More Than Money
Issue #3

Money, Work, and Self-Esteem

Table of Contents

“Your Money or Your Life”

Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Two years on the New York Times bestseller list, Your Money or Your Life challenges the common assumption that earned money is essential to self-esteem. It also contests the notion that only rich people can quit working for money. In their 20's and 30's, the authors decided that they had earned enough money to live off their investment income for the rest of their lives. How much is enough? Well, for twenty years now they have managed-no, thrived, they say-on about $6,000 a year each. (We visited them in Seattle, and yes, they have a decent home, a car....)

Hundreds of thousands of people are now using their 9-step method for "making a living instead of making a dying." Although each step sounds relatively simple, following the method faithfully seems to create a profound shift in how people view money, and ultimately, how they experience each moment of their lives. Penny Yunuba shared with us her successful experiences:

About 5 years ago, I was working 70 hours a week as a micro-computer salesperson earning $70,000 a year. I was in my late 40's, with my 3 children grown...did I really want to do this my whole life? From reading Your Money or Your Life , I saw I had been living in a little box, assuming I would work until I was 65 and then, as the reward at the end of my lifetime, retire and go to Florida. But how could I face myself in the mirror if I spent the rest of my life on unimportant things, just to make a living?

I started following the method in the book. I realized how little I actually earned per hour, if I included all work-related expenses-commuting, clothes, recovery time, etc.

I assessed every one of my expenses-my motivations for them and whether they were in alignment with my values. When I focused each day on the things I really valued, the results were amazing-I felt brought out of bondage to the money system, and into a real life. I discovered lots of inventive ways to save money. I moved to the basement of the house I own with my partner and rented out my room for $290 a month. Although I was attached to my car, I was ear-to-ear grins on the day I sold it and knew I wouldn't have to earn the $300/month to support it.

I'm now "retired," living on $450 a month. (Should I need it, I have $70,000 in an IRA, which should double by the time I'm 65.) Sure, living frugally feels hard sometimes-for instance, it's hard on my friends when I won't go to the theater with them. But the pleasures of my day-to-day life more than compensate for the sacrifices.

I love both what I'm doing and what I'm not doing. My life is no longer in the crazy rush I see all about me. For instance, my mom is 82 and doesn't talk well anymore. I have time to write to her every week. I volunteer-teaching English to immigrants at the high school, singing with a group in prisons and shelters, serving on Quaker committees-but preserve plenty of open time to meditate, to darn my socks, to listen to my friends and neighbors.

I've been "unemployed" now for four years, and it hasn't lowered my self-esteem in the least. On the contrary-I'm proud that I valued myself enough to craft the life I really wanted.


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