Vicki Robin 0:02
have forgotten that most of the work in the world is not paid. And it shouldn't be paid because it's love. It's connection. It's celebration. It's art and community. It's theater, it's dance. And all of that just gets erased. When you think that money and stuff is the point of life.
T- minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host jameelah. So frogs as a money expert who wants her talk, she helps brave juniors like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real Whoa. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom. 321
Vicki Robin 0:46
Hey, hey, hey, Jeremy yours. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast. Up next, I have a rewind episode, where I will be sharing my interview with Vicki Robin. So Vicki Robin was on episode 39 of the podcast. And she is considered one of the foundations of the financial independence movement. She and the late Joe Dominguez wrote a very popular book, Your money or your life, and it has been one of the most influential books, most people like if they're getting into the fire, the financial independence retire early movement, it's gonna be a book people recommend that they read or there are just a lot of concepts that the movement quote unquote, basically comes from this book. And so it was an honor to interview Vicki Robin back in the day. So this was episode 39. So this was like, years ago. But it was such a great conversation, because we really got a chance to talk about how they worked to create like, almost create this movement. That was before their time, like what we're talking about. Now it's we people have been talking about this, and why she felt it was important to think about it in ways where it wasn't just about money, it was about life energy, and figuring out your enough point. And so we also talked about the nine transformational steps that you can take within this book, or from the book. And I'm really excited to replay this episode because I really do think it's a foundational message that everyone should hear, if not for the first time, but many times. So I hope you enjoy.
Jamila Souffrant 2:33
If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journey to launch.com. Or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes, you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned, and so much more. Also, whether you are an OG journeyer, or brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes to listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources, and so much more. You can go to journey to launch.com/jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.
Hey, journeyers, I am so excited and honored to have Vicki Robin on the podcast. I mean, Vicki, you are to me, the mother of the just financial independence awakening movement. And it's funny because I interviewed two people over the last couple of weeks who have reached financial independence who are on their way who are getting there. And they both cited the book, your money, or your life as foundational resources for them. And you are the CO writer of the original book with Joe Dominguez. So I'm so excited that you're here talking to the journeyers listening and to talk about just like what this book is all about this movement. And then you know, the new book, The 2018 updated version is coming out by the time this episode comes out and be out. So there's so much I want to talk to you about. So first Welcome, welcome. Thank you so much for being here.
Vicki Robin 4:13
It is my pleasure. My total pleasure.
Jamila Souffrant 4:16
Okay, so just going back just a little bit, your money or your life. I mean, it was one of the first books I believe that really captured the financial independence movement. It was almost not before its time because when you were doing it, you were pushing for it to become like a movement. But can you just talk about that time period? I mean, your co author Joe Dominguez, who unfortunately isn't here anymore. His background and what he contributed to this book was amazing. Can you just talk about that background a bit?
Vicki Robin 4:45
Sure. Yeah. Joe grew up in Spanish Harlem. His father had TB and it was back in the days of a TB ward. So his father wasn't home. His mother was Venezuelan never learned English. So you know by the time he was five is the head of the house. household. And so this is a guy who basically grew up really early and became really clear about life really early. He had to. He was the only moneymaker in the family. By the time he was seven, he was bagging groceries and caring home for people. So here's Joe in Spanish Harlem, and he was actually tested at a genius level. But he was just going to the normal Harlan schools, and somebody got him into Bronx High School science. And so when he was 12, he was asked sort of like that, what do you want to be when you grew up? Question, and he had to write an essay. And he recalled that the essay he wrote, he said, I want to be financially independent by the time I'm 30. Where he got that, who knows?
Jamila Souffrant 5:41
And this was back in the 50s. This is back in the 50s. Right? Okay,
Vicki Robin 5:45
He was born in 1938. So he would have been, basically, yeah, someplace in the 50s.
Jamila Souffrant 5:52
Vicki Robin 5:52
yeah. So I used to call him a genius of the ordinary. Some people are geniuses of mathematics, or new physics, etc. And Joe was a genius of looking at what it is, and seeing it without any of the filters of what ought to be or what other people have told him that that was his genius. So over time, he accidentally he met a guy while he was traveling, who turned out to be the son of a major banking house. And when Joe was needing a job someplace in his early 20s, the guy asked him to come and help out at the banking house. And so Joe just like, applied his genius. And he also had studied mechanical engineering, and he never graduated from college. But he applied the principles of mechanical engineering to the flow of money through the stock market. This is before there were any technical analysis tools. He was one of the originators of the analysis of the stock market based not on fundamentals, like what the company is like, and who's the leadership, but just based on the movement of stocks, this is the way he was. And when he worked on Wall Street, he said, I want to be out. By the time I'm 30, he remembered his original dream. At first, he did some of his own trading, and he lost more money that he gained. And he realized his ability to predict the market was skewed by his being in the game. So he never invested for himself. And he worked for an investment banking firm. And he wrote a weekly stock market letter and developed tools for technical analysis. Back when computers were an entire city block, he had to book Sunday night between four and six in the morning, to run his program so that he could write his weekly market letter. And by the time he was 30, he told his boss, I'm out of here, and they couldn't believe it. It's like, what are you doing? You're taking off, you're being written up. And he had to tell them, his aspiration really was there's more to life than money. But he had to tell them that he was writing a book. So then oh, okay, fine. You're writing a book. Anyway. So that was Joe, and he had no desire to be a leader, a guru, a teacher, anything. But after about a decade, people would meet him. And they would say, like, how is it that you don't have to work? So he started to think about what is it that I did? And the nine step program is not something that he followed? He just did what made sense to him. And later he distinguished Okay, well, the first thing I did was this, and then I did that, and then I did that. And that became the nine step program. And by then I'd met him and I had a small inheritance that I'd gotten from my grandmother, I mean, like $20,000. And I have parlayed that into, basically being able to leave my job and going and traveling. He said, you could invest that and live on the interest income from that, at that point, treasury bonds, US Treasury bonds, were up around 8%. And there were some other bonds that I could get at 9%. So basically, I invested my money at 9%. And I was able to live on the interest income at an extraordinarily frugal rate. I mean, I lived on just over $100 a month for six years of my life.
Jamila Souffrant 9:11
And so just to set the timeframe, so Joe was able to retire by 30 I believe he retired or became financially independent at 30.
Vicki Robin 9:20
Jamila Souffrant 9:20
And so at what point did you guys meet?
Vicki Robin 9:23
Just soon after he became financially independent? Or about what time frame was this? Do you remember?
Jamila Souffrant 9:29
Okay, so it's like 1969. You too. Now are? Did Joe know? Or did you know of anyone else that achieved that?
Vicki Robin 9:36
No. I mean, it was an era when a lot of people were dropping out. That was the era in part we were able to do that my generation was able to do that to not go on and pursue a career right away because the job market was incredibly rich with opportunity. We were harvesting the opportunities that were being Built by the generation before us, the greatest generation, who were incredible savers, and it was the time of the building of the middle class, I actually started my life, right before the rules of the game started changing. And it became more and more difficult to have that middle class ideal of ever onward and upward. But anyway, there were many people who were going back to the land, seeking spirituality. There were many, many people at that time. But nobody had done it systematically, the way Joe had. Nobody had the forethought and actually put himself in a financial position where he could be free and stay free,
right. And so you guys met, you started traveling, it's the 60s. And then what happened. So as I understand by reading your background, and doing some research on you guys, it's like, you started meeting people sharing your story, and people wanted to understand and learn more. So you started a series of workshops?
Exactly. They started the workshops. And we did it in part because we were meeting people who are running idealistic projects to help people think about the environmental consequences of their lifestyles, or to be able to grow spiritually, we were meeting all these groups that were trying to provide service. And we thought, well, we could do this workshop that we've been explaining this to friends, we could do it as a fundraiser for these groups that we wanted to support conferences that we wanted to support. And so that's what we did. We started doing these workshops, as a fundraiser for different organizations we wanted to support. And eventually, the workshops were so popular, that we ran out of organizations that we could give the money. I created a foundation called the new roadmap foundation in 1984. We started teaching in like 1980. And the foundation was designed to take in money from giving our workshops and in an orderly way, giving the money away to projects we wanted to support. Over the next decade or two, we gave away a million dollars, as proceeds from our teaching to 800 small groups in donations of anywhere from 2000 to maximum 10, that were trying to make the world a better place. So that was part of our fun. Part of the fun of it was we're doing this teaching and we're not benefiting personally, with the benefit that we want to create because we're financially independent, is for other people to wake up and to have better lives.
Jamila Souffrant 12:35
So what were you teaching at these workshops? Where it was it the nine steps that you talked about in the book,
Vicki Robin 12:41
it was exactly that the nine step program, and the way Joe taught it was the first part was the philosophical part. That was the WHO ARE YOU? What are you up to in life? What are your uptightness is what we used to call uptightness is what are your barriers in your mind about money? I don't know if your listeners will enjoy this, but he used to start the workshop, you'd go up to the edge of the stage and he'd look at some big dude in the front row. And he'd say, Excuse me, how big is yours? It's like, what? Everybody starts tittering, you know, like, he's like he'll true guys. It's like, how big is yours? It's like, what? What's happening through us? And then he said, your paycheck? Isn't that the most personal thing you can ask a guy? How big is your paycheck? So right from the instant he was trying to destabilize people's assumptions about money. So the first part of the workshop would be trying to penetrate those assumptions about money, about who I am, what is possible for my life. And then the second part was the nine step program.
And we'll get into more of the technical like with the nine steps, and there's so many great concepts in this book that I definitely want to touch upon. So you enjoy you're teaching these workshops, you're now implanting what you have learned what you're living, and you're sharing it with other people across the nation. So you're traveling with these workshops, and you're trying to teach as many people as possible. And then at some point in the early 90s, you then or I think is the early 90s. From what I read, you guys were approached to turn it into a book, which became your money or your life, is that correct?
Correct. Yeah, we first created a tape course, an audio cassette course based on the live seminar, and we added a workbook. And we distributed that for about four or five years, because the demand was greater than what we could actually physically personally do. And then after that, an agent read about us in a little magazine, and she said, Oh, my God, you have a book in here. So she contacted us to, and she represented us. And we got a contract with Viking to write your money or your life in 1990.
Jamila Souffrant 14:48
Right. And what I want to talk about is the impact so the impact of the first book because it was a New York Times bestseller you were on Oprah TWICE, TWICE, Like I mean, you accomplished a lot in the early 90s. So can you just talk about that time period? Because I think talking about the impact that it had, then will help lead us into the concepts of what was so transformational about it now?
Vicki Robin 15:12
Yeah, it's really interesting, because that was the beginning of the 90s. It was like another Gilded Age, it was the era of Clinton, it was counterintuitive that a book about frugality, and saving money would be popular. But I think it was the appeal, the very practical appeal of the basic concepts in the book, how relatable Joe and I were. And of course, being an Oprah, seven weeks into somehow another they got us on Oprah, well, they sent her a book. And she actually read the book, and she ordered books for her whole staff. And she said, this book, this is the best book on money. She actually when we were on Oprah, she held that book up, and she said, this is a great book, it will change your life. And of course, when Oprah does that, you know, she has many guests on but when she looks at your audience in the eye, and she said, This is it. So we did that show, and the next Monday, it was a New York Times bestseller. The second time I was Oprah 1994. Two years later, they shipped something like 40,000 books out from the warehouse. In a way, Oprah is the kingmaker, the Queen maker. But the other thing was they they sent me on a major book tour, Joe didn't want to tour at all, but I loved communicating with people. So on that book tour, I could not find anybody in any of my audiences who wasn't frugal. I did hundreds of media interviews, I couldn't find any interviewer who didn't at the end of the interview, either on the mic, or off the mics. And you know, I do this very thing. And I realized, wait a second, this is so deep in the American character, we've been sold a story that we are greedy people, and unconscious consumers and consumerism is basically all we want to do. But I find that Americans, they love the art of the deal. Honestly, they love to get something for less, they love to brag about getting something for less Americans are clever we're can do or do it yourself people. And the consumer culture is sort of trying to breed that out of us so that we try to solve our problems with products, we believe ourselves to be incapable. And so we have to buy this soap, this perfume, this whatever to make ourselves once again, marginally acceptable in the world. But the reality of the people I met everywhere, was that they agreed with us. I said to audiences, I think I'm just making the world safe for frugality. I think we've got a frugal streak in us. And we're being told that we're greedy people. But everybody's got this frugal streak that nobody's been reflecting back to them. So I think a lot of people just felt a bigger leaf like, Okay, I don't have to keep up with the Joneses, or the Smiths or the whoever's I don't have to do that.
Right. So you were connecting with a lot of people, a lot of people were getting the message and understanding it. So you had that impact. We should mention that Joe Dominguez, he passed away of cancer was that also in the middle of when the book was released, was
diagnosed a year after the book came out. And I think there's another piece in here, and that was part of my drive, which was, even before we were approached by that agent, I had gone to a conference. This was after we had been teaching for 10 years. And I went to a conference on this idea of sustainable development, this idea that our economic growth and the environmental integrity, were on a collision course and the United Nations have sponsored a research and like, multi year research project about how are we going to solve this problem collectively, and there was this first conference in North America about it in 1989. And I listened to all the heads of the environmental organizations, I listen to all the people who've been on this commission and traveled the world. Every single one of them said, you know, what we found what the problem is, is consumerism. It's the level and pattern of consumption in North America, which is being exported, this is the biggest problem on the planet. And I'm sitting in the back row. And I'm thinking, you know, we've been teaching this for 10 years, and we've talked to people who've done our program, and on average, their consumption goes down by 20 to 25%. And they all pretty much are happier. And many of them don't even know what they used to spend the money on. So I have this feeling this program that we've developed that you know, these little people, often the marginal society could solve the biggest problem on the planet. So for me at the end of that conference, Noah Brown who was the head of the United Nations Environment Program, and he's Edie, ladies and gentlemen, in his gorgeous English, he said, this was 1989. This is the turn around decade, we are going to turn this around. And I thought, okay, yeah. And so I wrote your money, your life out of that passion, that if we could get everybody woke about frugality and financial sanity, that we could actually solve this big problem.
Jamila Souffrant 20:25
That's interesting. So it's almost like because you said before, when you were doing your workshops, when you were doing your interviews, you saw that this idea of frugality and awareness was inside of people. And it almost seems like the society and the upstream people that are pushing down the agendas and the corporations that are pushing on consumerism, kind of snuff that down inside of us and make us want more. And there's a lot of money behind the advertising and just society that causes us to feel that way. So it almost seems like you were thinking you wanted to awaken like it's in all of us, right? This need for freedom, this need, that we can be simple beings, we don't need all the things that we think we need, it's in us. But sometimes we get bogged down by society, by the advertisers by the corporations. And what you wanted to do was create that awakening, and people to say, Hey, you don't need that.
Vicki Robin 21:20
Yeah, and we believe that waking enough people up was actually going to be the sort of spear in the heart of consumers, we really thought we could do that which later, I realized, this thing is way bigger than what two little people with a book could do. But in the height of your money or life, we figured out that we researched all the audiences of all the magazines, People Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, blah, blah, blah, all the audiences. Oprah and Good Morning America, and none of that. We added that all up and we said we've reached half the country. Surely, surely, this is going to change everything. So when Joe died in the beginning of 1997, we were four years into this project. And he had no desire for me to stop grieve. He's like, you stay with it. You go girl. And we've been working with a team of people who were also very, very committed to getting this out. So I really worked for another four years to the year 2000. Nonstop to spread the message. And by the year 2000, which was when Noah Brown told us in 1989, was by when we were going to turn this around, I looked at it, I thought we haven't turned this around at all. And so I put this work aside, and I started looking for other approaches to social change, that could maybe make a difference. So for me, this has been social change social innovation. This is my passion. Can we change conditions in this world so that the world works for everybody, not just for the precious few?
Right? So it seems like you both had this goal and you took the baton, you were really pushing to make major changes. And you didn't see that happening. And you also yourself were diagnosed with cancer, right? It was that part of the reason you also had to step back?
Yes, exactly. It was seven years almost to the day after Joe died, I was diagnosed with cancer. And it turned out to be stage three colon cancer. And by then, not only was there the Your Money, Your life spinning plate, but I had started several other initiatives. So I was really, really working hard. And there was something about that diagnosis that felt like a hall pass, it felt like, Oh, now I get to take care of Vicki. You know, now I can bring all those threads of myself that I put so far out to the world, I can bring them in. Because I might not have much life left. I've had more influence than any one human being has a right to have. I was not scared of dying. But I had a sense that there was more to me than what I had invested myself in for the last 1520 25 years. There was more to me than that. And I wanted to find out what the more was before I lost my life entirely. So I really changed course at that time and really let go of the work, let go of the foundation that we'd started and just did the things I needed to do. I did I sang in a choir, I still sing in the choir, but I started to develop those other aspects of my human self that we have promoted to other people, you get a five so you can full range human, but I was on such a mission that I felt like kind of when do I get to be financially independent? When do I get to sleep? Yeah, so that was big lesson for me that missionary consciousness that had descended upon me in 89 that need Did to lighten up? And so I went through a big change at that time.
Jamila Souffrant 25:04
Right? I mean, if we kind of just like skip forward, that kind of brings you to now this new day and age, right, there's a new crop of financial independence, folks out there to time is different search the internet, there's like, you know, so many modes of dispersing information now. And so what led you to now come back and say, You know what, this world needs an updated version of your money or your life? Wow,
Vicki Robin 25:31
what a great question. I mean, it seems like an obvious question, but I haven't been asked that yet. So here's the answer. I didn't know that there was this big internet community around financial independence, I had no idea. It was after I took on to do the update that somebody told me that there was this Reddit thing that I had never heard of that there was a financial independence community on there, hundreds of 1000s of people what it costs, like I Googled Joe's name on there, just seeing what they're saying. And, you know, I mean, there's a big discussion out there about this, and I had no idea. The second reason was that I met a whole bunch of millennials, who were bright, idealistic, they were, they were like me at that age. But they were taking on levels of debt, I was pretty sure that they would not be able to flatten in their lifetime. And I started finding out how many people have college debt, that the whole story that worked for the boomers that the boomers have marketed to their children trying to do the best buy their children is, something's wrong here, because it's becoming a failed story. And I realized, look, the banks, they did the subprime mortgages, they've gone around and found pockets of potential debt so that they can harvest more money, and they'd found our students, they found our young people, they were harvesting money from our youth. And that's like, exactly the wrong way for society to run, we're supposed to, like, invest in our youth. That's what we do. This image I had, in my mind of these old bankers, sucking money. The young people, it was so terrible that I thought, I wonder if I could update your money your life and make it relevant to younger people, so that they would have access to this teaching. And that's really what inspired me to do it. There was also another part of it too, which is that the focus of the original book, it was sort of laser focused on you're going to get financially independent, as fast as possible, because this is what Joe did. And in the intervening years, I saw that everybody who read the book and actually used any of the tools, had an insight about their lives had some benefit, and very few of them became financially independent, very few of them did the whole thing. But everybody got something because the set of tools in this book, helped to liberate your mind and help to get out of debt and help to do many tasks in your financial life that provide you successive levels of liberation. And so I started to see that I wanted to communicate that. It's not like all or nothing. It's not like you're good person, if you get to FY by the time you're 30. And you're a failed person, if you don't do that, it's that every one of us can engage in the self liberation, and every step of self liberation. Not only do you save money, but there's some sense of yourself, like, I'm bigger than this story. I'm more powerful than this story. I'm being fed a story. And it's not my story, I can take it on, but I can also take it off. It's like a coat. It's not my skin, it's a coat, and I can change clothes. And so I wanted to communicate that, that there are levels of financial independence. And so being out of debt, mean, just that is a sense of freedom. And, you know, maybe having a bank account where they say that, if they had a $400 emergency, they would have to borrow money, have a bank account where you could write out stuff, it's more and more, it's like the world cannot pull the rug out from under me, I'm going to make my rug.
And so that is what I wanted to encourage. And the other thing I wanted to encourage is something that we didn't emphasize, but it was really true for us. And it's very true now, which is our relationships are a form of currency, that actually the dominant consumer society flourishes by us feeling very alone. And so we're trying to solve emotional needs with products. Basically, the consumer culture prospers, as relationships break apart, like a divorce. Now suddenly, we need two refrigerators to Washington, Michigan. So you know, every time you can break a human bond, you can sell a product. And what I've discovered is that my human bonds are actually like, currency. It's a current of love. It's a current of connection. And it's completely ridiculous to think you'd have to buy your way through life, that if you increase your human skills, communication skills, you're giving and receiving skills, you're thinking of somebody's birthday skills, you're volunteering in the community skills, all of these things, is actually creating wealth is creating community wealth. And I wanted to start to lift up really this idea that money is not the only form of wealth. And as we do our money lives to invest, also, to honor also, all the kinds of work we do, that is unpaid. Taking a walk with a friend, I mean, you're not renting a friend to take a walk with you just take a walk with a friend. And in that conversation, you might get more therapy, than if you paid a therapist. I'm not saying you should not do therapy if you want therapy, but we have forgotten that most of the work in the world is not paid. And it shouldn't be paid. Because it's love. It's connection. It's celebration, it's art and community, it's theater, it's dance. And all of that just gets erased, when you think that money and stuff is the point of life. So I wanted to also talk about community and belonging as important parts of our financial journey. Mm hmm.
Jamila Souffrant 31:47
You just said so many great nuggets. And I'm just trying to decide what to action first, or what to point out first. So what I do like, and what I think my audience will really, really appreciate, is the fact that recognizing that this path to financial independence, whatever it may be, in mean, for the person listening and wanting to reach it, there are so many different levels. And there are different starting points, like you said, because you know, there are people graduating with tons of debt from school or who have tons of debt, there are people who are maybe starting a little later in life starting in their 40s, or 50s. Understanding what this is, their mental roadblocks are all these things that happen where maybe initially if you stumble upon the f5 movement, and you see it as a privileged community, where it's a lot of people just who make a lot of money, who are able to save and retire in four or five years, it can be a little discouraging. But if you break it down, that you know what, paying off that $10,000 debt, getting your debt down to zero, saving up the emergency fund, those are all notable and amazing steps to make. And you should be proud of those steps. So while you're still journeying forward, recognize and give yourself credit for that, because it's not just the end goal, I would say that's why I call it a journey to launch because it's about the journey itself, right? Because even after you launch, there's still more journeys, right. Like, there's still other things to do. But I love that you do talk about that in the book. And you say this in the book that there's turtles and hairs in the book, right? Like there's a way in which you can go fast. And I see a lot of people, especially if you have a good income, and you're very frugal, you can go very fast on the journey. Or if you have these other steps you need to do first you take your time, it's slower, and neither one is right or wrong. But it's very important to at least acknowledge that and talk about it.
Vicki Robin 33:33
Yeah, exactly. Also, I say that the granddaddy, if you will, the grandmother of financial independence, is freeing your mind, from the messages that the consumer culture feed you is being able to stand in front of a product, whether it's a new washing machine, or a new pair of jeans, being able to stand there in front of a product and go like, they want me to buy this, you know, the gleam the sort of Polish dishwasher or whatever it is, they want me to buy this. And let me just stop here and think is this product worth the life energy I invest in earning the money to buy it? And if I buy it on debt, you can just triple that price tag because by the time I finished paying it off, I'm gonna pay three times that amount. So you just ask, yeah, I want it of course I want it because I've been programmed to want it I want everything. That's not bad, wanting isn't bad, but having the ability to step aside in that whole consumer process and become conscious and say, Is this worth it to me? Am I going to get out of this thing? The amount of pleasure and meaning and purpose that I deserve given that I am giving the sweat of my brow and the hours of My life to this product, one of the things I say is, I don't own things, things on me, because everything I own is something I have to take care of, and monitor and clean up after and stuff like that. So I think things have to earn their way into my life. That's why I say that consumer culture is like, we think it's our skin. But it's really just a jacket, and we can take it off. And so you are primary, and the product is secondary. And once you start thinking, I'm primary, who I am, the things I think the things I care about the people, I help out the books, I like reading, I am primary, this is my life, I am not a consumer, I'm a citizen, I'm a human. So that freedom to take your self back. So much saving money and getting out of debt and developing your emergency fund comes out of that sense of dignity and autonomy, self respect. For me, that's the first layer of financial independence is freeing your mind. Who knows what your free mind is going to do?
Right? It's very powerful. And I want to get more into the technical things as work because it's so good, and has so many good points. But one of the questions that you ask people to ask themselves is what is enough? Because that will also help determine where you stop? And you say, Okay, do I really need this updated phone? Do I really need this updated car? And it's not to say that, if you really, really want those things, you can have it but like you said, stepping back and asking, like what is enough for you like at what point does the happiness peak and start diminishing? And you talk about that a lot saying that there are people making money, and they're not more happy, you know, the more money they make, it doesn't make them happy. So can you just touch upon that?
Sure, this idea of enough, I'm sort of talking about the consumer culture, like it's sort of a monster in your closet that's going to eat you. But in a way it is a monster in your closet looks at you, if you're having trouble managing your expenses. And so one of the ways it functions is this idea of more is better. We all think that, Oh, if I have one, two is better, you know, if one pair of shoes two is certainly better, and two pairs of shoes, three would be better. And three pairs four was better. And then four, five is better, we continually think that if something brought us pleasure, initially, that if we had more of that thing, we would get more pleasure, we think of it as linear. But when you think about it, the first pair of shoes, if you have no shoes, that's like ecstasy, and then second pair of shoes, oh my god, I have two pairs, but you get out to your sixth or eighth or 10th pair of shoes. And it really is not making the difference that that first, second or third pair made, you have to observe that there's a diminishing return of repeat consumption of things that you already have. And as a matter of fact, when you get out to your 16th pair of shoes, it actually devalues the other 15 that 16 Everything, sort of like oh, those are just shoes and I can't find anything to wear on my feet, I guess I need a new pair of shoes. It is that experience that drives you to thinking Oh, I feel a little bored this afternoon or it's been a tough week, think I'll go and buy a pair of shoes, I know that's going to work because it worked back and first second third pair of shoes. I'm just using pair of shoes as an example. It could be anything. Or it's like you're living in your parents house, and then you get your first apartment. And that is like total ecstasy, you have your own place. And then you think, Ah, this is dumb, really, you know, it's like a studio apartment, I think I need a two bedroom apartment, I could have a bedroom, and I can have an office and so you get you two bedroom apartment spend twice as much money. And it really is actually that spaciousness makes a difference. If you keep looking for happiness. In more square footage of house that you own, there's a certain point at which the house is just going to become another site of consumption. Oh my god, you know, I have to like redo the floor and have to do this and have to hire handyman. Oh, my God, a sink is this isn't working. And now the dishwasher isn't working. But you still have that. I remember when I got my first apartment. So maybe if I get a bigger house or house in a different neighborhood, then I'll be happy. So we can actually do not observe the point of diminishing returns for any form of consumption. So that's what we call your enough point is when you have everything you want and need but nothing in excess when you have all the shoes you could possibly want. Now that doesn't mean when pairs one two and three were out you shouldn't replace them. Enough is not a static thing. Enough is a sense that you have where you're able to look at the set of things. You have that serve you and I'm sitting here Oh At my office, and I think I have to throw out half the things in here. Because it's definitely too much. So he's been able to not look at the product, like the shiny product, or the cute pair of shoes, or the bow or the heel or the studs or the fringe or whatever, not look at those things. But look inside yourself and say, Is this really going to add to my pleasure and satisfaction in life, and the idea of this dark consumer culture that's in your closet, the idea of it is to convince you that more is always better. And that enough, the idea of enough is deprivation. So what we're trying to do, I can't stop it enough. I mean, just enough, like, it feels like a ceiling. That's like, the oppressive ceiling that comes down upon you. You think of enough is like everything I want need everything. Have I like cut flowers, I get cut flowers, if I want to live in a 2000 square foot home, that's what I want. That's what's going to make me happy. You don't prejudge it, but you develop this discernment, about your actual satisfaction with the things that you have. And you know, it's like, one of the things I talk about is that one of the ways that you can actually save a lot of money is to be grateful for what you have. You just walk around your house and go like, Oh my God, that comforter, and oh my god, that plant and you just walk around and gratitude, it's like, you're not going to be able to buy anything, because everything you have is so precious. So if you're like way beyond your enough point, and you are swimming and clutter, it with just a process of gratitude for what you have is a good way to start attracting yourself back to enough. And we have a phrase and your money your life, we say no shame, no blame, because this is a process of becoming aware that fundamentally your stupidity and insanity. Because we're all that way, we all unconscious. And so if you add guilt, to be awareness, you're never going to want to be aware. So you say no shame, no blame seemed like a good idea. At the time. Maybe it wasn't, maybe it was, but right now in my life, that doesn't work for me anymore.
Jamila Souffrant 42:20
And that's okay. Don't beat yourself up over a past decision if you can move forward.
Vicki Robin 42:25
Yeah. And just have it be a funny story.
One of the things that you mentioned, which was in the original book, and I think it's really what awakened a lot of people to understand what was really going on was this concept of your life energy and calculating that. Yeah. And I really want to touch upon that, because I think it's such a powerful exercise for anyone to do. And it helps with this enough question it helps with, you know, what I enjoy going out to eat. And so spending that whatever about $100.60 $80 on a meal is worth it to me, you have a method in which you're asking people to figure out what that's worth via life energy.
Jamila Souffrant 43:03
And I want to talk about that, how do you figure out a life energy of something? And what is it?
Vicki Robin 43:09
Right? So basically, we start with what is money? And just like I was saying, like the car or the washing machine, or the new pair of shoes, that the question is, what is that out there that you're attracted to? And turning that around? And going like? What does it mean to me? So money is, you know, there's never enough somebody else is controlling it. There's so many ideas about this thing that somebody else is controlling, and you have to invest yourself in getting some of that you just have to keep working hard or working a second job or whatever. But it's sort of like a game of musical chairs where you don't have any authority over how many chairs there are. I don't know, do people still play musical chairs. So old. I'm back in the age when people play piano in order to entertain themselves at home. Anyway, so what we say money is is money is something that you choose to trade the hours of your life for. You give the money in your wallet value, because you invested your hours in putting it there. It's not something that's uncontrollable that somebody else gives you or doesn't give you. It's like you are investing yourself in getting that. And so then once you see that whatever else money is, it's not fame, it's not power. It's not. It has those qualities, but what it really is concretely is something that you've traded your hours for. Then you ask, well, how good a trade is that? And so you say, Okay, well, I make $20 an hour, but then you compute, okay, I'm not just working eight hours a day because I've got two hours a day on either side of that. That's my commute time. So I've got to actually say no, it's not a 40 hour work week. It's like an extra two hours a day, commute time. So you have to add that in. And every hour that you add in two hours spent related to my job actually reduces your real hourly wage, to see that because I had to spend 10 hours to get that money, not eight looked like eight, but it's 10. And then you start to take a look at also what are the expenses, whether it's the commute expenses, or the kind of clothes you have to wear for your job, whether it's blue collar, white collar, white collar, whatever your uniforms, you know, and sometimes a business suit is just a uniform. And so those are expenses, things you have to buy. In order to be able to make that money, really, you have to subtract that from your wage while you're adding the hours. And when you do this calculation, and I will say that I'm working with a man who has his own blog grants BOTH Yay, I'm doing a platform for your money, your life is your money, your life.com. And we have developed a calculator there that people can use to figure out their real hourly wage in a sort of general way, we can get down to further specifics. On average, when people do this calculation, they realize that their real early wage is about a quarter of their nominal wage, you're making $20 an hour, you're actually trading in what they call disposable income. I don't know why you shouldn't dispose of it. Anyway, your disposable income is $5 an hour, right on your way to work, you get a latte and a muffin every day because you're busy and you didn't get up on time and stuff like that. And you go like, Okay, I'm paying $5 for that. That's an hour of my work day. But I think I'd like to get up another five minutes early and make my own coffee. You start to realize that economizing isn't deprivation, economizing is saving your life.
It's preservation, it's preservation of your life and your energy.
Exactly. And so there is nothing in that book that has been more transformational, more applicable to everybody than this idea that real hourly wage, people can do that calculation. And they realize that they're going to spend three years of their lives for the new car that they're buying, in order to drive back and forth to their job, where your new car will sit in the parking lot with a whole bunch of shiny other new cars. Nobody has bragging rights. But you're spending three years on that. And we have no judgment. It's like if that SUV or whatever that pickup truck or Lexus IS that's worth three hours, three years of your life, go ahead and buy it. If that's going to bring you three years or your life of happiness, pride, bragging rights, whatever it is that that car does for you, then that's a fine purchase and just like defend that purchase to the max. But if you're getting nothing from it, then transportation and you had a car that would have lasted you another 10 years, just think about,
and I think it puts you in that position of awareness, like stepping back and saying, Okay, I do want these things. I think I want these things. But when I calculate how much of my life energy to buy this, so a car, so a new car, it might take me three years of my life energy to do that, buying this bag, it may be taking me six months worth of working to buy that my life's energy, if you know that and you are confident and you say you know what, but I still want it and it's worth it for my happiness, then like you said, it's fine. But a lot of people do not understand how it ties in in the calculation. So this is why I do think it is such a popular concept in the book. And I link anything in the show notes. So there's nine steps in the book. I mean, I could talk to you for hours. And then we don't have that kind of time. But I do want to just touch about we don't have to go through the nine steps. But I did hear you say there's nine steps on the journey or on the path to financial independence. But I heard you say somewhere else that you think the most transformational steps and you could have changed your mind since then that's fine. We're steps two, three and four. Can we touch upon what steps two, three and four are? And why?
Yeah, I think those are the central transformative tools. And the rest is based on that. And step two is calculating your real hourly wage, and then tracking every penny. or Now it might be every dollar that comes into and goes out of your life. And why you're doing that is not like your financial planner told you you were a bad girl and you have to cinch up your belt and do this. You're doing it because you become curious about where's my life going? It's my life. Where's it going? And so you track your money. When we started this Joe kept a little book in his pocket and I kept the little index card in my wallet and I wrote down everything and I slowed down the grocery line. Well I wrote down my expenses now. There's so many ways with apps and stuff that you can actually keep track of this and right now I pay for almost everything with my debit card. And so the bank tracks for me. And then I have the categories established. So it's really easy for me. So you track every penny you spend. And then that's the second step. The third step is you put those expenses once a month, at the end of the month, you look at those expenses, and you create categories that fit your lifestyle. And you sort your expenses out into categories that's darting through your process of discernment. Why we say you should do this and not just use a standard budget book categories is that we have this idea of you're using this pen, you know, you're using this pen is the thing you buy, you actually don't need you have 10 of them at home, but you just, you're just so attracted to it and the story, I think I have a single spin thing around these, any chum noodle dishes because I got way too much of them. Every time you see that, you think, Oh, I like that. Anyway, you start to take a look at what's my pattern of spending. Because like in food, it's not just food. It's like restaurant food. It's Farmers Market food, it's grocery store food. And it's candy machine food at work, you might have four categories around food, so that when you're assigning each expense to a category, you start to see the pattern of your spending, you start to see the things that are very basic spending, like your grocery store, food you cook at home, and then the pizza you order in or whatever, you start to see what you're doing, you become aware of the pattern of your life or clothes, it may be that you have work clothes, and you have the clothes you wear around the house. Or you might like that earlier example, you might have a category called shoes, like you just really want to see what am I doing on the shoe thing. And so you start to develop these categories, beauty products, might have bad skin, and you actually have $100 a month, habit of beauty products, trying to deal with the fact that you don't like your skin. When you start to do these categories, you start to see what's going on. So that's the third step is you sort your expenses out into categories that fit your lifestyle, so that you can see the pattern of your spending, which is actually looking at the pattern of your thinking, then you translate each of those totals of each category into hours of my life, I invested to get this. So let's say we're at $5 An hour real hourly wage and you spent $100 on beauty products, that was 20 hours of your life, that gives you a sobering piece of information. Step four, then is you go through all of those categories, not in the dollars, but in the hours and you ask three questions first, did this make me happy in proportion to the amount of hours I invested? Your beauty products could be like, Absolutely, I would spend 40 hours of my life. I love those things, you know, the different blushers in the different this and the different that you might like. Or you might think, oh my god, I could really use those 20 hours, because I'm doing my college degree at night, I could use 20 hours for study. So you start to just look at it. No shame, no blame. Was that worth it to me? Did it bring me 20 hours of happy? Then you asked the question about what's my purpose in life? What am I aiming toward? What gives my life meaning. And it could be being a great parent. Or it could be that you have a dream of getting a college degree or an advanced degree in something because you want to be a lawyer or you know, whatever it is, where are you aiming your life, not just sort of like the shorter term happiness, but the larger term satisfaction. And you say, okay, beauty products, you know, is that taking me where I want to go? Absolutely. I'm trying to be an actress, and I'm trying to break into musical theater in New York. I see those beauty products, I would spend twice a month. Or you could say no, that actually doesn't. I'm just saying I'm using that as an example. I don't know why I pick that up. And then the third question is, if I were financially independent, if I didn't have to work if I didn't have to work for money, I worked for love or purpose or other reasons. What would that expense look like? Back to the beauty products back to 20 hours for beauty products? You just guess and you say I think that would be half if I actually wasn't trying to impress people or get a job or stuff like that. So those are the three questions. That's step four. And when you ask those questions, you're not doing it with shoulds and oughts, like oh, I shouldn't spend this or I should spend it or you know, there's nothing there other than awareness. So the next time you're at the store and you're gonna sink is pin is blusher, let's say a blusher counter. And you're about to buy the blusher and you go like wait a second. I have 10 blushers at home and this isn't gonna bring me happiness, satisfaction purpose? This is just some program that's running off. So you stop buying those items, not because you're bad or you shouldn't, you just stop wasting your life energy. And so those three steps, you know, tracking your money, putting it in categories that fit your life so you can actually see what's going on, you can bring an unconscious process into consciousness, and then asking those questions. That's what actually I think when people do those things, that's why their expenses go down so rapidly.
I agree with you. I think, Ken, this is really about awakening. And if you notice, like a lot of our conversation, yes, there's action, but it all stems from behavior and mindset, and not feeling like deprivation. So, you know, I was gonna ask you, because I'm trying to compare it to you had a great run with the first edition of your money or your life, and you've reached a lot of people, you got on some major networks, and you really thought you were making a change. And you did. I mean, there are people today who haven't read the updated version, who were still reading the older version and said, this has been impacted my life. But it didn't take off, and it didn't do what you thought it could do. Now we're in a new age, the internet age, like you said, there's this new crop of financial independent folks are aware people about finances talking about it, do you feel that this time is different like this can work if it can catch fire quicker, because of the internet age, because we're able to build community virtually. Now, there's more support around this topic where maybe before you had to know someone in real life, to feel connected and to feel supported on your journey. But now, even if no one in your real life gets it, even if everyone in your immediate circle or consumers, and they're just looking at you like, I'm going to spend my money because I'm going to die soon. So I don't want to hear what you have to say. You can go online, and then you could connect with so many other people who are thinking like you who are struggling to get out of that hold. And maybe then it stick. So do you think that will create that change and difference?
I think that would be great. If it does. I mean, I as I say I was stunned to find out that there's this thing called fire, you know, financial independence, retire early, I had no idea. And I found by and large people in this community are aware, generous with their time, and people love giving each other advice and cheering each other on, it's really quite wonderful. I have a different sense of what making a difference in my life adding up to changing the world. Back then, as they say, I was sort of a missionary. And now I understand, I am one of many people trying to create a healthy world, a world that will be better for our children. I'm just one of many people. And I trust this network, I trust the network of people who are attending our world toward the good. I will join the chorus. But I'm not the chorus leader, I don't have to see evidence in my lifetime, I don't have something that I call a benchmark of a number of people reached or anything, I just want to empower people to see their lives in a bigger context and with more sense of possibility. I also think that we are further toward this questioning and consumerism questioning of the dynamics of the capitalist system and whether it's going to work for everybody. I think that people are waking up that the bigger system is rigged, that not everybody is playing by the same rules, that there are people up there somewhere who are rewriting the rules, so that those of us who are in the middle here are not advancing in the way that the middle class used to advance. And it's becoming harder and harder the cost of rent is going up minimum wage or average wage. We're starting to understand that they're skewed and questioning that now I know that we have a very conservative Congress at the moment. So I don't think there's evidence of the shift although I would say that the enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders back when shows that there's a lot of people are questioning the big story. I think more people are willing to question their loyalty to the consumer culture. Because there's more people are realizing this thing is not designed for my happiness. This thing is designed to take money out of my wallet. So more and more people are waking up all by themselves to that there's something about this game that's off and I I am going to unhook from the game and reclaim my life. Whatever that looks like, the FIA approach, whether it's your money or life or whatever, is like a filtration system like you're in a pond and the pond is polluted, and this filters so that beyond the filtration system, your life flows in a much cleaner and clearer way. But I'm interested in like, why is the pond toxic? What's the input into this pond, and I'm interested in things that would actually make life better for people on this path. If we had health care for all health care is a right, you don't have to have a corporate job in order to have access to a doctor, this is insane. I can't tell you the number of people who say my job is killing me, but I can't leave because I need the health care. So these are things that I would like to look at with this FII community is, I think we need to advocate for some changes in policies that would be beneficial to ordinary people who are trying to crawl out of a financial hole. And I think health care for all is one of those things, and we just need to work for it. And we should ask for it. And it makes sense. And everybody gets that we have one of the best health care systems on the planet, we have an industrial nation, we have the worst access to our system. Even though we have the best system, we have to fix this. So these are some of the things that I'm thinking about. Now, I'm not thinking that we're going to stop consumerism, I'm thinking about how can we reshape some of these rules of the game, so that people who want to go sane about money, don't have to swim that far upstream, you know, that hard upstream to get there.
Yeah. And part of that, too, is the student loan debt crisis. And that that that people are saddled with when jobs that will never allow them to really pay that off, and not being aware like all this stuff is tied in. And and, and I'm so glad you're mentioning the bigger picture, because there are some things that are outside of our immediate control. There are some systematic things, especially for some people about color, or people of color in general, or people born in certain economic backgrounds, it's harder. And there is a difference between the privilege and the non privilege. And I'm one to believe that even if you are not born privileged, you can white and you can swim through that. But there are some people who do need an extra boost, or help to be able to get to that step to at least be on a level playing field. Right. So I love that you talk about that. And you acknowledge that because it's so important.
We have a Facebook group, currently, I'm encouraging people to sign up from the Your Money life.com community because we're building a really rich set of resources on that platform. But there is a Facebook community at the moment. And one of the guys from Australia said, you know, I've had free education and I've had free health care, I It's like, so easy for me to be fit. Most of the people I meet from European countries, they like they're just perplexed at how upset we are about our payment system for sickness care. So we have to get that how it stacked up in this country makes no sense unless you take a look at it's designed for corporate profits, not for health. You know, it's not the doctors fault. It's this payment system that we have set up. Yeah, and the student debt, I have a friend in Holland, who went all the way through medical school it was paid for, they recognize what they're getting out of it was a doctor, that's pretty valuable. And if this person was willing to like, bus, but until she was almost 30, to become a doctor, we should support her. That makes sense. You have to just see that the way it's set up in our society makes no sense unless you think that the whole thing. Everything is designed for corporate profit. That's the only way it makes sense. And I'm not ragging on corporations is just one way to organize, financing, growing things that could be very beneficial to us. I mean, it's not that the corporations are bad. It's like the rules of the game at the moment, the playing field is too tilted. The other thing I'm looking at is this question of they call it universal basic income. Is there a way in which everybody in society should have a financial floor? One of the things inspired me to do this update was discovering everybody I knew from the person in their 80s, who I know has a lot of money all the way down to these college students. They're all scared about their financial lives. everybody's scared. They're scared that the rug is gonna get pulled out from under them in some way. And when that rug is pulled, there's actually no floor. You know, you're gonna fall. Right? And that's not kind it's not beneficial. There's no Oh, really good reason why we should render our society is indebted in the scared. And so that's what I'm saying is like even from the richest person. Everybody has this sense of instability. So I think we need to take a look at that. And take a look at what are simple shifts in some of the policy things that can help out with this. It's a passion of mine, I have the luxury of thinking about these things, because I've been financially independent for so many years. And it gives me the luxury of time and attention to really think about big things and invest myself in them. So let's take a look at what's poisoning the pond.
Right, right. It's a look at the bigger picture and how we fit into it. Again, I could go on talking to you forever. This was amazing. And I know that my audience will really enjoy this. So everything we talked about, I'd link in the show notes where I can, and I just want to thank you. So where can people find out more about you? If they are like, Okay, I gotta find out more about Vicki, what's going on with her? What's your website? Where can they reach you?
Okay, so your money, your life.com is the website for everything about your money, your life. I have a personal website. It's sort of like a brochure online. But if people want to read about things that I've done in my life, and my bio and stuff like that, it's Vicki robin.com. So that's where you can find out more about me. Yeah, so those are the resources.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Vicki, this was amazing.
Jamila Souffrant 1:06:37
All right journey. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Vicki Robin. Once again, let me know if you did enjoy it, or you have a takeaway, you can screenshot this and then share it on your socials, on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, send a message I love hearing what you learned or what inspired you from the book. And most importantly, share this with a family member or friend. That's the best way to get people on the journey with you. You know, it's a lonely journey to do this alone. And I know I talk a lot about having community and virtual communities great, right? I love being able to talk to you, I love that you're able to find each other on social media. And I think that's the best way if there's no one else in your life that gets it, you still can do this, right? Like you can still join Facebook groups, and follow the hashtags and find the different people within this community that you connect with to keep you accountable. But there's nothing that can replace those someone in your real life, who's also on board or who's interested that you can share this with in a non judgmental, condescending way. And the best way to do that is to send them information that you find inspiring, and you know, let them have their own conclusions. But I know for me, this was super helpful. When I started to kind of get into this, I used to send my husband episodes of other podcasts before I had a podcast, and articles. And it was just nice, knowing that someone in my real life understood the concept. So that way, when I told him, Hey, I'm gonna quit my job, I'm going to reach financial independence and go on this movement. He was just like, Oh, so that's what this is. So I hope you enjoyed this episode. And I'll see you next week. And by the way, so the month of August, if you've been like listening every week, has been rewind for most of them. But I am planning to start back up in September and beyond with brand new episodes. With new interviews. I'm actually planning to do also episodes, I got some exciting updates and just things I want to share with you that I've been thinking about and working on. And that will help you with your financial journey. So stay tuned and make sure you are following this podcast. So that means you won't miss an episode because you're following it on Apple podcasts. You click that plus button on the top of the apple podcast screen or you follow it wherever you're listening. Doesn't have to be Apple podcast, but the most important thing is that you are locked in so you don't miss an episode. All right, see you next week.
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Vicki Robins, the co-author of “Your Money or Your Life” has been one of the most influential visionaries of the Financial Independence movement.
In the late 1960’s, with the advice of the late Joe Dominguez, Vicki reached Financial Independence and together they began to teach their revolutionary methods all over the nation. Their workshops featured the famous 9 steps to reach Financial Independence and eventually, Vicki and Joe were approached to turn their teachings into the book that we know today, “Your Money or Your Life”.
The book went on to be wildly popular, encouraging people to fight against the weight of consumerism and become a New York Times bestseller. Vicki also made two appearances on the Oprah Show with Oprah declaring that the book “would change your life”. More than 25 years later, Vicki has written an updated version of the book for a new generation of people on the path to Financial Independence.
I’m so honored to have Vicki on the show to discuss:
- How Vicki met the late co-author Joe Dominguez and how they worked to create the Financial Independence movement
- How their book “Your Money or Your Life” came to fruition and became popular.
- Why Vicki set out to create an updated version of the book
- The importance of relationships and how they create community wealth
- Why “freeing your mind” is the cornerstone of Financial Independence
- The definition of the “Enough Point”
- How to calculate your life energy and true hourly wage
- What Vicki believes to be the most transformational steps of the 9 steps from the book
- How Vicki believes the new version of “Your Money or Your Life” will impact the world in this new age
- The bigger picture of systemic barriers in the United States that make achieving Financial Independence more difficult
Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:
- Life Energy Calculator
- How We Saved $169,000 in 2 Years With the Help of This Budgeting System
- Buy Your Money or Your Life
- Check out my new personal website here.
- Join The Weekly Newsletter List
- Leave me a voicemail– Leave me a question on the Journey To Launch voicemail and have it answered on the podcast!
- Watch me on News12 Watch my latest segments on News12
- YNAB – Start managing your money and budgeting so that you can reach your financial dreams. Sign up for a free 34 days trial of YNAB, my go-to budgeting app by using my referral link.
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