Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money
There is really only one reason to read any book about money: to give yourself the gift of a better life. Money is not really the thing you’re after—after all, would you lock yourself in a dark, silent box forever in exchange for becoming a billionaire?
It seems obvious when put into such stark terms, but the truth about money is that money alone won’t solve most of your problems. In fact, a healthy relationship with money is most often just a by-product of living a happy, healthy life.
Instead of a dark box billionaire, you are probably hoping to become a lighthearted, productive, free person who just happens to never have to worry about money again.
This gigantic distinction is where most of the books, magazines, websites, TV shows, and podcasts ever created on the subject of money seem to fail. It’s also the reason most people in the United States and other rich countries, despite our record income levels, remain just about broke, with many in record levels of debt. We’re chasing more money and more of the things it can buy, without questioning the big picture of exactly what we are buying and why.
And this is the reason why this book, Your Money or Your Life, remains a standout classic after more than twenty-five years in print, with its message still echoing strongly enough through our society to keep new generations thinking about the ideas and to bring Vicki Robin out of her peaceful island retirement to write this updated version. Robin’s unique approach is what gives this book its unusual unprecedented staying power, and this update takes the same approach and applies it to the significantly changed world in which we now live.
The standard money advice is too meek, claiming that we all have different personal values and we need to follow our hearts. If I love hundred-dollar dinners out and you love expensive cars, that’s fine! You can spend on those things you love, as long as you budget carefully to afford it and work hard to make enough money for it.
The reality is that most of this is nonsense: We’re all humans, much more similar than we are different. Through centuries of philosophy and recent decades of more formal research, we’ve learned that there are a few genuine, universal human happiness buttons that can be pressed—the same basic factors such as friendship, health, community, overcoming challenges with your own ingenuity, and feeling in control of your life. These work for everyone.
At the same time, most of us are tempted by the ideas of convenience, status, and luxury, and buying ourselves treats to satisfy these temptations. And we’re really good at justifying some of these trinkets as our true passions. The only difference is in which things—and how many of them—we choose to justify. With just a few of the more expensive “true passions,” you can lock up almost any lifetime’s income, sometimes eliminating your chance of claiming the bigger and more universal happiness prizes previously mentioned.
Even the most well-known finance and business gurus repeat some version of this “spending money equals happiness” myth. Follow their advice and you may just end up with a really well-polished conveyor belt of personal desire. Your skilled hands will be throwing goals onto one end of it and pulling satisfied bucket list items off of the other, but you can still end up standing in the same place you started. Endless desire is one of the pitfalls of human nature, and one of the first things you need to cure if you want to get ahead more quickly.
It is for this reason that Your Money or Your Life talks so much about so much more than money. It is a personal development guide to help you figure out what you really want out of your life, while also training away the money-wasting habits that you have probably developed that are getting in the way of it. And “training” really is a good way to think about it: You get better about this stuff slowly, by repeating small steps every day, which build naturally into bigger accomplishments. It all seems gradual until you look back and barely even recognize your past self: “How was I wasting that much of my time and energy every day without even realizing it?” The result of all this training is not just an improved financial picture—it’s an improved you. This is the reason the book remains so popular.
There’s a bigger picture here too, of course: the entire world and all the people and living things who share it. Far too often we are taught that our spending decisions are simply a matter of our personal choices. If there’s enough money in our wallets and room for the resulting debris in our garbage or recycling bins, we are clear for purchase.
The reality is that almost everything we buy comes with a bit of unseen destruction somewhere else, and that damage has been adding up in recent decades. Facing the conflict between our lifestyles and the now-constant news headlines about their consequences is a source of stress. The great news, as you are about to learn in this book, is that streamlining your lifestyle for happiness will also dramatically cut down the amount of destruction that is done in your name.
Make no mistake—it’s almost impossible to read this book thoroughly without also drastically improving your financial situation for the rest of your life. The money part is definitely here. But the unique power of the method comes from working on the root of the problem—your personal beliefs and habits—rather than just the symptom of your monthly bank and credit card statements.
If you’ve never read this book and taken this journey before, brace yourself, take your time, and take it seriously. Your entire life is about to be transformed.
Mr. Money Mustache
Praise for Your Money or Your Life
About the Authors
Why Read This Book
Foreword by Peter Adeney, a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache
Introduction to the New Edition
1 The Money Trap: The Old Road Map for Money
STEP 1: Making Peace with the Past
A. How Much Have You Earned in Your Life?
B. What Have You Got to Show for It?
2 Money Ain’t What It Used to Be—and Never Was
STEP 2: Being in the Present—Tracking Your Life Energy
A. How Much Are You Trading Your Life Energy For?
B. Keep Track of Every Cent That Comes into or Goes out of Your Life
3 Where Is It All Going?
STEP 3: Monthly Tabulation
4 How Much Is Enough? The Quest for Happiness
STEP 4: Three Questions That Will Transform Your Life
QUESTION 1: Did I Receive Fulfillment, Satisfaction, and Value in Proportion to Life Energy Spent?
QUESTION 2: Is This Expenditure of Life Energy in Alignment with My Values and Life Purpose?
QUESTION 3: How Might This Expenditure Change If I Didn’t Have to Work for Money?
5 Getting It Out in the Open
STEP 5: Making Life Energy Visible
6 The American Dream—on a Shoestring
STEP 6: Valuing Your Life Energy—Minimizing Spending
7 For Love or Money: Valuing Your Life Energy—Work and Income
STEP 7: Valuing Your Life Energy—Maximizing Income
8 Catching Fire: The Crossover Point
STEP 8: Capital and the Crossover Point
9 Where to Stash Your Cash for Long-Term Financial Freedom
STEP 9: Investing for FI
Quick Reference for the 9-Step Program
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