In 1992, the late Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin published Your Money or Your Life, a book summarizing their program for transforming one's personal relationship with money and achieving financial independence. The book quickly gained a wide readership of people unhappy with their life course and financial status. Some were interested only in the goal of financial independence, but many saw beyond that simple interpretation and, as Dominguez and Robin had intended, sought the full transformation from making a living to making a life. After the success of Your Money or Your Life, Dominguez and Robin were encourage by many to write a sequel that would tell the stories of real people who had followed the nine-step program and dramatically changed their lives for the better.
Over the years, Dominguez and Robin had made friends with fellow Seattle residents Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller, a couple who had begun the program in 1991. A casual conversation between Robin and Blix and Heitmiller in 1995 on the response to their Esquire article on their personal transformation led Vicki to suggest the couple might be the ones to write the follow-up to Your Money or Your Life. Two days later, the ball was rolling and the long-awaited companion book, entitled Getting a Life at Vicki's suggestion, became reality.
In the Introduction, Dominguez and Robin state that Blix and Heitmiller were right for the task: "They have accomplished a startling yet seemingly simple feat. They have given the rat race back to the rats." Blix and Heitmiller have chosen to tell their story in frank detail, supplementing it with the stories of other Your Money or Your Life practitioners (13 couples and 9 individuals) to prove that downscaling the material side of life leads, not to poverty and deprivation, but to a life rich in time, family, friends, skills, adventure, meaning and control.
"Simplifying your life will not be just about taking things away, but adding richness and quality to what you choose to experience," write Blix and Heitmiller. "The program in this book and Your Money or Your Life offer a holistic approach that uses consciousness about spending instead of external controls (budgets) to bring about change....The program not only made us realize the folly of the "more is better" treadmill but gave us a plan to get off."
Simplifying your life will not be just about taking things away, but adding richness and quality to what you choose to experience.Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller,
Getting A Life
The authors caution that the book is intended to be a guide of examples, not a rigid set of steps. "Our simplified life doesn't mirror any other because it is tailor-made for us....Your simplified life will probably be quite different than ours, but it will satisfy you."
Nevertheless, Getting a Life provides many insights and tips to making the changes that allow readers to regain control over their lives. Although money is the obvious main thread of the book, there are several others such as self-worth and gaining self-control, which weave the complete picture of what money means to each of us. Money has many faces some common, some unique but its essence is life energy, most often one's own but at times that of a loved one. Through tracking your life energy through the nine steps, patterns begin to emerge that make you wonder "Why am I doing this? Maybe there is a better way." Ursula Kessler realized through the process that she hadn't even recognized several important expense categories prior to tracking her expenses in detail.
Blix and Heitmiller note that too often readers of Your Money or Your Life have focused solely on the financial independence aspect of the program. Dominguez and Robin, however, had intended the FI acronym to include financial intelligence and financial integrity as equal supporting parts of a three-pronged view of personal finances. These latter aspects bring financial flexibility to one's life and allow a greater degree of security and options along the path to independence.
In the initial chapters of Getting a Life, Blix and Heitmiller present her story, his story and their story, the events that led to their decision to undertake the Your Money or Your Life program, and the initial steps they took to follow it. The authors then take the reader through the nine-step program using their personal financial status in 1991 as the example. If we consider Your Money or Your Life as the textbook for this course of inquiry, these chapters in Getting a Life are the practical, hands-on laboratory workbook.
I believe that Chapter 6 is one of the more valuable chapters in the book for those with a young family contemplating the road to FI. In fact, it could be the basis for a book on its own. Your Money or Your Children's Life explores bringing children into the Your Money or Your Life learning process. Such information should be part of the standard school curriculum. For those who are home-schooling their children, I recommend preparing lessons based on the concepts presented here.
Getting back to the idea of "the best" in life, we need to consider that "the best" goes beyond the tangibles into the realm of love and happiness.Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller,
Getting A Life
Chapter 7 explores the question of Who Am I Now? the consequences of change arising from following the program on personal self-esteem, particular those of us in North America who closely identify ourselves and others with our occupation or job title. It also discusses how changes in our lifestyle change our relationships with others, particularly close friends and family.
Chapter 8 looks at Your Money and Your Health how our view of money and our pursuit of it can affect our physical well-being. By gaining financial flexibility and some degree of financial independence, many people featured in this book have realized dramatic improvements in their physical, as well as mental, health.
Blix and Heitmiller begin Chapter 9 Simplifying Life by stating: "Simplifying life comes in as many shapes as the different people who attempt it....Paradoxically, simplifying is not a simple task because we live in a complex world." Adds Kevin Cornwell, the best advice he ever got on the process reminded him: "You are going to make mistakes because you're doing something you've never done before." The authors then briefly look at ways to: reduce stuff, simplify housing and find transportation alternatives. They also present some ideas on insurance, investing and saving, taxes, gift-giving, clothing and personal care.
Simplifying life comes in as many shapes as the different people who attempt it.Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller,
Getting A Life
Blix and Heitmiller end the book with The Way We Are, a view of their current lifestyle and perceived place in society. It ends by presenting their 1995 income/expense statement (to compare with their 1991 version). The Epilogue presents capsule reports on the current status of all people featured in the book.
Blix and Heitmiller are to be congratulated for a well-written book which will serve the reader in many ways. So too are they to be commended for being so open in relating their story in such intimate detail. They caught the true essence of the Your Money or Your Life program that there is more to it than just financial independence, it is a way, a path to a more fulfilling life.
Getting a Life puts a very personal face to the Your Money or Your Life program. It shows those preparing to embark on the adventure that they are not alone and that change is possible. I previously have wished that Your Money or Your Life and David Chilton's The Wealthy Barber had been available to me years ago rather than those yuppie "get rich quick" scheme books of the 1980s. I now add Getting a Life to complete the trilogy.
If you are looking for a great gift for someone beginning their life, in the process of major transitions, or thinking of major transitions, this book (and the other two) is one that will keep on giving for many years. After all, what is more precious, your money or your life?
Getting a Life: Real Lives Transformed by 'Your Money or Your Life' by Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller, Viking Penguin, New York, 1997, ISBN 0-670-87049-8
Reviewed by Keith C. Heidorn
July 17, 1998
Originally printed in Living Gently Quarterly, Vol 2 No 3 (Autumn 1998)Living Gently Quartery Reviews: Getting a Life: Real Lives Transformed by 'Your Money or Your Life' ©1998, Keith C. Heidorn. All Rights Reserved.
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