Introduction to Your Money or Your Life
When I first began Your Money or Your Life, I was a bit confused. It wasn’t quite like any of the other money- or phsycology-related books that I have read. It contained a plan, like Rich Habits and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, yet it wasn’t about getting rich. It contained investment advice, like The Intelligent Investor, but also described real estate and bonds as viable investments. And, although being about money, it focused more on how to be happy with less than how to make more.
So, as I gradually came to understand that Your Money or Your Life is like a fusion of Rich Habits and The Millionaire Next Door, I was able to understand and appreciate the message of the book much more. Then, I gradually came to understand the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire-Early) movement that its author, Vicki Robin, is a proponent of and is part of living the simple life.
Summary of Your Money or Your Life
Like Rich Habits and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Your Money or Your Life is at its root a plan. But, it’s not a plan for getting rich. Instead, it’s a plan for those that want to get out of debt, identify how much they truly need in life, and then save and invest enough to become financially independent and follow their passion in life rather than work a soul-crushing 9-5 job.
So, because it’s a numbered plan, I think just giving y’all the bare-bones version of that plan would be more effective than trying to summarize the whole book. Here it is:
Step 1: Make Peace With the Past
For this step, tally up how much you have earned (or received, if you have received monetary gifts) and add it all up to find your total lifetime earnings. Then, tally up all your assets to see what you have to show for it. Your car, house, clothes, cell phone, etc. To do this step properly, you have to be thorough. At the end of it, you’ll know your net worth.
Step 2: Being in the Present- Tracking Your Life Energy
I’ll admit, this step sounded a bit hippyish to me. “Life Energy” is not a phrase that many conservatives throw around. However, after reading all of Your Money or Your Life, it made more sense.
It’s figuring out how many hours of life you’re likely to have left and seeing what you’re currently spending time on. As an accounting major, that system appealed to me; it’s turning your time into a balance sheet so you can see what you’re spending it on.
Step 3: Where is It All Going
This step is relatively simple, but probably one of the most important ones in Your Money or Your Life. It’s creating a monthly tabulation of everything you spend money on. Not only will you see how much money you waste on things you don’t need or really even want, you can also use your Life Energy data from Step 2 to see how much of your life each little thing is costing you.
Step 4: Three Questions that Will Transform Your Life
- Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to the life energy I spend on various items?
- Is this expenditure of energy in alignment with my values and purpose?
- How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for money?
Really examine your answers to those questions to gain some important self-introspection.
Step 5: Making Life Energy Visible
Make a chart with your monthly income and monthly expenses. Try to widen the gap and start to save money.
Step 6: Valuing Your Life Energy- Minimizing Spending
When you start to view spending money not just as a decrease in your checking account, but also as a decrease in your life energy, it becomes easier to save more. Also, if you have fewer monthly expenses, you can retire earlier and spend time doing what you love.
Step 7: Valuing Your Life Energy- Maximizing Income
Respect yourself and the amount of your life you are putting into your job. Work on ways to increase your earnings.
Step 8: Capital and the Crossover Point
Save money and start to deploy it as capital in investments. Whatever asset classes those investments are in, start to track your monthly income from them. Then once you reach the crossover point (where using some of that income won’t decrease the principal), you can retire.
Step 9: Investing for FI
I thought that Step 9 was the most interesting section of Your Money or Your Life, if a bit more liberal. Rather than discussing investments that are the best for long-term investors, Robin discusses sustainable investing and income from bonds. However, she also discusses investment strategies that other FIRE proponents have used, and those sections of the chapter are far more helpful.
Analysis of Your Money or Your Life
I have very mixed feelings about Your Money or Your Life. There were two things I liked and one main thing I didn’t like, so I’ll divide this section into those categories.
What I Liked:
In Your Money or Your Life, Robin does two things very well. The first is framing her ideas as ways to maximize your life rather than your bank account. As conservatives, that might sound ridiculous to us. But, aspects of it struck a chord with me.
Sure, I still think FIRE is a concept mainly adopted by those that just don’t like working and want to sit around all day. But some people use it to live their lives the way they want to live them. Yes, as conservatives we should follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice on avoiding idleness, listen to Marcus Aurelius’s exhortation to get out of bed and build something, and follow Socrates’s advice on living well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean working a boring 9-5 job that’s been standardized and soul-crushing since the industrial revolution and Gilded Age.
It could mean retiring early and then starting a small farm or writing a book. Read The Republic for Which It Stands and decide if you really want to work a job designed by the industrialists in it or if you want to chart your own path and just live a bit more frugally.
So, by framing FIRE as a way to maximize your life and follow your passion rather than chasing a higher paycheck, Robin makes her ideas tolerable to the non-hippy segment of society that wants to make money as much as the early Americans but also isn’t so keen on not working after age 30.
Secondly, she does an excellent job bringing stories into her chapters. Rather than just writing about her own ideas and experiences, she includes many quotations from others who have a similar interest in FIRE. Through doing so, she shows the diverse array of ways in which her ideas can be put into practice.
What I Didn’t Like
The only thing I didn’t like in Your Money or Your Life was the section on investing. I thought her advice to buy bonds for income was ridiculous and not helpful to any young investor in the current interest-rate environment. Yes, it’s important to learn about all the asset classes when you begin your journey into saving and investing. But, some almost always perform better than others. If you’re invested for the long haul, it’s better to invest in stocks than bonds.
Secondly, I didn’t like her focus on “sustainable investing.” Investors should be focused on maximizing their returns, not focusing on avoiding the companies currently demonized by the lefties on daytime TV. In fact, some of those demonized companies, such as Altria (a tobacco company), have delivered excellent returns.
So, if you’re interested in investing, please read other books. One Up on Wall Street, The Intelligent Investor, and Security Analysis will be far more helpful if you actually want to build up your portfolio and retire early.
Your Money or Your Life is an excellent book for those looking to get out of debt, become more content, and/or start their journey towards FIRE. Robin’s advice on those topics is great for conservatives or liberals who are tired of the traditional job environment and just want to find a new way to earn money and live life.
However, her investment advice is absolutely awful. Buy and read the books I mentioned above if you’re actually interested in how to earn money from investing. They’re far more helpful.
Finally, I want to say that I think conservatives should read Your Money or Your Life. We often focus on the skyrocketing national debt but ignore equally concerning (if not more concerning) consumer debt. Or we attack the unsustainable Social Security program but don’t have enough invested to avoid the coming retirement crisis without it. Achieving financial independence is a way to avoid that hypocrisy. This book will help you achieve it.
By: Gen Z Conservative