This book is the result of 50 years of combined experience (30 years for Joe Dominguez, 20 years for Vicki Robin) in living the principles presented here.
Joe Dominguez was a successful financial analyst on Wall Street before retiring at the age of 31, never again to accept money for any of his work.
Vicki Robin graduated with honors from Brown University and later left a budding career in film and theater in New York. Her open mind allowed her to recognize the value of Joe’s new road map for money and apply it to her own life.
In this book, you are encouraged to ask yourself these questions:
Do you have enough money?
Are you spending enough time with family and friends?
Do you come home from your job full of life?
Do you have time to participate in things you believe are worthwhile?
If you were laid off from your job, would you see it as an opportunity?
Are you satisfied with the contribution you have made to the world?
Are you at peace with money?
Does your job reflect your values?
Do you have enough savings to see you through six months of normal living expenses?
Is your life whole? Do all the pieces — your job, your expenditures, your relationships, your values — fit together?
If you answered, ‘no’ to even one of these questions, read on.
The purpose of Your Money or Your Life is to transform your relationship with money. That relationship encompasses more than just your earning, spending, debts and savings; it also includes the time these functions take in your life. In addition, your relationship with money is reflected in the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that you can get from your connection to your family, your community and the planet.
Once you have changed the nature and function of your interaction with money, through following the steps, your relationship with money will be transformed — you will reach new levels of comfort, competence and consciousness around money.
The old road map for money has trapped us in the very vehicle that was supposed to liberate us from toil. The landmarks of the old road map were clear: ‘nine to five till you’re sixty-five’; ‘owe your soul to the company store’, pushing for a higher ‘standard of living’ regardless of moral, ethical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, marital, environmental and political consequences.
Our old financial map, instead of making us more independent, fulfilled individuals, has led us to a web of financial dependencies. From birth to death we have become financially dependent — on our parents for our first financial sustenance, on ‘the economy’ in order to get a good job, on ‘the job’ for our survival, on ‘unemployment’ handouts to tide us over between jobs, on our pension to pay our way in old age and on Medicare if we get sick before we die. The material progress that as supposed to free us has left us more enslaved.
What we need is a new financial road map that is based on current global conditions and offers us a way out.
How do you find a new road map for money? It requires thinking in new ways. One of the keys to creating your new road map is what we call Financially Independent ‘FI Thinking.’ This is the process of examining those basic assumptions that you have unconsciously adopted, of evaluating your own road map. Until you can deliberately and dispassionately question your own inner road map for money, you will be stuck in classic financial dead ends, such as:
-Spending more than you earn.
-Buying high and selling low.
-Not liking your job, but not having a way out.
-Needing two paychecks to make ends meet.
-Being so confused by money that you leave it to the experts, who in turn feed on your ignorance.
Exploring the following concepts will transform your relationship with money and will lead you to FI — Financial Intelligence, Financial Integrity and even Financial Independence.
Your Money or Your Life
If someone thrust a gun in your ribs and said that sentence, what would you do? Most of us would turn over our wallets. The threat works because we value our lives more than we value our money. Or do we?
Where’s all the life we supposedly made at work? For many of us, isn’t the truth closer to ‘making a dying’? Aren’t we killing ourselves — our health, our relationships, our sense of joy and wonder — for our jobs? We are sacrificing our lives for money — but it’s happening so slowly we barely notice. Eventually we may have all the comforts and even luxuries we could ever want, but inertia itself keeps us locked into the nine-to-five pattern.
What do we have to show for it?
If the daily grind were making us happy, the irritations and inconveniences would be a small price to pay. Our levels of debt and our lack of savings make the nine-to-five routine mandatory. Participants in our seminars, whatever the size of their incomes, always said they needed ‘more’ to be happy. We asked people to rate themselves on a happiness scale of 1 (miserable) to 5 (joyous), with 3 being ‘can’t complain’ and we correlated their figures with their incomes. In a sample of over 1000 people, from both the United States and Canada, the average happiness score was consistently between 2.6 and 2.8 (not even a three), whether the person’s income was under $1000 a month or over $4000 a month.
If this were just a private hell it would be tragedy enough. But it’s not. Our affluent lifestyles are having an increasingly devastating effect on our planet.
Perhaps we cling to our affluence — even though it isn’t working for us or the planet — because of the very nature of our relationship with money. We project onto money the capacity to fulfil our fantasies, allay our fears, soothe our pain and send us soaring to the heights. In fact, we meet most of our needs, wants and desires through money. We buy everything from hope to happiness. We no longer live life, we consume it.
There is a word that provides the basis for transforming your relationship with money. It’s a word we use every day, yet we are practically incapable of recognizing it when its staring us in the face.
The word is ‘enough’. Enough for our survival. Enough comforts. And even enough little ‘luxuries.’ We have everything we need; there’s nothing extra to weigh us down. It’s appreciating and fully enjoying what money brings into your life and yet never purchasing anything that isn’t needed or wanted.
Step 1: Making Peace With The Past
The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness. It serves to locate you in time and space and review your earning and spending activity in the past.
A: How much have you earned in your life? Find out your total lifetime earnings — the sum total of your gross income, from the first cent you ever earned to your most recent pay check.
Social Security Administration — ‘Request for Statement of Earnings.’
Copies of Federal or State Tax Returns.
Paycheck stubs; employers’ records.
-Gives a clear picture of how powerful you are at bringing money into your life.
-Eliminates vagueness or self-delusion in this arena.
-Instills confidence, facilitates goal-setting.
This step is one of the foundation stones of the program. Since accuracy and accountability are called for in every step of the program, starting out impeccably is a good example to live up to. Not only that, but doing this step impeccably may even get you a better job with better pay. So check again. Have you really done this step with integrity. People who do a half-hearted job often get a life to match.
Outside the United States it may be difficult or not possible to get past history of your earnings. If this information is not available, then we suggest you list all your previous jobs you can remember and estimate what you think you earned each year after tax.
B: What have you got to show for it? Find out your net worth by creating a personal balance sheet of assets and liabilities — everything you own and everything you owe.
-List and give a current market value to everything you own.
-List everything you owe.
-Deduct your liabilities from your assets to get your net worth.
-You can never know what is enough if you don’t know what you have. You might find there are a lot of material possessions that are not bringing you fulfillment, and you might want to convert them to cash.
-This is a very basic, fundamental practice for any business — and you are a business.
What is one consistently true statement we can make about money that will allow us to be clear, masterful and powerful in our relationship with it?
Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.
Our life energy is our allotment of time here on earth, the hours of precious life available to us. When we go to our jobs we are trading our life energy for money. You could even say that money equals our life energy. So, while money has no intrinsic reality, our life energy does — at least to us. It’s tangible, and it’s finite. It is precious because it is limited and irretrievable and because our choices about how we use it express the meaning and purpose of our time here on earth. Money is something you consider valuable enough to spend easily a quarter of your allotted time here on earth getting, spending, worrying about, fantasising about or in some other way reacting to.
A: How much are you trading your life energy for? Establish the actual cost in time and money required to maintain your job, and compute your real hourly wage.
Deduct from your weekly income the costs of getting to and from work; the cost of the clothes you buy to wear at work; the extra cost of at-work meals; the amount spent to relax and wind down after the stress of a work day; job-related illness; and all other expenses associated with maintaining you on the job.
Add to your work week the hours spent in preparing yourself for work, travel to and from work, the time taken to wind down at home after work, recreation need after work as a means of winding down, shopping to make you feel better since your job feels lousy, and all other hours linked with maintaining your job.
Divide the new, reduced weekly dollar figure by the new, increased weekly hour figure;this is your real hourly wage.
Individuals with variable incomes can get creative — take monthly averages, a typical week, whatever works for you.
Most people look at this life-energy/earnings ratio in an unrealistic way: ‘I can earn $440 a week, I work 40 hours a week, so I trade one hour of my life energy for $11.’ It is not likely to be that simple. Think of all the monetary expenses that are directly associated with your job. In other words, if you didn’t need that money-earning job, what time expenditures and monetary expenses would disappear from your life.
This is a very basic, fundamental practice for any business — and you are a business.
You are in the business of selling the most precious resource in existence — your life energy. You had better know how much you are selling it for.
The number that results from this step — your real hourly wage — will become a vital ingredient in transforming your relationship with money.
The book offers examples of the cost and hours we spend that are directly related to having a job:
Travelling to and from work could cost $50 a week and take you 7.5 hours.
Annual cost of clothing for work, divided by 50 weeks, $15 a week.
Time per week dressing and preparing for work, 1.5 hours.
Cost of work related meals, coffee breaks, lunches, $20 a week.
Time per week of meals and breaks at work, 5 hours.
Many people arrive home tired and drained, it takes many people about an hour a day to relax after they get home, so per week, 5 hours.
B: Keep track of every cent that comes into or out of your life.
So far we have established that money equals life energy, and we have learned to compute just how many hours of life energy we exchange for each dollar. Now we need to become conscious of the movement of that form of energy called money in every moment of our lives — we need to keep track of our income by keeping a Daily Money Log.
Religions, ancient and modern, and the personal growth workshops of the human potential movement all have techniques for training the mind to be here now, ‘in the moment’. These techniques take many forms and include such seemingly diverse techniques as counting breaths, keeping the attention on each incoming or outgoing breath, repeating a phrase over and over again in order to focus the wandering mind.
To this list we add another discipline to sharpen awareness — one that is indispensable to the financial program and perhaps more easily accepted by our grounded, materialistic Western mentality that some of the more ‘esoteric’ practices. Instead of watching your breath, you watch your money. This practice is simple:
Keep track of every cent that comes into or goes out of your life.
Devise a record-keeping system that works for you (such as a pocket sized memo book). Record daily expenditures accurately. Record all income.
Because it’s the best way to become conscious of how much money actually comes and goes in your life as opposed to how you think it comes and goes. Your commitment to clearing up your relationship with money is really tested here. In most of us there is a penchant for giving ourselves leeway and latitude. One of the keys to success in this program (and in life) is a shift in attitude from one of laxity and leeway to one of accuracy, precision and impeccability.
Don’t worry. Relax. This program is not about budgeting. Budgets, like diets, don’t work. They don’t work because they deal with the symptoms and not the cause. The cause of fat is not really the calories in the food, its the desires in our mind.
Every month create a table of all income and all expenses within categories generated by your own unique spending pattern.
Balance your monthly income and outgo totals.
Convert ‘dollars’ spent in each category to ‘hours of life energy,’ using your real hourly wage as computed in step 2.
Simple arithmetic. A computer home accounting program may be useful.
(A computer is not essential as both authors achieved Financial Independence without using computers.)
This monthly tabulation will be an accurate portrait of how you are actually living and provide a foundation for the rest of the program.
The book offers examples of categories of spending and sample worksheets.
On your monthly tabulation, ask three questions of each of your category totals expressed as hours of life energy and record your responses:
Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?
Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?
How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living.
At the bottom of each category, make one of the following marks:
Mark a minus [-] or a down arrow if you did not receive fulfillment proportional to the hours of life energy you spent in acquiring the goods and services in that category, or if that expenditure wasn’t in full alignment with your values and purpose or if you could see expenses in that category diminishing after Financial Independence.
Mark a plus sign [+] or an up arrow if you believe that upping this expenditure would increase fulfillment, would demonstrate greater personal alignment or would increase after Financial Independence.
Mark zero  if that category is just fine on all counts.
With total honesty.
This is the core of the program.
These questions will clarify and integrate your earning, your spending, your values, your purpose, your sense of fulfillment and your integrity.
This will help you discover what is enough for you.
Asking yourself, month in, month out, whether you actually got fulfillment in proportion to life energy spent in each subcategory awakens the natural sense of knowing when enough is enough.
Just say ‘yes’ to being conscious.
This program is built on consciousness, fulfillment and choice, not on budgeting and deprivation. It’s about identifying, for yourself, what you need as opposed to what you want, what purchases or types of purchases actually bring you fulfillment, what represents ‘enough’ for you and what you actually spend money on.
You learn to make your financial choices independently of what advertising and industry have decided what would be good for their business. You are free of the humiliation of being manipulated into spending your life energy on things that don’t bring you fulfillment. It is a form of Financial Independence to ‘just say no’ to unconscious spending. And the Tao Te Ching, the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, puts it this way: ‘He who knows he has enough is rich.’
Financial Intelligence is knowing that if you spend your life energy on stuff that brings only passing fulfillment and doesn’t support your values, you end up with less life. This step is not about budgeting, not about self-condemnation and not about depriving yourself. It is about honoring and valuing that limited resource called your life energy. It’s about using this high self-esteem to bring about greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction and a greater sense of wholeness, alignment and integrity. You do this by becoming more conscious of your unexamined and unrewarding spending patterns — painlessly.
Create a large Wall Chart plotting your total monthly income and total monthly expenses from your monthly tabulation. Put it where you will see it every day.
Get a large sheet of graph paper, and choose a scale that allows plenty of room above your highest projected monthly expenses or monthly income. Use different colored lines for monthly expenses and monthly income.
It will show you the trend in your financial situation and will give you a sense of progress over time, and the transformation of your relationship with money will be obvious.
You will see your expense line go down as your fulfillment goes up — the result of ‘instinctive,’ automatic lowering of expenses in those categories you labelled with a minus.
This Wall Chart will become the picture of your progress toward full financial independence, and you will use it for the rest of the program. It will provide inspiration, stimulus, support and gentle chiding.
When you do this step the first month, you have a snapshot — a very revealing one — of your habits around money. But the real learning, and the real fun, comes as you plot the figures month by month, year by year. Your wall chart will take the two dimensional world of your monthly tabulation and add the dynamic dimension of time. It reminds us that transforming our relationship with money takes time and patience. Impatience, denial and greed are actually part of what is being transformed.
The book contains sample wall charts and guidelines for creating your own.
Learn and practice intelligent use of your life energy (money) which will result in lowering your expenses and increasing your savings. This will create greater fulfillment, integrity and alignment in your life.
Ask the three questions in Step 4 every month.
Learn to define your true needs.
Be conscious in your spending.
Master the techniques of wise purchasing. Research value, quality and durability.
You are spending your most precious commodity — your life energy. You have only a finite amount left.
‘Quality of life’ often goes down as ‘standard of living’ goes up.
The wealth we enjoy today is the result of centuries of frugality of most of our citizens. Frugality means we are to enjoy what we have. If you have ten dresses but still feel you have nothing to wear, you are probably a spendthrift. But if you have ten dresses and have enjoyed wearing them for years, you are frugal. Waste lies not in the number of possessions but in the failure to enjoy them.
Respect the life energy you are putting into your job. Money is simply something you trade your life energy for. Trade it with purpose and integrity for increased earnings.
How well are you using your energy both on and off the job? Is your job ‘consuming’ (using up, destroying, wasting) your life? Do you love your life, using each hour — on and off the job — with care?
Our fulfillment as human beings lies not in our jobs but in the whole picture of our lives — in our inner sense of what life is about, our connectedness with others, and our yearning for meaning and purpose.
You may love your paid employment or you may hate it; it doesn’t matter. But you don’t want to recognize that the purpose of your paid employment is getting paid and your real ‘work’ may be far bigger than this one job.
There is nothing in your life that is more valuable than your time.
Ask yourself: Am I making a living or a dying?
Examine your purposes for paid employment.
You have only X number of hours left in your life. Determine how you want to spend those remaining hours.
Breaking the link between who you are and what you do for a ‘living’ will free you to make more fulfilling choices.
Checklist: Think Before You Spend
Live within your means.
Take care of what you have.
Wear it out.
Do it yourself.
Anticipate your needs.
Research value, quality, durability, and multiple use.
Get it for less.
Follow the steps of this program.
Step 8: Capital And The Crossover Point
By doing steps 1 through 7, you will move towards FI. With Step 8 the possibility of Financial Independence opens up. Step 8 shows you how you can perhaps leave paid employment a lot sooner that you would have ever thought possible.
What you should begin to see in your wall chart is a growing gap between income and expenses — that is, savings. Before FI thinking takes over, a ‘normal’ person might regard those savings as earmarked for a splurge. But FI thinking sees those savings in a different light. FI thinking calls that gap ‘capital’.
Capital is money that makes more money. It keeps working for you and produces an income as surely as your job produces income. When you put capital in a bank or other interest-bearing instrument it is an investment. An investment is the conversion of capital into some form of wealth other than cash with the expectation of deriving income.
The income you receive from your capital of a different nature than your job income. It comes in whether or not you go to work. Instead of simply lumping it in with your total monthly income, you will be entering it separately on your wall chart according to the formula given below.
Each month apply the following equation to your total accumulated capital, and post the monthly independence income as a separate line on your Wall Chart:
capital X current long-term interest rate 12 months=monthly investment income
Find the long-term interest rate by looking at the interest of the 30-year treasury bonds in the treasury bond table of The Wall Street Journal or a big-city newspaper. After a number of months on the program, your total monthly expense line will have established a much smaller zigzag pattern at a much lower level than when you started. With a light pencil line, project the total monthly expense line into the future on your chart.
Outside the United States, this information can be found in national daily newspapers, and financial web sites. For this particular section of the program, and for more information, please refer to the book.
After a number of months on the program, your monthly investment income line will have begun to move up from the lower edge of the chart. (If you have actually been investing this money as outlined in Step 9, the line will be curving upward — the result of the magic of compound interest.) With a light pencil line, project the monthly investment income into the future. At some point in the future it will cross over the total monthly expenses line. That is the Crossover Point.
At the Crossover Point you will be financially independent. The monthly income from your investment capital will be equal to your actual monthly expenses.
You will have enough.
Your options will be wide open.
The final step to financial independence: become knowledgeable and sophisticated about long term income-producing investments. Invest your capital in such a way as to provide an absolutely safe income, sufficient to meet your basic needs for the rest of your life.
Step 9 is about empowering yourself to make wise financial choices, and your first lesson involves educating yourself so as not to fall prey to unscrupulous brokers, financial planners and sales people who want to put you in all manner of investment vehicles that pay handsome commissions.
Whether we are defining ‘financial independence’ as being out of debt, with enough savings to withstand economic downturns, or as a full-fledged ‘early retirement’ that makes it possible to devote yourself full-time to whatever is most meaningful to you, the following criteria developed by Joe Dominguez apply to whatever you do with your capita (though each person will weight each criteria differently)l:
Your capital must produce income.
Your capital must be absolutely safe.
Your capital must be in totally liquid investment. you must be able to convert it into cash at a moment’s notice, to handles emergencies.
Your capital must not be diminished at the time of investment by unnecessary commissions, or other expenses.
Your income must be absolutely safe.
Your income must not fluctuate. You must know exactly what your income will be next month, next year and 20 years from now.
Your income must be payable to you, in cash, at regular intervals.
Your income must not be diminished by charges, management fees or redemption fees.
The investment must produce this regular, fixed known income without any further involvement or expense on your part. It must not require maintenance, management, geographic presence or attention due to ‘acts of God’.
Empower yourself to make your own investment decisions by narrowing the focus to the safest non-speculative, long duration fixed income securities, such as US treasury bond and US government agency bonds (or other conservative investments). Temper the prevailing irrational fears about inflation with clear thinking and increased consciousness.
Step Nine in the Updated and Revised for the 21st Century expands the criteria for investing to include very conservative and balanced use of mutual funds, real estate and other investment vehicles, though Joe’s original ultra-conservative approach is still valid. Indeed, people who followed it are unaffected in large part by the current recession.
Outside the United States, there are several similar long-term investment opportunities that correspond to the principles of this program.
Cut out high expenses, fees and commissions of middlemen and popularly marketed investment products.
Set up a financial plan using the three pillars:
Capital: The income-producing core of your Financial Independence.
Cushion: Enough ready cash, earning bank interest, to cover six months of expenses.
Cache: The surplus funds resulting from your continued practice of the nine steps. May be used to finance your service work, reinvested to produce an endowment fund, used to replace high cost items, used to compensate for occasional inroads of inflation, given away, etc.
There is more to life than nine-to-five.