has allowed us to do, then we’ll always be in the rat race.

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