Your Money or Your Life

Best-selling author and Natural Investments client Vicki Robin  recently published a fully revised fourth edition of her classic book, Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence. With more than 1 million copies sold over the past 25 years, this book has guided countless people to take control of their spending, reduce debt, increase savings, and ultimately achieve financial independence. We are honored that Vicki asked us to collaborate on revising the last chapter of this edition, and we are grateful that she was able to take a short break from her book promotion tour to speak with us.

James: To me, your book stands out because it’s a values-based program. The true goal seems to be helping people ensure that their money serves their lives and their values, not the other way around. How do we overcome the overwhelming force of consumerism?

Vicki: One of the most powerful things about Your Money or Your Life is asking people to do an honest evaluation of whether the money they’re spending is actually buying them a life they love. It’s simply a set of tools that together, in synergy with one another, induce a question: Is how you’re spending this piece of “your one wild and precious life”—is it worth it to you? And when we say, “worth it to you,” we break that down into four things.

First, is it making you happy? We’re talking about a deeper sense of satisfaction that is linked to being able to be aware of what you enjoy. The second measure: Is this purchase in alignment with my purpose? Is it taking me where I want to go in terms of the direction of my life? The third question is: Would I be buying this if I didn’t have to work for a living? If I could spend my time however I wanted to, is this something I would still be buying? The fourth question is: Is this buying me the kind of world I want to live in and I want my children to live in? So these are the four questions you ask about expenditures of life energy. And they’re not right or wrong—it’s just something to help you orient.

That’s the thing that I actually love about this approach. We’re offering [the idea] that money actually is a snapshot of who you are. We want people to basically just tell themselves the truth about what’s going on. Because in our experience, as people do this, their expenses tend to drop like a rock. As an environmentalist, [I appreciate how] this reduces the pressure on the planet, lowering consumption.

James: You are a baby boomer, yet this new edition was updated to be more relevant for millennials. To do this, you’ve been doing tons of engagement with that generation. What have you learned about them, and what do you think it means for our collective future?

Vicki: Interesting question. The people I’ve met understand that basically the social contract is broken. There’s nobody out there who’s going to save them. And they can’t just sign on to a business or something that’s going to actually guarantee them secure passage from graduating college to the grave. And that sense of security—the Boomers grew up in that, we believed in it. That social contract is gone. There are so many opportunities to make money, and that’s really forcing young people to be entrepreneurs. People are figuring it out; they’re analyzing their talents and harvesting money from a system that’s in flux. There’s really a lot of creativity. These are the ones who say, “I see a way through.” It’s really like they see the light, and they see that we can migrate from this losing strategy of trying to get something—some business or some organization—to provide for us. They can take advantage of this opportunity, and they go for it.

James: Those of us who practice Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) really appreciate that you added it to your chapter on investing, along with other emerging investment opportunities such as local small businesses and renewable energy. What inspired you to do this?

Vicki: I’m not one to recommend one strategy over another. But because of the values I have, I’ve been putting every dollar possible of my investments to work for creating a world I want to live in, the world I’d like to leave behind. When I talk about local investing—it’s got multiple returns and that’s one of the things I like. I’m harvesting as much for my money as anybody who’s in index funds, and I’m also building social capital while I do it, so that everybody I loan to becomes a friend. I’m building a stronger local economy—hopefully, one that will be sturdy enough to provide for us in the years ahead.

My secret agenda really is that I’m watching what’s happening in the world and there’s going to be a lot of people falling out of the bottom of this basket. And whether it’s climate change or economic crashes or whatever it is, I wanted to provide people with some ideas about how to build a stronger base for themselves both in relocalization and in strengthening their communities, in human relations, in their networks. All of those are forms of wealth—social capital.

James: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Vicki: We have a Facebook community growing by 5 to 10 people a day. It’s called Your Money or Your Life Community.

James: Thank you Vicki.

To learn more or purchase Vicki’s book, visit



James Frazier

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