Updated on 01.20.09

Some Thoughts on the Revised Edition of Your Money or Your Life

Trent Hamm

ymoylI’ve mentioned time and time again on The Simple Dollar that there is one personal finance book that, in my eyes, stands out above all the others. It certainly changed my perspective on money – I read it just as I was becoming aware that I needed to turn my financial life around and it was truly a life-changing read for me. I wound up writing a ton of commentary and supplementary material about the book, simply because it was so profound to me.

That book is Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

At the time I read it, it had been in print without significant revision for more than a decade. One of the authors, Joe Dominguez, had passed away in 1997, and in order to maintain his vision, the book simply stayed in print without significant change for many years.

By the time I read the book in 2006, many of the numbers in the book were quite outdated, as were some of the cultural references and specific frugality tips. This didn’t really bother me too much – the value of the book doesn’t come from those things.

This brings us to today. Very recently, the “other” author of Your Money or Your Life, Vicki Robin, issued an updated version of the book, adding an additional author (Monique Tilford) and promising to be “revised and updated for the 21st century.”

Many Simple Dollar readers wrote to me and asked if the new version was significantly different than the old. Does the new one offer some additional insights? Did the new version change the meat of the message?

For the most part, the new version of Your Money or Your Life is unchanged from the previous versions. There are quite a few updated statistics throughout and some of the cultural allusions have been modernized or changed.

However, there are two big exceptions to that rule – one good change and one bad change (in my opinion).

The good change is the revision of the final chapter, which discusses investing. In the old version, Dominguez and Robin prescribed an extremely conservative plan for investing, telling readers to stick to bonds and little else. From my perspective, this advice was the weakest part of the original book. Such an undiversified investment strategy is in itself risky – it’s the equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket.

This time around, the investment advice still leans towards the conservative, but it actually provides a more well-rounded view of investing, including several pages discussing index funds. The general message is that you should balance your investments, but move primarily into more conservative investments as you approach retirement.

The bad change, though, comes in chapter six, which focuses on tactics for cutting your spending. In the earlier version of the book, this chapter featured a list of 101 specific frugality tips, most of which still worked quite well (though a few were dated). I fully expected that this list would merely be refreshed for the new edition.

Instead, though, this list of tips was entirely cut from the new edition. Replacing it is a twelve page discussion of different areas of frugality. While this discussion is worthwhile, it doesn’t work nearly as well as the specific tips of the earlier version. The specific tips were urgent – given the material that had come before in the book, you were ready to jump up off the couch and get started on this stuff, and those tips were the perfect starter material. The newer material doesn’t have that urgency – it’s a solid discussion of frugality, but it doesn’t make you want to jump up and get started right away.

Don’t get me wrong – the revised version of Your Money or Your Life is at least as good as the older version. The minor revisions (that basically eliminate the “dated” feeling) and the rewritten chapter on investing easily outweigh the unfortunate changes to the frugal living chapter, and the underlying message is still as powerful as it ever has been.

There is still no personal finance book I would recommend before Your Money or Your Life. It’s the best one I’ve read.

Still, I know from my own experience that I was really inspired to try out frugality by the tips given in the sixth chapter – it was really the single thing that got me interested in frugality. I can’t help but wonder if the new version would have inspired me in the same way.

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  1. Mark B. says:

    A reader could first read “Your Money or Your Life”, then read your book “365 Ways to Live Cheap” as a replacement for those missing “tips”. Sounds like a perfect set-up.

  2. Mike says:

    I’m very happy to hear about the change on investing.

    Previously, I’ve refrained from recommending that book to people due solely to what I found to be very irresponsible investment advice.

    Time to take another look!

    Thanks. :)

  3. Curt says:

    I just got the book and I’m have fun reading it.

  4. Johanna says:

    Does the new version still have the convoluted argument to “prove” that inflation doesn’t exist? That, to me, was the weakest part of the book.

  5. rrgg says:

    Maybe the author could publish that missing chapter online or something? Maybe here at the simple dollar.

  6. Ken says:

    I just started reading the book, and really like it so far.

    It does present scenarios that inflation statistics do not take into account. For instance, desktop PCs and laptops. I remember paying $3,500.00 for a maxed out desktop in 1995… had a one gig hard drive and that was huge back then… today you can spend $300.00 and get a perfectly good desktop that does everything most people need it to. And that was $3,500.00 in “older” dollars so that $300.00 is really cheap in comparison. This is just one of numerous examples they use to illustrate the inflation numbers.

    I think what they are trying to say is that the inflation numbers can be very misleading, and they are.

  7. Becky says:

    Your Money or Your Life had a profound effect on me as well. It has changed the way I think about money and what I want out of life.

  8. Ryo Vie says:

    My question is, should the revised version be purchased if you already own and revisit the original on a regular basis? Would buying the updated version be a good investment?

  9. CPA Kevin says:

    I just read the book (not the updated one) a couple months ago and I agree that it both: a) changed my life and really made me think and b) the investing chapter was not useful.

    Thanks for the mini-review of the updated version.

  10. Brad says:

    I’m about 75% through the revised edition, after having read the original version a number of times over the last 15 years. Overall, a nice updating, but there were a couple of glaring errors that stood out…. references in later chapters to material in the front of the book that had been removed in the new edition. For instance, on Page 144, there is a reference to “Gordon M. … who we met in Chapter 1”. Well, that was chapter 1 of the old edition…and readers will search fruitlessly for his story.

    I also miss the wonderful 101 ways to save money in Chapter six, but I think the updating of the investing advice makes up for it. This still remains one of the top ten influential books I’ve read in my 50+ years.

  11. Mr. Nickle says:

    Though I never followed the investment advice this book espoused (to only invest in 30 year Treasuries), I don’t see how they can depart from this plan, much, without significantly changing their whole plan. Their plan was based around building up a predictable stream of income, and plotting the specific date that your income from your savings would exceed your living expenses. If you’re investing in index funds, how can you accurately project the date that your passive income exceeds your expenses (especially since there is no guarantee that it will ever happen)?

  12. Cathy says:

    I’ve never read the book. Though I have been out of debt for over a year, I would still like to read it. Thanks for the heads up on the new version – I’ll put it on hold at the library.

  13. Amy says:

    Because of your advice, I am currently reading the book and I like it a lot. Every evening now I tally up exactly what I’ve spent during the course of the day. I thought this would make me feel terrible, but in fact, it is oddly calming. A reminder I guess, of the fact that my family and I actually have quite a lot of control over our financial well being – we just have to pay attention. Thanks for the good advice.

  14. Chris M says:

    Is the old version out of print? If so, do you think they might allow the 101 tips to be published on the internet (maybe here, or perhaps on the book publisher’s website as an addendum)?

  15. Ken says:

    I read the first edition 7 or 8 years ago. The biggest takeaway for me was when he asked yo to estimate how much money you had made in your life. You then look at what you have to show for it. Ouch! It’s probably in my top ten all time personal finance books.

  16. pima says:

    Your Money or Your Life was a seminal book for me.
    The concept of trading life energy for an item/meal/event really hit a note.
    I have had the same job all my adult life and I LOVE it.
    ( I am self employed in retail) Working is a pleasure.
    But I also have many other interests so not working is a pleasure too. Knowing what life energy an item/meal/event will cost you is such a tangible way to evaluate if that item has value FOR you. Ultimately every decision WE make forms our financial life. This book gave me a tool to make sure those decisions benefited me.

  17. almost there says:

    To read the 101 tips go to amazon and under the new book click on the link to search inside another edition of this book. In the search block have the tab inside this book showing and type in the page number where it starts. Page 181.

  18. Pam says:

    I have a copy of the old edition. I have not read it in total, nor have I gone through the “program.” But one of the things I absolutely HATE about the book was their do-gooder, leftie, “save-the-planet” mentality.

    Save the planet from what, may I ask?

  19. plonkee says:

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with doing good. And I’ve heard that in many parts of the world, there’s hunger, poverty, homelessness, habitat destruction, pollution,… You might not personally want to do anything about it, but I’d be disappointed if you thought they were good things.

    But then I’m an avowed leftie and bleeding heart liberal, so presumably everything I say must be complete rubbish :) .

  20. Call me a bad personal finance blogger, but I have never read this book. Its one my list, but I have always felt like I had moved past the material in this book with the aid of other books specifically Dave Ramsey and a few others.

    I am already debt free except the mortgage and I am attacking my plan to reach my career dreams of self employed doing exactly what I want to do.

    With that said, I still need to read the book.

  21. CPA Kevin says:

    Pam –

    Sorry you feel so much anger at our planet. I really don’t understand the attitude of people like you. If others want to conserve resources for future generations…why is that such a horrible thing? You do realize we will run out of oil and other natural resources at some point?

  22. Cathy says:

    @Pam: Right. You must be one of those that is in denial about human destruction of this planet. Global warming is real, it is being influenced by human activity, and my generation gets to live (survive?) through it.

    Proud to be a do-gooder.

  23. almost there says:

    I originally read YMOYL a few years after it was published. I too felt it has a sanctimonious slant to it, as if everyone that read it was encouraged to drink the kool-aid their way. Remember, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest wence published is a bastion of earth-first tree spiking, natural women, earth shoe wearin’, non- flushin’ when yellow, let the bums live anywhere on the streets begging and taking up all the free internet in the library to watch po_n all day and get free transportation throughout Seattle, WTO protesting, riot and burning types. But have no fear gen y types, the people that run the world want to reduce the world population to about 1/2 a billion people, so the earth is safe. :) Not that I don’t disagree with alot of this. One just has to remember where the authors came from. But then wait until after 2012 and the pole shift to get really upset about global warming. Science and the history of the earth doesn’t lie about global warming but people do.

  24. I read this book many years ago — in my 20s. Thanks for mentioning it again … I still have it on a shelf, and it might be a great time to re-read it.

  25. getagrip says:

    In one sense I agree with Pam’s question about what are we saving the planet from since nothing we do actually “saves” the planet. Period. The save the planet speil is just pretty marketing hype to make us feel good about environmental conservatism. The planet will continue to exist and operate just fine whether a super volcano erupts, an astreroid hits it, the sun burps bunches of solar flares in rapid succession and rips our atmosphere to shreds, every nation blows up every bomb in their nuclear arsenals at the same time, or we find some other means of driving ourselves to extinction like creating a mega plague. The Earth doesn’t give a hoot if we occupy it or not. The Earth doesn’t really care what, if any, life exists on it any more than your hair cares how you comb it today. So all the talk about “saving the planet” is really marketing babble to support making the planet a better place for us, humans, to live and prosper. All the environmental arguments typically come down to whether or not actions we are taking are hurting us on some level, whether it’s pollution, preserving ecosystems, environmental diversity, etc.

    So its really not about the planet. It’s all about us.

  26. dianna says:

    the old chapters 6 and 9 are still available! vicki robin put them on her website if you want to read the original versions, they’re at http://yourmoneyoryourlife.info/resources/oldies-but-goodies/

  27. Abby says:

    You can find the old chapters (including the 101 frugality tips in chapter 6) online at http://yourmoneyoryourlife.info/resources/oldies-but-goodies/.

  28. Judy says:

    The book that got me on the road to debt-free living and still refer to it today when I need a tune-up! I’ll check out the new version for the investing advice.

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