When I told Vicki Robin that I wanted to visit her home on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound just north of Seattle, she said it might be difficult. She was renting out rooms at below-market prices to people in need of housing, she said.
I laughed.A woman famous for once living with her partner on about $1,000 a month You didn’t want me or The Post, owned by one of the richest people in the world, Jeff Bezos, to pay for the hotel?
Before the turbulent economy and the “great resignation,” there was Robin and her partner, Joe Dominguez. Their book, Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Money and Achieve Financial Independence, was published 30 years ago this fall and gave us the opportunity to It asked us to take control of our financial and working lives by avoiding meaningful spending and instead focusing on what we could do. family, friends, hobbies, etc.
This book is a thought-provoking mix of common-sense financial advice, philosophical explorations, and cutting-edge critiques of both consumer culture and how we allow work to rule our lives. This is, in many ways, a prescient debate for our times.
But today, “your money or your life” yet It sells thousands of copies a year—rarely mentioned in the context of the current moment of labor. Instead, its legacy is largely celebrated by the tech-companion-heavy and more apolitical FIRE movement. Financial Independence, Retire Early. Adherents have embraced the simple philosophy and desire for freedom, but not the book’s greater ambitions.
Robin is grateful to her young disciples, but is concerned that an important part of her message has been lost in translation. There is often no “at all”. But “Your Money or Your Life” was more than just a self-help guide to saving your own financial life. For Robin, the vision 30 years ago, and the vision she still believes in, has always been a way to save us all.
Robin and Dominguez, now 77, have stepped out of the alternative counterculture of the 1960s and embraced criticism of American consumerism as a personally and environmentally destructive force. Wall Street analyst Dominguez calculated that he needed to save $100,000. and invest it in government bonds to live modestly for the rest of his life on the passive income it generated. When he came up with that amount, he resigned.
At its core, Your Money Or Your Life is a formula devised by Dominguez, who died in 1997, by reexamining what work actually costs us, both spiritually and literally. , to control our destinies.How much does it cost to commute? How much do we spend on office clothes? How much do we spend on fancy vacations and fancy cars to make our lives bearable? , you are your real Hourly wage, the true amount of money you sell your days on earth. “We are dying, not making a living,” write Dominguez and Robin.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Millions of people have come to similar conclusions during the pandemic, locked in offices or in low-paying break-even jobs.
“I’m fussy about meaningful work and life purpose,” Robin tells me. “It hangs like a carrot and I don’t know how many people actually do it.”
But the steps “Your Money or Your Life” recommends are different from those taken by job seekers these days. Instead of finding a higher paying position, the book advocates another solution. “Spending money isn’t about claiming your freedom. It’s the key to your next enslavement,” Robin tells me.
This sort of anti-materialist message was once common on the left. But as inequality grew, it became frowned upon by many who were concerned with social justice. Giving up conspicuous consumption is much easier to preach when it’s a positive choice rather than a necessity.
Still, that didn’t mean the idea had disappeared. There are always distortions in American thinking that question the greedy tendencies of our society.There are Puritans and Quakers, Transcendentalists and Shakers, beatniks, and spontaneous simplicity practitioners like Robin.
FIRE is one such move. It grew out of the foreclosure crisis and subsequent stock market boom. Robin is his OG in action for many at FIRE. They discovered “Your Money or Your Life” and started discussing it on his blog and his Reddit forums.
Many FIRE followers claim that with enough willpower, they can save or invest enough money to live without working full time. But it’s a move that reflects our more solipsistic, gluttonous time. Few advocates express concern about the erosion of government safety nets. The problems it raises, such as health care costs, are presented as financial problems rather than social problems to be solved. At its core, it’s about taking care of yourself.
The United States is said to be a place where luxuries are cheap and necessities are expensive. A lack of enthusiasm and an addiction to consumer goods is not the only thing that prevents Americans from achieving financial freedom. It also has exorbitant basic costs such as health care, child care, housing and higher education, and dire minimum wages and worker protections. It is instructive to discover what made Robin finally move away from extreme frugality and into her current frugal but comfortable life. She’s been diagnosed with cancer — a disease that not only kills you, but also, thanks to the patchy and expensive health care system in the United States, takes a toll on the economy.
Robin began using the royalties from Your Money Or Your Life, which she used to donate most of, to pay for her treatment. The title of the book took on a new meaning, literally her money or her life. As she first told me ten years ago, this month too she said, “Nobility is one thing about her, but dying for thrift is another.”
Today, Robin sees FIRE followers as traveling companions, but she says there are larger financial and social concerns that need to be addressed. She told me that she wanted tuition-free college and universal health care, and basic her income for the rest of her life in return for a year or two of her service. “It should happen for justice and environmental sustainability, but it will also benefit the FIRE people of the FIRE movement,” she said, adding, “Many people are stuck for the rest of their lives in jobs they disagree with.” I am,” he added. With their souls for college debt. In her view, the Biden administration’s debt relief plan has not gone far enough. should be viewed as a society as a whole.”
Robin is still trying to change the world. She has written a book about eating local produce. (She made me a delicious frittata made with onions, bell peppers, yellow squash, and eggs from her estate… There’s also a podcast called “What Could Possibly Go Right,” where she offers thought guidance. We interview people about what they think is going on in the world.
Robin told me we all deserve our “dignity”. And the message of dignity for all is what she hopes will be her legacy. or Your Life”. “I was selling to outsmart a system that was going to outsmart you.”