“Your Money or Your Life” has such a simple message, that you may end up thinking, “Why didn’t I think of this before?”, yet, behind that simplicity is a profound truth about the role of money in our life. Most of us take the value of money for granted, with that also the message, the more, the better. Money has become the benchmark of happiness and fulfilled life in the modern world. But, is that chase worth it? Are there any alternate models that you could use that will maximize your fulfillment? These are the questions that the book tries to tackle.
A very common belief in the modern world is that possessions and consumption are the key ingredients of a happy life. The chase is for a bigger house and a bigger car. The chase is for a fancier vacation or a fancier wine. The more expensive the better. And how does one get those fancy things? Of course, by having more money. As a result, you see people chasing money with all their energy. People with more money are envied, and people with less money are looked upon as losers.
The books sees money as having two sides. One side is that of consumption, of buying things and experiences. The other side is that of earning that money. Even if you assume that more money is better, one can not deny that it is tough to earn that money. One has to work hard to get that money – work on things that one may not like, work for hours beyond one’s liking, and work on things that may take toll on your health. The first thing the book does is that it tries to build in that cost into your earnings. It redefines money as life energy, with the amount of time required to earn a certain amount of money as the energy that the pursuits requires. It has some complicated calculation to come out with your per hour pay, but more important than that is the realization that you are wasting away precious time by working on things that you may not like, in the hope that you will spend that money on things that you like.
For me, that was the biggest realization was the fact that money can be seen as energy that is dissipated in its pursuit. Once you have that as a core thesis, you can do all kinds of calculations thinking about the right use of your life energy in acquiring money and spending it. The acquisition is only one way of building the store of energy, the other being careful spending. One would start questioning the bigger car and the bigger house, once the costs of acquiring the same would be seen transparently.
The book has an elaborate nine step program that take you through the details of your earning, the real hourly wage, the details of your spending, the life energy that you spend on each of your consumption, and the question of whether you are getting enough happiness in the consumption to justify the life energy that you spend in the same. You will start being conscious and intentional in both earning and spending money. While you were sleeping in your habit of spending, you may be spending due to habit, due to peer pressure or due to lack of understanding of what you really want, you will become conscious now. Since you are tracking it diligently, it will force you to ask some pertinent questions about your habits of spending. At the same time, you will start asking questions about your work, and the actual money that you earn when you subtract all the costs that come with that earning.
Once you are on top of your spending and earning, the book introduces the concept that most FI(financial independence) buff are aware of. The concept of capital and crossover point. This is the point when your passive income becomes more than your expenses. You can choose to work on things that give less earnings after this point. But it really is not a single point or a single moment. The method would encourage you to shift to a lifestyle where you gradually move towards things that you like to do, even if they do not give you more money. The conscious approach to earning and spending, and the resultant capital creation allows you to gradually make that shift in your life. The objective is to reduce the gap between work and play, creation and consumption. In the process, you will build a lifestyle that will be a joy to live every moment. That would be optimizing the use of your life energy.
As one can see, the book takes financial independence to a different level. The traditional FI literature would have you work hard for ten years and then vacation for ten more years, creating a binary divide between earning and spending. This book promotes a more holistic approach where you are gradually moving towards a lifestyle where you are consciously creating and consuming. The intentional approach helps you live your life with more joy, more energy, more learning and better health.
One of the big issues with the current FIRE(Financial independence, Retire Early) movement is the binary that it assumes. It assumes work to be a monotony that needs to be gotten rid of, focusing instead on traveling and having fun. It does not have to be like that. One can control the pace of work and the nature of work, if the monetary equation can be controlled. The resultant approach would be a dynamic balance of work and play while taking care of the financial constraints.
Many people have described the book as a life changing book. I would agree with them. Let the simple message and simple language not deceive you. Putting it in practice is a big challenge, and that is where the complexities of the approach lie. I would give the book 5/5 and a strong recommendation as a read, for people who are interested in building a holistic life while taking care of their worldly needs.