The Cash Flow Quadrant

Need an income boost, but not sure where to start? Then you need to encounter the Cash Flow Quadrant.

It’s a concept pioneered by Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame. And it’s one of the best explanations of creating income around.

Here’s what it looks like…

Employee | Entrepreneur

Freelancer | Investor

The employee and freelancer trade their time for money.

The entrepreneur and investor create or purchase income generating assets.

Think about what an employee does. They show up, punch in, and work for a set number of hours. In exchange, they either get paid by the hour or a set annual salary.

If they’re extra conscientious and prove their worth to their employer, they may get a raise or bonus as a reward. But their income is entirely dependent on the good graces and success of their boss. They never directly enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The same is true for the freelancer. Sure, they may enjoy greater independence than an employee, but they’re still trading their time for money. Think of them as a mercenary rather than a soldier.

Compare that with the entrepreneur. The difference is that the entrepreneur creates a system for delivering a service that’s duplicatable.

Let’s say you start a lemonade stand. You put up a few bucks to buy some lemons, sugar, cups, a cooler, and stand. It’s a risk—there’s no guarantee you’ll have any customers.

Fortunately, it’s a hit—the neighbors line up to enjoy your refreshing beverage!

After a few days, you’re swimming in cash. In fact, you earn enough to open another lemonade stand. So you buy the same supplies, and hire a friend to run the new location. Just like that, you’ve scaled your lemonade business.

Eventually, you have so many lemonade stands that you don’t have to manage one yourself. Instead, through initiative and upfront commitment, you’ve created an income stream. That’s how entrepreneurship works.

But now suppose that a friend comes along. She’s been eyeing your success and wants in. She’ll put up the cash to open another ten lemonade stands across the neighborhood (it’s a BIG neighborhood).

In exchange, she gets a slice of the profits from all the stands. She takes on some risk by giving you money in exchange for some income. In other words, she’s an investor. She’s using her money to earn more money.

There are two critical points to notice about the entrepreneur and the investor.

1. They take risks. Being an employee is relatively predictable—if your employer continues to do well, you’ll give X amount of time, and you’ll get X amount of money. But starting a business is a risk. Giving money to an entrepreneur is a risk. Entrepreneurs and investors commit resources to projects with no guarantee of success.

2. They have far greater potential. There are only so many hours you can trade for money. When successful, entrepreneurs and investors have far more resources at their disposal to trade for money.

Simply put, entrepreneurs and investors face greater risks, and greater potential rewards.

Which quadrant generates most of your income? Is there a quadrant you would like to explore further?