This book attempts to demonstrate by means of a 9-step process, how you are now making a "dying" as opposed to making a living, and how you can get back on track, and start directing your actions toward a life of fulfillment and financial independence. The 9 steps look like this:
* STEP 1: Look back on your life and add up all the money you have made, and how much do you have with you (in the form of assets of some type) to account for it.
* STEP 2: Since money is something we choose to trade our life energy for (central idea of the book), determine how much money you truly get for doing your job, including the fact that you have to spend money in commuting, clothing, meals at work, etc. and start to keep track of every penny that you earn and spend. Just to illustrate the power of this step, I found myself making 25% (hourly rate) less than I thought I was by doing this exercise, and that takes into account the fact that I live 20 minutes away from my work and I half the time I bring my food from home.
* STEP 3: Tabulate all your expenses into categories, add them up and convert them into hours of life energy.
* STEP 4: Determine to what extent all the expenses you found in your categorization provide you with fulfillment, how they are in alignment with your life's purpose, and how they would change should you not have to work for a living (I start to see some frowning faces now... hold on a bit more!) This chapter brought back memories of reading Stephen Covey and Viktor Frankl, in terms of coming up with your life's mission. A very nice quote by Buckminster Fuller mentioned in it says: "I learned very early and painfully that you have to decide at the outset whether you are trying to make money or make sense -I feel that they are mutually exclusive."
* STEP 5: Maintain a chart with your income and expenses month to month, and have it in a visible place: don't hide it!
* STEP 6: Frugality and tons of ways to save money -not trying to impress other people; not just going shopping; living within your means; taking care of what you have; wearing things out; doing more things yourself; anticipating your needs; researching value, quality, durability and multiple use of things ahead of time; getting things for less (find out how!); buying used (secondhand becoming chick); following the nine steps of the program; and 101 more ways... Most readers will probably enjoy this chapter, since it gives out lots of ideas you can start applying right away, but it definitely needs to be combined with the other steps for the entire program to have success for life.
* STEP 7: Searching for ways to increase your income by valuing the life energy you put into your job, and exchanging it for the highest pay consistent with your health and integrity.
* STEP 8: Having capital money start producing an income for you until you reach the magical crossover point, the point at which your expenses can be fulfilled through your investment income, technically without needing you to make any active income. Sounds neat? Well, this is the most interesting part of the book. Several pages are devoted to how you can better spend your time beyond this point, and volunteering becomes one of the biggest things (giving back) you can do to take fulfillment in your life to a point that can't be reached by making more money.
* STEP 9: this step is about making out of you a knowledgeable and sophisticated long-term investor, so that you can manage your finances for a safe, steady and sufficient income for the rest of your life. If you think this might be a little over the authors' heads, consider the credentials of Mr. Dominguez, who had a successful career as a financial analyst in Wall Street before retiring at the age of... (are you ready for this?) thirty-one!
Overall, this book shed valuable additional light on the topic of Financial Independence in ways that previous books I'd read hadn't, simply because it works on the basic paradigms out of which your assumptions come from, such as the fact that you need A TON of money to live a life of fulfillment. If you ask me, my recommendation is to get this book, but don't buy it (sorry, Amazon!) -get it from your local library! ;)
on November 3, 2002
I'm always wary of books stating that they have "9 steps to a different life" and didn't buy this book for years after after I learned of it. I picked it up a couple of months ago when a new boss caused me to look at my job in a different light. If I was fired or wanted to quit, how would I survive? If I wanted to get a lower paying job doing something I enjoyed, could my lifestyle afford it?
With these things weighing on my mind, I purchased this book. Most of the steps I understood, and many of them made sense, but it was the 8th step that "hit me on the side of the head." What a revelation! I needed the previous 7 steps to fully appreciate it. I *can* change my life. This isn't some new-age feel good, think positive mumbo jumbo, but a solid plan for achieving financial independance.
I tell my friends about my plan to retire early, and they say "Oh, that's nice" and "You'll never do it" and "I could never cut back my spending enough to do that." The promise, though, of not having to work for a living is keeping me motivated, and I think of it every time I spend money.
Oddly enough, I recognize some of the principals as being similar to what financial guru types like Robert Kiyosaki and Robert G. Allen recommend - spend less, save more, invest what you save - yet this book, unlike those, provides a proven method for getting there.
Some books I read, such as Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt and Live Prosperously by Gerrold Mundis prepared me for this book, and it agrees with my personal philsophies, even though I tend to spend more money than I should.
The 9th step details how to invest your money, but is now out of date because of changes instituted by the federal government. These issues are dealt with on by Vicki Robbins on a website based on this book.
I've read other 'retire early' books and this is one of the best. It's also unique in that it wasn't written at the end of the 90's. Several others were written by people who were able to retire at the end of the great bull market of the 90's based on their stock investments. This book, however, was written in the mid to late 90's before there was such a thing as Internet millionaires. One of those people even wrote a book explaining why other methods don't work and how to buy his system! I guess he lost a lot of money and is looking to raise some quick cash.
My girlfriend found the tone of the book overly preachy. They talk a lot about being eco and environmentally friendly in a way that some would consider heavy handed. While I felt some parts were preachy - things I would do once I had the resources to do them and wasn't spending all of my time 'making a dying,' - I found the information in this book valuable enough to read through those parts.
As an experiment I'm trying to see if I can spend no money during the month of November and one of my friends who's deeply in debt is doing it with me. Just necessities and the occasional cab fare or movie. The purpose of the experiment is to see how much money I need to live on and how much I can save.
I know it doesn't go much into investing and where to put your money, which is very popular now that everyone's got money in the stock market, but I consider this the single most important investment book I've ever read.
I also recommend The Average Family's Guide to Financial Independence by Toohey, Nickel and Dimed by Ehrenreich, and of course, Getting a Life by Blix and Miller.
on November 5, 1999
Your Money or Your Life is excellent for a) highlighting just how excessive our consumption is, b) showing how we could easily manage with much less, and c) making clear the tradeoffs we make for a "good" lifestyle. I also really admire the author(s) for walking their talk.
I do, however, have a few problems with the book. First, I wish they wouldn't advocate shopping at the Walmarts of the world. Second, I don't think most people (especially with kids) can live on the thread-bare shoestring budget the authors do (although I suppose its the spirit of what they say more than the exact numbers they suggest that matters most). Last, I wouldn't take the book's investment advice (which is buy long term government bonds). For a more balanced--or at least an excellent supplement--read The Mindful Money Guide. Its coming from a similar place (i.e. how to manage money so it doesn't manage you--for both a better quality of life and a better world), but The Mindful Money Guide gives the reader more options to choose from. I also found it more fun to read.
on August 9, 2000
This book is timeless. I essentially developed this same plan through trial and error (and lots of soul searching) over the last three years. It was great to see my scattered thoughts and philosphies put down in such a concrete, well-documented manner.
You should read the other reviews below with a bit of skepticism.
1) The investment advice in this book is not dated; it is conservative. Conservative is precisely what you need if you want to sleep well every night and live off of your money. Actually, many folks who are already financially well off follow this advice. The 15 year bull market seems to have turned everyone into an investment guru.
2) Someone way down the review list claims that saving $800 per month will not let you save $300,000 within 30 years. They asked for a hole in their logic, here's one: compound interest. Actually, at 5% and $800/month you will hit $300k in 19 years with virtually no risk. Low risk bonds should return 7% to 8% over this period and get you there in 17 or 16 years respectively. The recent bull market would have accomplished this in 10 years or less. There are a few other minor holes in the logic that would shorten the window another couple of years...
3) You have to have discipline to follow this plan. Otherwise, you will be working for a long time. If you are looking for a get-rich-quick book, look elsewhere. Like all important things in life, this also requires dedication and commitment. I am young, but I will be retiring to part time work in just under 10 years while my co-workers will be on the job an additional 25 years.
4) It takes me approximately 30 minutes each month to track my expeses to the dollar using Quicken and credit cards that automatically categorize expenditures via online account access, (of course the credit cards are direct drafted from the bank so I do not incur interest -- make credit cards work for you and take advantage of the system, some even pay you cash back).
5) This books compliments "The Millionaire Next Door" quite well if you understand your own personal philosophy on life and work. I suggest you check out both books out at the library; skim TMND and read YMOYL thoughtfully. TMND suggests working hard and living frugally; ultimately this results in accumulated wealth. YMOYL suggests working hard short-term, living frugally all the time, then moving to a more personally satisfying life. But YMOYL quantifies this and defines what you need and why you would need it. YMOYL is a plan; TMND is an analysis of recorded data.
on June 6, 2003
And that is the effect it has had on my atheist mind! I purchased this book 5 years ago. I read it and never actually followed the steps. Just now I am doing all the steps, and it has changed my life! Some may say there is too much work involved, I say maybe at first, but it is well worth it. I track every penny without even a second thought, and it takes no time at all with a computer. I even read a review that said "the invesment strategy is a little conservative, you could make more money in mutual funds and stocks". That review was written in 1998. I wonder if that guy has changed his tune, Ha! If you are looking for a 'get a lot of money!' book, then look elsewhere. The bottom line is, if you do the steps 100% percent, (not 50%, not 90%) you are bound to live a lifestyle that not only gives you more FREE TIME! but it will be at your choosing. There is no budget plan, no turning your underwear inside out to save on laundry soap, etc. How you save, where you save, and how much you save are truly your choice, and that is why this book is great. Whether you make 500k/yr, or 25k, I garauntee if you do the steps, it will change your life for the better.
I am willing to bet that all the negative reviewers did not do the steps 100%.
I have been doing the steps for 6 months now and I have cut my monthly expeditures by $1500 a month (sold my BMW, cancelled cellphone, havent bought 1 item of clothing, stopped trying to 'keep up with the Joneses', etc), and paid off $13,000 in credit card debt (cut them all up)! not because the book told me to do this, it is because after I read this book I WANTED to do this. My life is worth more to me then slaving at work trying to pay/insure/worry about all this stuff. You may not go to such extremes, that choice is up to you, but you will find yourself getting out of debt, and saving more money regardless.
Convincing your spouse is the hard part. When I started doing the steps, my wife thought I was either in some cult or joined the 'Your MOney or Your Life' Witnesses. And yes, I am ready to go door to door to deliver the book's message. It is that strong. But, my wife is coming along and see's the upside of me staying home more with her and my 1 yr old son, instead of working 7 days a week so i can buy/insure the 'Next New Thing that Nobody Else Has!'
on July 2, 2002
"Your Money or Your Life" is a classic, the kind of book that produces immediate results, and reduces the need to read all the other financial books out there. Offering a specific plan for living low on the material chain, the book is chock full of helpful suggestions.
I read the book quickly, and followed some of the outlined plans for financial mastery. For a month I kept track of every penny I spent and found in the months since that I'm much more concious of what I spend. I have grown to have an aversion to impuslse buying, in part because the book brings home the wastefulness of materialism. I have really cut corners, and gotten rid of a lot
of useless clutter, and feel much better as a result.
Best of all, I have been able to live for almost a year on a third of what I spent when I was in a more fast track job.
Will this book work for anyone? I'm not sure about that, because the simple fact is, some people value possessions over free time. Some people are more than happy to work two jobs if it means being able to buy what they want, and live the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. I can't see the US being overrun with frugality anytime soon. But, for those who wish to live on less-- writers, stay at home moms, artists, or those needing to get out of debt-- this book is flawless.
on April 13, 2000
Dominguez and Robins have done a stellar job of explaining and spreading the message that more isn't necessarily better--in fact, pursuing the SUV, Ralph-Lauren-matching-linens, American dream is down right expensive to your quality of life. The pair have also done a wonderful job of giving a detailed road map for taking financial control of your life.
I do, however, have a few problems with Your Money or Your Life. First, the money diet they suggest is too difficult for all but the tightest of spenders--especially if you have children. Second, the authors suggest shopping at Walmarts and discount supermarkets. Naturally these megastores can save you money, but ultimately if you're goal is quality of life, you're better off shopping at smaller, independently-owned stores and cooperatives which offer organic produce and nontoxic products. Unfortunately these products do cost more, but it's worth it for your health, peace of mind, and a better planet. Last, their investment advice--buy very long-term U.S. government bonds--is a weak, even ridiculous strategy.
For a simpatico--or even substitute--companion book which offers more options and good investment advice, check out The Mindful Money Guide. It's well written, funny, and covers the full range of money issues--emotional/psychological, right livelihood, investing, spending, and charitable donations.
on June 4, 2007
"Your Money Or Your Life" urges you to redefine your life values and your relationship with money. As Dominguez and Robin describe, we as human beings are often defined by what we do rather than who we are. For example, when someone asks you what you do, you might answer "I'm a car salesman" rather than "I'm an avid traveller who enjoys risky adventures and 20th century literature, and I sell cars to make money."
To get away from being defined by your relationship with money, the authors guide you to achieve the state they define as "Financial Independence" (FI), which will allow you to separate the notions of "work" and "making money" - and live your life the way you want to.
The book provides 9 steps to achieve this state, starting with a basic assesment of your net worth and your income, and ending with instructions to invest your money in long-term U.S. Treasury bonds.
I was very excited by the numerous praises and positive reviews of the book, and I dove in expecting a "life-changing" experience, as advertised by the critics and the authors themselves. However, what I found was unfortunately far below my expectations.
There are numerous very serious issues I have with this book.
First, it is structured as a self-improvement program. Ironically, the book itself cautions the reader to not trust self-improvement "life-changing" type programs, as they usually don't work and are often scams, yet it presents itself as one. If I follow the book's advice, I shouldn't even be reading it.. but if I don't, then I'm inherently following its advice. Oh the paradoxical craziness of it all! Additionally, terms like "life energy" are a huge warning sign to me of "one of those" programs, and this book spends pages and pages discussing how "life energy" is the most precious thing we have, and how we trade it for money.
Second, the book is clearly geared toward a very specific reader - one that has absolutely zero ability to manage personal finances and personal life. The testimonials within the book present people who had no idea that they were spending more than they were earning - and suddenly, through this amazing program, they realized their follies and magically transformed their expenses into savings; somehow, this suddenly allowed them to achieve life-long dreams of living in rural barns and spending quality time with their children. The authors go overboard by instructing the readers to keep track of "every penny," so as to understand where their money is going. For the average person with at least SOME concept of expense tracking, this is hilarious. Hell, credit cards and bank statements do this sort of tracking for us for free!
Third, and most importantly, much of the advice that the book gives is just poor. Again, this may be because it is targeted toward the flighty individual who has no idea what money is. For example, the authors denounce credit cards as the absolute evil. This is ridiculous and simply outdated. Today, credit cards are amazing tools when used right. Card holders get numerous free membership benefits (all types of insurance including the very useful car rental insurance, free roadside assistance, etc.), 0% balance transfers, spending rewards (cash back, airline miles), and of course, buyer protection. Granted, you have to understand that if you don't pay off your credit card bill each month, you'll be paying 20% interest (on average) - but most people with a brain get this. Nowadays, if you are actually paying cash for you purchases, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.
Another example of poor advice: chapter 9, the "nuts and bolts of an investment program for FI," simply tells the reader to invest his/her money into long-term U.S. Treasury bonds! That is ALL. To add insult to the reader, Dominguez argues that stock markets actually do worse than bond markets. He claims that the DJIA, with inflation taken into account, has actually DECREASED over the last 50 years - with zero evidence. This is, by the way, after Dominguez spends 10 pages convincing the reader that inflation is not real but rather just a "macroeconomics concept." Yep, another contradiction. To sum it up, instead of educating the reader about the various investment vehicles available and how different portfolios and strategies will benefit different people, the authors simply instruct the gullible reader to blindly invest into U.S. Treasury bonds - just because they are essentially zero-risk investments. I expected a lot more from Joe Dominguez, someone who retired from Wall Street in his early thirties. Maybe there is a reason for his early retirement. It seems that Dominguez got tired of the demanding hours - and moved on to another way to make money.
I could go on and on. Another example of poor advice, something that really irked me... The authors define "financial independence" as simply living off the interest from your investments. Sure, that's one way to earn money. However, they give examples of people who achieved financial independence after just a few years - and they make it seem oh so easy. We can do some simple math right now: in order for you to make even $30,000 a year from U.S. Treasury bonds (and we can argue for a long time about the quality of life you and your family will have on this amout of money), you'd have to have invested around $430,000 at 7% interest. That is a very large sum of money to save up, especially on the small salaries that the authors describe.
In addition to all the poor advice, throughout the book, the authors also mix in references to saving the environment, contributing to the world through volunteering, and numerous religious blurbs. Frankly, at least the last of these is simply unfair to the reader. We're not here to read that you can follow only one master - "God or Money." And if we wanted to learn how to save the world, we'd read non-finance books, where we would surely find more sound advice. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for preserving our environment, but simply listing this as "another benefit of this great program" is just sad.
All that said, the book has a few certain positive characteristics. It does offer relatively sound advice on how to cut down expenses and spending. Unfortunately again, many methods are out of date. Nevertheless, the authors also get you thinking about WHY you are earning (and spending) money. They urge you to consider your ultimate goals in life and ask yourself: "what would you do with your free time if you didn't have to work?" I think those are great questions. But perhaps not for this book.
In conclusion, I am frankly disappointed. I am furthermore surprised by the sheer number of positive reviews this book has received so far. Yes, it is a relatively quick read and easy to understand. The general ideas are good, but the specific advice offered is just plain bad - maybe in part due to the book being old. Unless you have absolutely NO concept of personal finance (i.e. how much you are spending vs. how much you are making), I am sure you can find much better guides on achieving real financial independence that doesn't require you to significantly sacrifice your quality of life.
+ offers a few useful techniques on reducing expenses
+ urges you to consider your values in life and what you could do if you didn't have to work
- presented as the same type of a "self-improvement" program that the book cautions against
- filled with repeating testimonials (many using the same people) that try to convince the audience that this progam really works through unrealistic examples
- targeted toward a complete financial dummy with no concept of expense tracking - in which case, even a simple "Personal Finance For Dummies" book is a better choice
- offers poor advice: misrepresents other investment vehicles (stocks), condemns credit cards, demonstrates unrealistic scenarios for today's standard of living, laughs off inflation as an unreal risk
- presents zero evidence for many of its outrageous statements
I had long known that my relationship to money was not correct, although I tried. This book put all my thinking into a cohesive mode, and a way of thinking and aspiring that has re-shaped how I look at the world, look at my contribution, and live in relation to money and my dreams.
This is not a book about budgeting money, but about looking at how spend money, and deciding if specfic expenditures are truly worth it to you. The authors do not say what is right and what is wrong to spend money on, but get the reader to think about what is right for them. To do this, they authors suggest, keep track of every cent you spend, and what you spent it for, and at the end of the month total everything up, and see how you did. But remember, there's no right or wrong - only what you think is right or wrong. Are you buying a $1 cup of coffee every morning before work? Well, if you do the authors' suggestion, you'll see at the end of your first month that you just spent $20-25 that month on coffee. Is it really worth it to you? How much are you really spending on gas? What if you walked to the grocery store instead?
The authors want you to live nothing less than as a human, and the way to do that is through financial freedom. Are you willing to give up that coffee every day if it means saving that dollar, and being able to retire a year earlier? (YES - with the miracle of compound interest, it could happen). The authors believe, and I agree with them, that the earlier we can stop working and live off our earnings, the better it is for us, and for the community (meaning earth) as a whole. It means we will not have consumed as much, and also that we are then free - free to volunteer at the church, the school, the VFW, hospital, whatever; and/or free to pursue whatever our dream is, since we don't have to worry about making an income from it. Is your dream to paint fine art? Well, if you work like a dog for as much money as you can earn, you can save and then have the freedom to do it. Or to spend time with your children. Or your spouse. Or helping your community. And even if you don't aspire to retire early, or want to work at a job just to make a lot of money, I found that this system certainly altered my spending in ways that actually increased my quality of life, while reducing my outlay, because I only spend on things I truly am interested in, or truly need. It's amazing.
I think these are very noble thoughts and ideas, and this book will help you do it. But you gotta work at it - I was amazed, after the first couple months using their spending tracking thing, how much I was wasting and didn't realize it. Then I was amazed at how easy it is now *not* to waste that money. I almosst never buy soda or water when walking around the city, but take water with me from home. I don't buy little tschotchkes any more (unless I really truly want it), since it's an environmental and financial waste. And I have saved money like I've never been able to save before, without going on a budget, or decreasing my quality of life. I merely eliminated the spending that I thought was adding up to much (but was), and wasn't increasing my quality of life at all.
I am so much happier after reading this book, and taking their ideas to heart, and I think anyone else would, too.
on November 7, 2003
The authors practice what they preach, and they preach a very thought-provoking new way to look at how our lifes revolve around money. New readers will appreciate their discussion in analyzing careers and values in terms of "life energy." Many will also come to see how hidden costs to particular jobs can be an added drain to financial and personal well-being. I see lots of friends scratching their heads and wondering where their fat paychecks have gone after subtracting the cost of commuting time, required work wardrobe, car maintenance, and gas. This book contains snippets of stories about individuals that faced money dilemmas and how they gradually overcame their fear, ignorance, and misconception about money.
The one major downfall in this book comes at the end, with the discussion of where to invest one's money. After a flawed attempt at miniming the dangers of inflation and a well-deserved jab at conflicted brokers, the authors advocate investing everything in treasury bonds, simply because it's the least volatile financial investment. While we currently live in a time of relatively low inflation, there is no guarantee this will remain so, given the ever-growing weight of the national budget deficit and the trade deficit in the U.S. and political and economic instability around the world. The authors brushed aside inflation by pointing out the possibility of product substitutions. However, general inflation occurs when prices of all products rise simultaneously, not just with one particular product. Just ask anyone who lived through the late '70s/early '80s on a fixed income. The yields on treasury bonds have been dismally low, barely over inflation.
It is also wrong to assume that living expenses will stabilize or fall during retirement. The cost of health care is rising. Given that it is nearly impossible to obtain adequate medical insurance in old age, a single major catastrophic illness can easily wipe out a one's nest egg. Housing costs in major metropolitan areas are also rising faster than inflation, except in rent-controlled areas. Rent alone in my city can easily run up to fifteen hundred dollars a month. Relying on only treasury bonds will not be the solution.
This book sets down an excellent fundamental discussion on how to view money and career, and assessing living costs. Readers looking to manage their own money should supplement this reading and gain a more sophisticated understanding of the financial market with books like "One Up On Wall Street" by Peter Lynch and "The Warren Buffett Way" by Robert Hagstrom.