Your Money or Your Life (book summary)

– Posted in: Financial Independence

The following summary by editor Clare Moss with Laurence Toltz was written to introduce people to the nine-step program in Your Money or Your Life, a best seller book about transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence. It was life-changing for me when I first devoured it 25 years ago because it gives us a practical way to achieve a fulfilling life that is consistent with our personal beliefs and values. I heartily encourage you to read this summary and consider whether this book is for you.


Your Money or Your Life is one of the top personal finance books of all time. It guides you through nine steps to transform your relationship with money and achieve financial independence in a way that is fully consistent with your deeply held beliefs and values. We don’t need to consume more to achieve more fulfillment in our lives.

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.

Many books on money are available today. What these books have in common is that they assume your financial life functions separately from the rest of your life. This book is about putting it all back together. It is about integration, a ‘whole systems’ approach to your life. It will take you back to basics — the basics of making your spending (and hopefully your saving) of money into a clear mirror of your life values and purpose. It is about the most basic of freedoms — the freedom to think for yourself.

What you can expect from this book

Through the hundreds of letters we’ve received, we know some of the ways people’s lives have been enriched by following the program in this book.

  • They finally understand the basics of money.
  • They reconnect with old dreams and find ways to realize them.
  • With a great sense of freedom and relief, they learn how to distinguish between the essentials and the excess in all areas of their lives and how to unburden themselves.
  • They find their relationship with their mates and children improve.
  • Their new financial integrity resolves many inner conflicts between their values and their lifestyles.
  • Money ceases to be an issue in their lives, and they finally have the intellectual and emotional space to take on issues of greater importance.
  • At a tangible level, they retire their debts, increase their savings and are able to live happily within their means.
  • They increase the amount of their ‘free time’ by reducing expenses and the amount of time on the job.
  • They stop buying their way out of problems and instead use such challenges as the opportunity to learn new skills.
  • Overall, they heal the split between their money and their life — and life becomes one integrated whole.

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.

And it delivered — but only as long as people really needed more material possessions. When we are not taking our identity from our jobs, we are identified as consumers. According to the dictionary, to consume is to ‘destroy, squander, use up.’ We consider shopping to be recreation, so we ‘shop till we drop.’ We want a good future for our kids, so we work harder or become a two income family and delegate raising the kids to day care centers or nannies. We buy them the newest toys to prove our love. We are spending so much of our precious time earning in order to spend that we don’t have the time to examine our priorities.

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.

At some point in the last forty years, though, conditions began to change. For many people, material possessions went from fulfilling needs to enhancing comfort to facilitating luxury — and even beyond to excess. Unlike the past, problems began to emerge that could not be solved by providing more material goods. The planet itself began showing signs of nearing its capacity to handle the results of our economic growth and consumerism — water shortages, topsoil loss, global warming, ozone holes, species extinction, natural resource degradation and depletion, air pollution and trash buildup are all signs that our survival is in question. Even though we ‘won’ the industrial revolution, the spoils of war are looking more and more spoiled. New tools for navigation are needed. What we need is a new financial road map that is based on current global conditions and offers us a way out.

Creating a New Road Map — Financially Independent Thinking

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.

Financial Intelligence

In order to gain Financial Intelligence you first need to know how much money you already have earned, what you have to show for it, how much is coming into your life and how much is going out.

But that isn’t enough. You also need to know what money really is and what you are trading for the money in your life.

One tangible outcome of Financial Intelligence is getting out of debt and having at least six months of basic living expenses in the bank. If you follow the program we present, it will lead to Financial Intelligence.

Financial Integrity

Financial Integrity is achieved by learning the true impact of your earning and spending, both on your immediate family and on the planet. It is knowing what is enough money and material goods to keep you at the peak of fulfillment — and what is just excess and clutter.

Financial Independence

Financial Independence is defined as having an income sufficient for your basic needs and comforts from a source other than paid employment. It is also independence from crippling financial beliefs, from crippling debt, and from a crippling inability to manage modern ‘conveniences’ — from repairing your car to fixing your central heating.

Financial independence is an experience of freedom at a psychological level. You are free of the guilt, resentment, envy, frustration and despair you have felt about money issues.

Financial Independence has nothing to do with rich. Financial Independence is the experience of having enough — and then some. The old notion of Financial Independence as being rich forever is not achievable. Enough is. Enough for you may be different from enough from your neighbor– but it will be a figure that is real for you and within your reach.

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.

Psychotherapist Douglas LaBier documents this ‘social dis-ease’ in his book Modern Madness. He found that focusing on money/position/success at the expense of personal fulfillment and meaning had led 60 percent of his sample of several hundred to suffer from depression, anxiety and other job-related disorders, including the ubiquitous ‘stress.’

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.

The creation of consumers

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.

We have come to believe, deeply, that it is our right to consume. If we have the money, we can buy whatever we want, whether or not we need it, use it or even enjoy it. And if we don’t have the money … heck, what are credit cards for? We have taken our right to consume to heart, and perhaps placed it above other rights, privileges and duties of a free society.

At the same time, between the ads, our televisions, radios and newspapers are reporting the bad news about the environment. Product packaging is clogging the landfills. Product manufacturing is polluting the groundwater, deforesting the Amazon, fouling the rivers, lowering the water table, depleting the ozone layer and changing the weather.

Transforming our relationship with money and reevaluating our spending activity could put us and the planet back on track. We need to learn from our past, determine our present reality and create a new, reality-based relationship with money, discarding assumptions and myths that don’t work.

The beginning of a new road map for money

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.

So what’s all that stuff beyond enough? It’s whatever you have that doesn’t serve you, yet takes up space in your world. Clutter! To let go of clutter, then, is not deprivation, it’s lightening up and opening up space for something new to happen. Enough is a wide and stable plateau. It is a place of alertness, creativity and freedom. From this place, being suffocated under a mountain of clutter that must be stored, cleaned, moved, gotten rid of and paid for on time.

Credits for Your Money or Your Life (book summary)

Thank you Clare and Laurence for that superb introduction! This was just an excerpt. You can read the rest of their summary here.

The book Your Money or Your Life has a privately held copyright with all rights reserved by Vicki Robin. This is an excerpt of an extensive summary on her website. I encourage you to buy her book. It changed my life—it might change yours. I’m sure Vicki would be delighted if you were to first look for it in your library—you’d be off to a promising start!

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