Your Money or Your Life: Final Reflections

YMOYLThis is the thirtieth and final part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?

Your Money or Your Life has done more than any other book I’ve ever read in terms of changing how I view money. It truly brought to life the connection between the choices I make every day and the greater decisions I make about my life, and it opened my eyes to the value of frugality and day-to-day personal responsibility about my financial bottom line and that of my family. I really can’t pay it any higher compliment than that.

To me, the one single factor that makes a book essential is that it significantly affects your thinking and/or your actions. In other words, a book becomes essential solely due to the effect that it has on readers. Regardless of the quibbling disagreements I had with Your Money or Your Life over specific details, it has arguably had more impact on my life than any book I’ve ever read.

When I first read it, I was already realizing that I needed to get my financial life in order, but I didn’t see the real connection between money and daily life. I was stuck deeply in a mindset of I work, I get paid, I work some more, I get paid some more. This book revealed to me that such a routine doesn’t really have to be the plan and, in fact, isn’t entirely healthy. Now, I view life as work to do stuff I like and minimize the expense of it all so I can have more time to do stuff I like. Money is nothing more than the tool you use to maximize the time doing stuff you like.

That doesn’t mean I wholeheartedly subscribe to everything in this book. I feel, as many readers do, that in many places the political views of the authors come into place quite strongly, with a lot of environmentalism and a bit of New Age touchy-feely type material. The book also could use a much stronger section on investing advice, as that advice really only applies to people who are on the verge of having enough money in the bank to live off of the interest in a extremely secure investment – not advice on how to get there.

But that’s not the point.

The point of the book is to encourage people to rethink their life choices from the ground up in a very tangible fashion, something that very few books manage to pull off. In fact, the connection between the abstract (living an alternative lifestyle) and the concrete (figuring out exactly what that costs) is the core of the genius behind this book, and it’s why it is the only personal finance book I’ll universally recommend to any reader.

If you’d like to review all of the readings in the book club reading of Your Money or Your Life, here’s a list of each reading and a link to all twenty-nine discussions. This is a great page to bookmark if you’re thinking you may read through the book at some point in the future.

Prologue (pages xxiii to xxxviii)
The Money Trap (pages 1 to 9)
Prosperity and the Planet (pages 9 to 21)
The Beginning of a New Road Map for Money (pages 21 to 29)
Step 1 – Making Peace with the Past (pages 29 to 39)
Money Ain’t What It Used To Be (And Never Was) (pages 40 to 59)
Step 2 – Being in the Present and Tackling Your Life Energy (pages 59 to 75)
Where Is It All Going? (pages 76 to 87)
Totaling It All Up (pages 87 to 108)
How Much Is Enough? The Nature of Fulfillment (pages 109 to 112)
Three Questions That Will Transform Your Life (pages 113 to 128)
Assessing the Three Questions (pages 128 to 145)
Seeing Progress (pages 146 to 157)
Getting Your Finances Out in the Open (pages 157 to 165)
The American Dream – on a Shoestring (pages 166 to 171)
Ten Sure Ways to Save Money (pages 171 to 181)
101 Sure Ways to Save Money (Part One) (pages 181 to 197)
101 Sure Ways to Save Money (Part Two) (pages 197 to 212)
Additional Thoughts on Cutting Spending (pages 213 to 218)
For Love or Money (pages 219 to 231)
The Stunning Implications of Redefining Work (pages 232 to 246)
Valuing Your Life Energy – Maximizing Income (pages 247 to 258)
The Crossover Point (pages 259 to 268)
The Power of Working for a Finite Period of Time (pages 268 to 279)
The Freedom to Choose What You Do and Do What You Choose (pages 279 to 291)
Now That You’ve Got It, What Are You Going To Do With It? (pages 292 to 305)
Three Pillars of Financial Independence (pages 305 to 318)
Cushions Make For Softer Landings (pages 318 to 327)
Additional Resources (pages 337 to 343)

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  1. h says:

    I recently purchased this book for 1 cent (used) on Amazon. It arrived today. I’m really looking forward to reading it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  2. Sunshine says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on all points.

  3. Steve O says:

    I have dozens of investment and self-improvement books. But this one stands alone. It really is one of a kind.

    I have owned it for years, though I have not read every word. The thing is, it really does make you think in a different way about money and life. In this “consume, consume and consume some more” society we live in, it’s incredibly liberating to find that there is another choice. It’s like getting out of “The Matrix.” Or off the hamster wheel.

    And, while this book is not the only reason, I retired this year at age 53.

  4. I agree. The book isn’t perfect, but the overall message is so powerful that it makes the little things I didn’t care for seem irrelevant. I think it truly is a must read for someone who wants to get their financial life in order and break out of the ‘normal’ way of living in our culture.

  5. rhbee says:

    It is rather sad that in order to praise this book you have to apologize for its politics. Sad because that means that after all is said and done you still want it to be about “personal finance”. Sad because we have let politics and the politically correct phrase our lives and our future by making us exceedingly leary of any idea that might be liberalizing. Sad because for all the value that this book’s discussion of finance brings to the table it still is only valuable to individuals. And all the changes that the authors hoped to bring about in the world can only be acceptable if they are couched in RichDad/PoorDad clothing. Sad, sad, sad.

  6. d.a. says:

    Thanks for running this series, Trent. It has re-energized my commitment to getting debt free and creating a balanced work life. Kudos!

  7. Jesse says:

    Whats the best Brick and Mortar Bank if You use ING Direct?

  8. fi at 30 says:

    As its quite dated, I think its fair to reveal that Joe’s advice to buy 12% government and utility bonds obviously would not hold water today.

    It should also be noted that Joe eventually recanted his “rent forever” edict, and became a homeowner. If you buy below replacement cost, in a state with low utility costs, and low property taxes, a home is a good hedge against inflation, as well as some rental income, if you can socially deal with housemates (or build an accessory apartment behind the garage…)

  9. Dana says:

    That wasn’t really what I got out of it. The obvious answer, to me, to the question “how do you amass enough money to live off the interest?” is, “Follow the steps of the program conscientiously.” Joe and Vicki might not handhold you and lead you through each explicit detail, but that’s because they were trying to make the book useful to a wider audience. I believe they stated that even single moms on public assistance have been able to get value from the program. :)

    As for the twelve-percent bonds, maybe you can’t get those on the primary market anymore, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that you can still get nine-percent bonds on the secondary market. Now, I am nowhere near ready to buy one thousand-dollar bond, much less multiples. But nine percent interest is nothing to sneeze at, and IIRC the bonds in question don’t mature for at least another ten years.

    Even if they’re at six percent, so what? So you re-evaluate your options. I read enough between the lines with YMOYL to discern that not all the people mentioned in the book who’d done the program were actually living off of bond income and nothing else. I read one case of a woman for whom part of her FI income came from renting out her house. The larger point seems to be to separate work from wages (which is, IIRC, actually part of one of the steps) and whatever is going to do that for you in a sustainable way, you should probably think about trying. This would be true even if bonds were still at twelve percent.

  10. Omnivorous Reader says:

    Trent nailed this one! I also like Michael Fogler’s Unjobbing which is kind of a Tightwad Gazette meets Your Money or Your Life.
    I read Tightwad/YMYL/Unjobbing years ago, and they gave me a different view on my life. Unfortunately we have been backsliding since moving to the northwest (soooo much more expensive but better work for spouse). Plan to pull out my YMYL and reread to refocus. I am enjoying the Simple Dollar b/c it reminds me of all we did to off load $38K of debt while raising an infant. With our child a teenager & our only debt a (large) mortgage, I need reminded that this is still debt! And there is guilt b/c I was able to quit working, but spouse has not been able to (health insurance is a huge issue).

  11. bobmark says:

    From what I can find, Joe retired in 1969 with $100,000 in bonds yielding a $7,000 annual income. By the time he passed away in 1997 at age 58(?), inflation had reduced the value of the cash flow to about $3000. If he had lived to age 75, typical for a 58 year old male, he would have had about $1000 in real terms to live on. He spent too much too early, with no reinvesting to offset inflation.

    This is philosophy not personal finance.You shouldn’t have to ‘read between the lines’.

  12. Sherry says:

    Trent – this review pretty much sums up my likes and dislikes of the book. I read it about 13 years ago, and it did truly change my outlook on money and work/life etc. The book is great for that. However, I agree with you that the politics are sometimes a bit overwhelming, and unfortunately it is hard sometimes for the good stuff to get through. I keep hoping it will be rewritten, which takes some of the politics out. I think they could keep a lot of the examples of folks in there that are more touchy feely New-Agish, and also include some that are not. To show that regardless of one’s politics, the underlying premises of the book can still hold true.

    My son had his graduation from high school on Monday. I tried to find a used copy of this book to give him, and of course couldn’t find it anywhere. However, I think I am going to lend him my copy to read. I think he is mature enough to be able to pull out the useful information and not feel obligated to cure the world’s problems (unless he wanted to do that anyway haha).
    I had forgotten that Joe said rent forever. I am leery of any advice that tells you that you must rent or you must own at some point. I think there is no one size fits all solution there.

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