More of my thoughts on this awesome book: “Your Money or Your Life”
In the first chapter, you get a handle on your past earnings and current assets. The authors encourage you to add up EVERYTHING you’ve made in your lifetime including random sources of income like babysitting, odd jobs, and under the table tips. It was eye-opening to calculate the amount of money I’ve made so far in my life at the relatively young age of 25.
The point of the exercise is to reassure yourself that you’ve made good money in the past so any insecurities you may have about not making money in the future are unfounded. Then you add up all your current assets from IRAs to savings and checking accounts down through the antique silver service from your great aunt. You’re not encouraged to sell off your family heirlooms but it shows you where you’ve invested your income to date. You also review all debt, loans, etc. to calculate your net worth.
I roughly estimated the value of everything I own and found that my most expensive objects are: my computer, kitchen appliances and some antique furniture passed down to me that I treasure. All this led me to believe that most of my spending has been on consumable things, like travel and food. Makes sense. Also, luckily I’m not in debt from my undergraduate education and I haven’t had big medical bills or other financial troubles. It’s reassuring to feel like my spending priorities are mostly in line with my interests and I have a good foundation to build upon.
Their second chapter was really fascinating as the authors explore the psychology behind money on four different levels. The analogy they use is that of a cityscape: on the street level, on top of a highrise building, in a helicopter, and in a jet plane. On the street, money is purely transactional: credit cards, IRAs, savings accounts, and insurance are all represented here. Up in the highrise, the authors describe the psychology of money for the individual: does it equate to security or social status or is it the root of all evil? The helicopter view represents our society’s take on money or how Americans value things: i.e. the luxuries of fifty years ago, like two cars and a washer and dryer in each home, are today’s necessities. We all compare ourselves unconsciously (or not) to society’s yardstick for “making it”. Finally, in the jet plane: the authors offer a new way of seeing money as detached from the three previous paradigms. “Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.” They wrote this not once, but twice and in bold type. As dramatic as it seems, I agree with their statement.
Money can be so many things, but one thing it is not is finite; unlike our time. This stopped me in my thinking and made me realize how relatively easy it is to make money while making more time is impossible. And I pondered how totally absurd it is to trade something finite for something relatively inconsequential like money.
This reminded me of something brilliant from “What Color is Your Parachute?”: in working toward identifying the perfect job, the author advises the reader to list all activities they would do even if they were not paid for doing them. In other words, the best use of your time is to identify what things you love to do and then find the job that most closely matches them. So you get paid for doing what you love. It seems stunningly simple on the face of it but then again, I know lots of people do something less than what they love (maybe even something they hate) to make money.
I’ll admit I worry sometimes that “the perfect job” doesn’t exist and in “Your Money or Your Life” the authors argue that there is no “Job Charming”. In their estimation, paid work is just paid work and we should all define ourselves outside of the job we do. I know I am willing to work jobs that don’t complete me and have a self-definition outside the job; but maybe it’s equally important to do something meaningful while trading your life energy for money.
What do you think is worth trading your life energy for? Are you making money by doing what you love? If your income was completely secure and you could do whatever you love doing, what would you spend your time doing?