'Your Money or Your Life' - anyone read it?

behaviorkeltonApril 21, 2008

I think it was the very early 90's or late 80's when I saw Donahue interviewing the authors of this book.

I read mostly the philosophical parts of it. The parts where they clarify the meaning of money and what it represents. As I recall, it represents a kind of token: units of exchange that you receive for your own life energy. "Energy" might not be the right word, but it is the kind of thing that you can never get back!

This book greatly assisted me in avoiding the scenarios that seem to have snared many of my peers right out of college. Specifically...

1. You get your first real job.

2. You immediately buy very nice things: brand new car...and then stuff

This book gave me the strength to keep and maintain my homely vehicle that I used in college (older toyota pickup)...even after starting work.

It made me think a bit more before succumbing to expensive seductions.

Most of all, it instilled a kind of pride in myself. Proud that I was able to "rise above" the urges that keep many of us in a state of permanent and severe indentured servitude.

What it instilled was a kind of internal conversation. The conversation included bits of typical financial advice, but also a kind of pep talk that you might hear before a football game. "dig down! find your strength! You don't have to be one of the sheep!".

(well, not exactly like that, but similar!)

The book had extensive financial advice about investing in treasuries, but I didn't bother with that. I don't think that the finance part was nearly as illuminating as the philosophical parts.

I think the book still has a cult following.

It would be an excellent book for soon-to-graduate students.

Has anyone read the book? Are there any books that may be similar but perhaps more current?


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Hi again well-behaved Kelton,

Either you boss your money ...

... or it'll boss you!

The financial book that I think to be the best, aimed largely at the Canadian market, but also useful in light of the U.S. situation, if I recall correctly, is called "Balancing Act" by Joanne Thomas Yaccato.

Her book was aimed substantially at women, who have career, home, wife, mom, etc. roles to juggle ... but it seems to me very useful, as it covers quite a large number of mainly financial subjects, does them in greater depth than do many authours, and explains them in a way that many can understand fairly easily, I think.

I think that I have a copy around here, somewhere, but can't find it - I just moved in about two years ago.

I gave my daughter a copy, and will ask her to comment on whether she thinks that it relates to the U.S. situation ... she's in the process of moving to AZ.

Good wishes for managing your money, whether income or assets, more effectively as the years pass (before you pass).

The idea, as I understand it, is to use the last dollar on the last day of life.

Having provided for funeral expenses.

Plus your final obligations to the Income Tax folks ... wouldn't want them crying, feeling deprived, would we?

Plus some for deserving charities?

Plus some for your offspring?

Unless, of course, you've found a way to take some with you.

Trouble is ... it'll likely be as useful in the after-life as the North Korean money was in the hands of refugees who'd moved to the south.

Actually ... that did turn out to be useful to one or two refugees ... for I gave them some Republic of Korea money in exchange, considering the northern money something of a souvenir. Actually, maybe I should have advertised for more of it, selling it to supporting churches in North America (read "Canada") to support the refugee relief work.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 9:24PM
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I never read that book, but I started out my young adult life with the same principles you have. I like material things too, but saw it as a trap if that's all you live for. It was more important to buy a house, pay that house off while saving and investing,buy a vehicle that was not very pretty to look at but served a purpose for me while I was remodeling that first house.

After college, I remember the first day of my first job. I said to myself,"This is the day I start working on my retirement." Well, I worked so hard on that resolution that I found myself retiring at age 50 in 2000. Right after that, the stock market hit the dirt as you all know. But with a lot of diversification I weathered all that and never had to go back to work like many retirees I know.

I found that it's not so important in WHAT you invest in as it is to have good fundamental knowledge of money,finance, and how to use it as a tool to help you. It pays to keep your life simple--spending time working on interests, learning,and shunning what all the commercials on TV keep telling you, like being "wired" being interested in celebrities, etc. Watching other people living their lives isn't as interesting as living your own.

I always felt like an alien because my friends were traveling, buying lots of expensive stuff. My friends would tell me how they were decorating their houses in Early American furniture. I would tell them my house was decorated in Early Salvation Army!!!!

My friends would criticize me for all my money investing. Well, today they are still working and I am having fun on my 6 acres in a house I built in 1999 which is all paid for. I think that if you follow yourself, instead of others, your life will be different from those around you. The secret is to come up with a plan and STICK to it. Never giving up until you win gives your life purpose--you know that going to work every day is a baby step toward your goal. Going to work to pay debts really sucks because you are working to pay for yesterday instead of working for your future. So keeping debt low gives you advantages that others don't have.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 8:37AM
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North Korean money sounds interesting. Surely, some North Korea escapees can "capitalize" on the potential interest in that form of money.

That was a very nice write-up!

I won't be able to retire at 50... my goals are a bit more modest, but congratulations to you.
It just occurred to me that if I would have stayed in the Army (joined when I was 18), I could retire with 30yrs at the age of 48! Oh well, the Army was thoroughly NO FUN AT ALL.

I'm surprised you jumped right into work thinking about retirement. I wasn't that far sighted when I began work, but I have a friend who "retired" essentially at the age of 30. How did he do it? Well, he decided to just *be poor* and enjoy his time reading books. I think he is in his mid-60's now and has enjoyed a very nice life.

Hmmm, I said that like his life is over. Not at all. In fact, it is quite difficult to keep up with him on a bike!

He retired in 1972. I have photographs of him in my Flickr account. If you go to Flickr.com, do a search for "St. Augustine Gary". Some of the photos give an indication of how he lives. Very rustic. I'd say he lives a kind of Henry David Thorough life.

I call myself BFskinnerPunk in the Flickr world.

He is one of my very best friends, and he taught me that living a life with unpredictable bosses, co-workers, and work-life demands is not a life well lived.

I can't say that I am as hard core as he is, but he is certainly an interesting model for how one can live a very rich life with very, VERY little.

As for me, I have to now convince my girlfriend that we do not need a $2,600 couch... as much as I like the couch myself. I get the feeling that my St. Augustine friend does not suffer from these kinds of pressures to spend.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 9:05AM
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Money, saving, investing etc. is a means to an end not the end in itself.
I would say my objective in saving and investing is to balance my standard of living over a lifetime with a margin on the side of safety.
If you want meaning in life have children. That of course means making compromises especially with your partner. It is normal for partners to test each other from time to time. That $2,600 couch may be such a test. So far your partner has been willing to put up you and your ways.

As to work, at your time of life you can expect many more years of work ahead of you. If you view your job in a negative fashion you will just make yourself miserable. In my case I know that I am a part of producing a product which is useful and in demand. Knowing that I am contributing to society through my job makes putting up with difficult co-workers and work life worth while. If anything the prospect of retiring in a few years and becoming a net consumer is my current challenge.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 2:00PM
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I guess the topic is drifting a bit.

Well, I have heard people say similar things about their jobs. (referring to your "..view your job in a negative fashion..." remarks)

However, my test of a job's true value to a person is a simple one.
Here it is...
If you were offered the same money for *not* working, would you still go to work?

In other words, would you do it for free?

I am not miserable at all in my job, but I do not lie to myself about where my work is located within my value system. Sure it is of high value to others, my co-workers respect me, etc. etc.... but would I do it for free?


I would not.

I recognize that being free to follow whims is a wonderful thing. To visit friends freely, or to arrange to do things without having to reference my Outlook calendar.... that stuff is priceless!

When I find myself in a conversation with a person, and we are trying to find an agreeable time to do something, I always find it depressing to go through this kind of conversation:
Me: How about next weekend at 10am?
Them: No that's not good for me, what about 2pm?
Me: No, I'm busy then. How about sometime during the week? ...like Thursday?
Them: Nope, I have a thing that day.
Yada, yada, yada

This, to me, is no good at all! In fact, I'd say it's downright depressing.

While I am not exactly miserable in my job, I try to see it for what it is and isn't.

As far as I can tell, money is a key element in allowing us to walk away from a world in which we are all checking our planners! Fancy cars, stereos, and other material things are not why am interested in finance issues.

I merely appreciate freedom!


I'm not implying that you lie to yourself about your job. I do suspect, however, that many of us suppress certain kinds of thoughts about their jobs in one way or another!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 5:27PM
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I really like "nice stuff". But my idea of "nice stuff" is usually a lot different than what the masses think it is! I like handsome, efficient woodstoves, beautiful, functional pieces of furniture, that sort of thing. I don't care a fig for new cars. But I've always cared a great deal about being able to come home, kick back and do what I WANT TO DO after a day at work. Increasing indebtedness was NOT the way to achieve that sort of "freedom".

I chose to learn a trade and work toward mastery of it (sewing). I've watched many of my friends pursue careers that provided far greater compensation/benefits at the outset. And most of them have managed to spend every dime of it with minimal thought to how they might have saved/stockpiled some of it. There were plenty of times when I questioned my choice. I watched friends buy/sell/upgrade homes with more than a little envy in the "early years". New kitchens, landscaping... they had it all... and we were still grubbing around in the construction fill. It sucked, but it built character and it tempered our decision to move toward a debt-free life.

We've always lived BELOW our means, saved, and learned to minimize our expenses. I've used my personal "savings" to purchase the equipment (capital) required to build a home business as well as feed a retirement account. I've patiently paid off one loan before taking on another. To many, I appear to work a menial "job", ditto the helpmeet. But the reality is that we own our home, have money in the bank, own all the equipment required to ply my trade, work on our "estate" efficiently, and we lack for nothing. And we're not LAZY.

Our only real worry is healthcare, something we share with roughly half the population of the USA. And we're not unaware that a catastrophic illness could wipe us out... just the way it could wipe out a lot of other people. Healthcare needs to be a RIGHT, not an entitlement available to the shrinking percentage of the population who CAN pay and MUST pay.

I like my work and I'm good at it. I've lived very conservatively and now I'm in a position to kick back and throttle down a bit. BECAUSE I've addressed the basics so assiduously in my (misspent) youth. It helps when you marry someone with similar sentiments!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 6:12PM
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When I recently discussed my retirement plans with my daughter she was very quick to ask me how I would spend my time (she knows me a good deal better than you do.)
My reply of course was that I would be looking for volunteer work in something I am interested in. That would let me scale back my hours to a more comfortable level while still being plugged into society.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 6:42PM
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Behavior Kelton----I smiled at the story of your friend because I had a similar idea when I was in my 20's and weighing options on how one could live their life. I didn't think quite as radical as he did. But I always thought an option would be to work part time and scale back on the things one acquired in life. The more things you want, the more work you have to do to get them.

My problem is that I'm WAY too ambitious to live that way. I was born with a big, burning fire and constant "doing" is just in my personality. I always wanted to have encyclopedic knowledge of many things. One only gets that thru experience, and being a constant student of life. As a result, I have 3000 hobbies and avocations. Life being what it is I have no business having 2,999 of those, but I can't help myself because the knowledge gained from them is such a precious commodity.

There is a "good thing" about wanting more out of life. If you want more, you have to BE more. Then you have to DO more. That enriches and helps not only you, but ultimatly helps and enriches the community of man. It floats all boats, which keeps your boat safe.

Regarding the job you have, I really liked my job despite its difficult conditions. It's not necessary to love your job. But you can't HATE it. I always said my job paid for my hobbies. I knew what we did served a big purpose. Without us, most manufacturing couldn't occur. I felt good about serving a higher purpose and once I actually had that conscious thought, the work day was a lot easier when we had big problems on our hands. It disturbs me that CEO's only think about the bottom line of business when there is so much more at play. Every cog in the wheel keeps the machine of society together. When the only thing that matters is money, instead of the higher purpose that business serves to the community of ALL, well Rome starts to burn doesn't it? And all the workers--who are the REAL people who keep that business producing---NOT the CEO---are treated like the enemy and nothing but a cost to the company, well things fall apart on a large scale.

I feel for ALL of you still working. Society used to worry about retirees keeping up financially. We have no need to worry for THEM---I worry about the young workers today. Our generation really screwed things up for our children. The hippies of the 60"s should all be ashamed of how they threw the hard work of their parents and grandparents out the window and sent it over seas. Or scammed and cooked the books that sent a business into bankruptcy that had been around for 100 years. I shake my head and think that humans seem incapable of governing themselves.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 11:02AM
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You've got some interesting thoughts Green-zeus!

My pal is a painter-artist. He reads the NY Times and Wall St. Journal daily (yesterday's copies...free) every morning cover to cover. He is always reading a non-fiction book as well.

I suppose ambition is how you define it.

He is very interested in "how a life is best lived". He often feels bad for the poor saps who grind out their work-a-day lives seemingly unaware of the marvels of life's simple pleasures, and unaware that life does not need to be one stressful string of needless pressures.

What I find most impressive about him, is that he lives exactly what he says. As kids today say, "he is the real deal".

side note: His carbon footprint could not be any smaller! If you're into that kinda thing.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 5:00PM
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You needn't "feel" for me or the helpmeet, Green.. We count ourselves in the category of people who actually LIKE their work. Sure, there are days when we would maybe rather do something else but for us, going to work is actually pretty fun!

I know very few "hippies" from the 60s who "screwed it up" for retirees. Most of the "hippies" I know own their homes, have adhered to really very "lean" lifestyles and are doin' just fine. I don't think it was the "hippies" that screwed it up, at all. Personally? I think the problem lies with spoilt, pampered kids... from any generation!

I'm a very skilled tradesman. Most of my skill was exported to third world cesspools in the '80s.. How did I manage to sidestep the minefield? I DIVERSIFIED! My skill encompasses everything from production stitching to skilled tailoring. I'm articulate, very skilled, and my focus is on CUSTOM work. In the 30 yrs. I've been sewing professionally, I've NEVER been out of work.

I'm good at what I do, my skills are greatly diversified, and I live BELOW my means.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 8:20PM
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chelone, I think I would have liked doing what you're doing. Ah well, went into music instead. And then editing to earn a living. My job is tolerable, and sometimes I really enjoy it, but I wouldn't do it if I weren't getting paid for it. Music is still a serious avocation, though.

behaviorkelton, what does your friend do for health care?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 10:32PM
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For health care, he lives a healthy lifestyle.

At one point back in the early 80's, he had a thyroid problem, but he traded a couple of his paintings for medical work.

Healthcare is an interesting issue to me.

On the one hand, and a modern person living with the current cultural slogans and values... it seems to be a "must have".

On the other - in the big picture - it seems somehow odd to demand that my health be insured. Like my beating ticker is just so precious. : )

I'm going to drop off the planet, if I'm lucky, when I'm ~80 years old. Is it such a big deal if we just shorten that deadline back to, say, 50? Of course, it's a big deal to *me*.. but should I insist that the rest of the world come to my rescue as my personal right? Should I insist that I get my full 80?

I never hear that sort of thing being said, but sometimes I get concerned that everyone is trying to inoculate ourselves from nature itself! Is this a bad thing? Maybe not.

On a highly related note, it seems we have recently entered a world where little boys and girls can no longer climb trees, get dirty, play in the cold, catch snakes, etc. etc. Does this make them safer? sure.

Also, because my friend decides to face life directly as it is delivered, outsiders shudder at the thought that he has no pension, 401k, medical plan, or disability insurance.

Frankly, I am one of those outsiders.

I'm just not so sure that it is a good thing to feel so paranoid about life's bumps and bruises. It seems wimpy!

Watching the many documentaries and biographies on TV, you come to realize that the medical care today was nowhere in sight just 100 years ago. The very richest among us had to face illness in ways similar to the lower classes. If you had a deadly disease, you died whether you were a king or a farmer.

These are just my thoughts on the matter. In the mean time, I scurry around making sure that I live in a plastic bubble of safety just like everyone else! My personal actions reveal a kind of self-centered concern for my own safety, but I can at least venture outside of my cultural conditioning to consider things a bit more objectively.

So Gary takes care of himself. That's his health care.

Because I like him so much, I have been encouraging him to get signed up for whatever health care is offered to people as they enter their golden years.

I don't think he has been to the doctor since that trip in the early 80's.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 8:35AM
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The funny thing is that Gary will be able to find health care if he needs it because he doesn't have much. Those of us who HAVE things find health care expensive if we don't have insurance. The ability to pay is what's looked at. Personally, I think it's a challenge to live that way the older you get. You get by fine when you're young. But the day comes when you're not so young anymore and things start to catch up with you. At the very least,seeing a dentist is so important.

When I was young, I thought about working really hard while I was full of energy just in case I couldn't do it when I was older. That idea has come full circle now as I recently found out I have a rare genetic defect that rears it's ugly head as you get past 50. I'm real glad to have insurance---to not have to work, as I could never walk the miles at work that I used to.

Chelone--I'm glad you feel my generation didn't screw things up. But today's CEO's and those in charge are from my generation and I think many of them are little better than cannon fodder. I remember the people in charge at the company I worked for. It was a fortune 500 company and most of the people in charge were MBA's and those who came in to their positions because an uncle was high in the company. It was like a bunch of weepy eyed little kittens who had genetic problems do to so much inbreeding. There wasn't a person there who had ever gotten their hands dirty. Wisdom doesn't come from standing around watching over things from afar. You can't sit in your ivory tower and say you know what the peasants go thru to deliver your daily bread. You only learn what's REALLY going on by being in the trenches. All CEO's should have to come up thru the company----or at the very least, have to spend a year's time on the production floor so he knows the business from the ground up. When these CEO's rule from the top down, the lowest they get is to the company president's office.

I don't think you're being wimpy,behaviorkelton, because you worry about all the things that can befall you. I think you're being realistic. It's the fool who sits and thinks, "this won't happen to me." If God allows you to get old, it's a blessing. If God allows you to get old, it's a curse. ALL of life is a double-edged sword and you have to make the right choices or get a big old slap in the face. You have a duty to protect yourself, best you can. Any risks you take in life should be calculated risks. Not crazy, foolish,"take your life in your hands" kind of risks. Those who depend on you would not look kindly on the fact that you've died at 50, because of no health care,when you COULD have lived till 80 with it. Don't diminish your worth to the world and those around you.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 9:44AM
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It's not so much wanting to live to be 80 as wanting to live to whatever age you can attain in comfort.

If you get cancer or a neurological disease like Parkinson's, MS, Alzheimer's, or ALS and don't have health insurance or much money, you will suffer a lot more than if you do. Those who remain healthy are subsidizing those who don't, but I think it's better for society.

(It really burns me, though, that the taxpayers are subsidizing the health care and retirement income of all these "big government is bad" and "national health insurance is socialism" politicians -- but that's getting into another topic entirely!)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 11:55AM
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I'm not so sure it is foolish to take one's life into one's hands, it's just another choice to be made.

Deciding to live without answering to "the man" and taking the risks that go along with it is a fine choice if it's what you're into.

Frankly, I can sit down at any mean with a group of people and I can point to over half of them that appear to be killing themselves with cholesterol, high fat, and high calorie food.... very risky behavior. Of course, these same folks may have large 401ks, pensions, and health care.

Pick your poison. Make your choices.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 7:26PM
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Harriet., you and I definitely on the same page. In my view we already have national healthcare for every single local, state, federal employee who taps into "paid" healthcare. SOMEONE is paying the TAXES that provides that healthcare policy. 44 million people are likely paying taxes in one way or another but can't afford health insurance. Another untold number of millions are also paying taxes and are barely able to hold onto their policies when faced with premiums that increase every single year (I'm in that group).

Clearly, we already HAVE national healthcare. Paid for by a lot of people who can't partake of it. It's NOT fair, and it's not the "greatest health care in the world" if you can't afford it, or are likely to lose your home because you've already spent your savings to pay for the treatment you've already received.

John McCain is a wealthy man. His wife is fabulously wealthy. If neither he nor she was fabulously wealthy he wouldn't be able to get coverage because of his "pre-existing" condition.

They may pull this one, you guys... but "I calls 'em as I see 'em"!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 5:10PM
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Thanks, Chelone ... I try to do that, as well.

But often I have to bite my tongue, around here.

As for lifestyle ... "Canadian MoneySaver" magazine regularly carries articles by a guy who retired at age 34. He later wrote a book, "STOP Working ... Here's How YOU Can" ... and I think that he wrote another, since.

When there was the fuss a while ago (a couple of years ago) about the increased price of gas, he said that he felt a bit badly when he pulled up to the pump ... but not too badly, for a substantial portion of his investments are in oil and gas shares.

He said later that he'd bought Bank of America shares when they'd dropped ... and they've dropped more since. Starbucks, too, I think.

And, depending on how long ago he bought them, even if the value on NYSE stayed the same ... he's lost quite a bit of value due to the increase in the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar in the past half dozen years or so: the reverse of from 65 - 69 cents or so to about par, recently.

When I worked as a minister, I said that I liked my work and would continue something like it even if unpaid, as I found it both interesting and enjoyable, and somewhat challenging at times, plus felt that it was helpful in the community.

Then my ex- chose to live on her own, which didn't happen in clergy circles 35 years ago ... so my career sort of went up in smoke.

I worked at some different kinds of work for some time and back in ministry for a short while.

I was quite bitter about the whole experience, didn't get near church more than once or twice a year for over 10 years.

People said that I should return, that I belonged there.

I said that for there to be reconciliation, usually there needs to be some give on both sides ... and institutions of any kind aren't inclined to do that ... including church institutions.

I have kept my concern to treat others well and be concerned for the community, local, regional, national and international.

And, as someone else gave as his/her concern, to take an interest in a wide variety of issues, including for me relating to the health of our world.

I hope that you're all having an interesting and enjoyable weekend, including learning something new and somewhat challenging.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 9:38PM
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I've said to a number of folks, over the years, that

-on the day that we start work, we have brains and hands at work ... and no money, and

-on the day that we retire, we have brains and money at work ... and no hands.

If we have fewer needs that we feel the need to fulfill, over the years, it allows us to save more, to fund our retirement.

And that retirement will not need to be so expensive, so we'll need a smaller fund at the time of retirement to be able to function throughout our retired years.

Which would mean that we could retire earlier.

If, during the years, we learn how to manage our money skilfully, we'll very likely have it grow faster. Added to which, we pay less to the guys/gals whom others pay a fee to manage theirs.

Which mans that that date at which we may be able to support ourselves for the remaining years of life arrives even sooner.

Hay goes farther if we're feeding a goat rather than a cow!

ole joyful ... more goat than cow ... I think (no bull).

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 11:36PM
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