29 Aug The Space of Freedom w/ Vicki Robin
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It was in August 2010 that I first read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez. It transformed my relationship with money, changed my life, and started my financial independence journey.
Vicki Robin wrote the foreword to my Financial Freedom book and I’m honored to call Vicki both a co-creator and friend. We are currently working together in many ways to help making financial independence accessible to all. This episode was recorded live outside on a cool summer day on Whidbey Island, Washington.
Financial Freedom Podcast Episode 4: The Space of Freedom w/ Vicki Robin
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I’ve had the pleasure of working with Vicki to spread Your Money or Your Life around the world. If you’d like to learn more about the book we’ve developed a completely free 5 day email course that teaches you the core lessons of the book through email. You can sign up here.
Full Transcript (I’ve added headers that make it easier to find key topics!)
Grant: Hey everyone and welcome to the financial freedom podcast. I’m really excited today to have someone who’s really had one of the biggest impacts on me in my life. Vicki Robin, the author of Your Money or Your Life. In August 2010. I discovered Your Money or Your Life when I was beginning my financial independence journey, and it’s really the book that started it all for me. The simple premise that whenever you’re working, you’re trading your life energy for money really completely blew my mind and set me on a path to make more money in less time and I’m really excited that over the years, past couple of years, Vicki and I have gotten to know each other and hanging out now together outside. Beautiful Day. Couldn’t ask for a better sunnier day. Here on Whidbey Island, Washington. Hey Vicki, welcome to the podcast.
Vicki: Thank you. Grant.
Grant: I wanted to dive into the idea of freedom and wanted to start really with what does financial freedom mean to you?
Vicki: There’s an element of financial freedom that is social, that is a sense of justice. It’s, it’s, um, and when the system tears apart as it is now with Uber rich and, and stagnant middle class and sort of a lower class that’s losing ground. Even though the minimum wage is ratcheting slowly up. In a circumstance like that. I don’t think anybody feels free. And even the people with wealth don’t feel free because they’re in a more, is always better mentality. So, so you know, if one yacht is good, two is better, three is better. I mean we just found out that Betsy Devos has 10 yachts. I mean, I don’t know what you can do with 10 yachts or people have yachts within yachts, they have little mini yachts inside big yachts. So I’m not sure that anybody in this whole system feels that sense of freedom, which you would be a relaxation, a sense that I don’t need anymore.
Financial Freedom vs. Financial Independence
Vicki: I’m just fine as I am. I can move around this world and have enough on a consistent basis. So for me, that’s part of financial freedom is justice is a social context. Another part of financial freedom is, is an inner dimension that can be created whether or not everybody else has more than you, which is a, an ability to know what you, what really makes you happy. What’s your enough point, as we say in Your Money or Your Life. So how do you create that inner sense of freedom? And I don’t mean that, that, you know, sort of extremely spiritual sense of freedom where the material world is, um, isn’t material to you? You know, I don’t mean that, I mean that psychological capacity to know yourself and know how much is enough. We talked about financial independence and I distinguished between independence and freedom. Independence is the ability to get away from things I’m independent from. If there’s some environment that’s toxic, I can get away from it. And freedom is, is a different. It’s like in a different dimension. It’s a, it’s a sense that I can expand in time, space and consciousness.
It’s expansive without being intrusive or predatory. It’s just this sense that there are no constrictions anywhere you choose to roam. Not, as I say, not predatory, not invasive, but just this ease that I can be wherever I am. And so being able to deconstruct the consumer culture, the, the, the engine that generates unmet needs beyond your enough point is I think the first step and the main step to financial freedom. I’ve seen a lot of people on what they consider to be the FIRE path, which is very material, you know, it’s like I’m gonna earn, earn more, or spend less save like, you know, save 20, 30, 50, 80 percent of my income. It’s sort of a numbers game rather than a freedom game and there’s some goal out there called a million dollars or whatever you define as enough for you. I have friends who say they need $10 million because they’re going to be philanthropists was part of it and I think in a way they’re just habituated to working. So it’s not for me, it’s not mostly material. It’s this sense of enoughness from having really examined your choices.
Grant: So one of the things I remember reading your money your life at 24, you know, kind of not knowing where I was going with my life, but really loving the idea that enough was more than a number, that it was a state of being, that it was a feeling. I couldn’t remember a time when I had felt sort of more empowered that I didn’t need to let the world set this limit or set this number, but I could actually through both questions that were somewhat tangible around how much money have I made in my life and how much do I have and how much am I actually earning per hour. But also this more ethereal sort of question of what do I value? What makes me happy? You know, those two sides of really the same coin I’d never heard that other side.
Ultimately what was really empowering for me was that I could choose. I can choose the limit or I could choose the number. I could choose the feeling that I didn’t need the outside world to kind of dictate who I was, which to me was more of a life philosophy, uh, than a money philosophy. But money just was the door. It was like money allowed me to engage or start understanding a deeper, a deeper conversation. So what do you tell maybe the kid in college now or the 22 year old or the 25 year old, you know, listening to this who just feels not only stuck but really kind of constrained, you know, whether it’s by their job or something in their life and you know, maybe they don’t know what enough means to them. What, what are kind of those first few steps that someone can take to beyond the numbers in a really start asking those questions and figuring out what, what, what enough means to them as really kind of that first step?
How much is enough?
Vicki: That’s a great question. It’s sort of like we’re at sea or were in bumper car that other people are bumping and we don’t know. So we need to find the steering wheel. That’s the thing, you know, to have some control, you need to find the steering wheel and for me the steering wheel is the ability to reflect on your behavior in light of is it really working for you, is the money you’re spending, buying you a life you love, and so because of that, every single purchase, any anytime you’re interacting with money, you’re receiving it, you’re spending it, you’re saving it. You can always introduce that question, those questions that you mentioned and in your money or your life that we suggest four questions. First question is, is the money I’m spending, which we translate into life, energy is the life energy. I’m spending to earn this money to buy this item. Is it making me happy in proportion to the hours I spent to get the money?
And and so happiness in our society is sort of this elusive thing that we all feel like we’re entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Well, I’m an American. I should be happy. I should get happiness and if, if, if, if I’m happy because I get a Starbucks every morning or coffee on the way to work. I mean, I’m not going to withhold that from myself, you know, there’s sort of this entitlement and this grudge and this sort of compensatory spending like, you know, I hate my job and so I really got to have like five beers on the weekend, you know, so I deserve that. And you just don’t take into account number one that you’re basically, you’re buying your next 10 hours at work by your five beers and on Friday night, you know, you got to say, is it worth it to me? And maybe the first beer is, and the second beer maybe, but it may be the third, fourth and fifth are completely unconscious. So do you want to do that? So it’s like just saying is this making me happy? And, and at what point am I happiest in this consumption?
Um, so whether it’s in beers or coffees or lunches out or, you know, buying clothes or your new technology, whatever it is, you just say, is this going to make me happy? And then the second one is, is this taking me in the direction I want to go? You know, what’s my life for most people in your life is only for, I don’t know, you know, like we’re not taught what our lives are for. We’re, we’re, we’re for a career. I guess it’s a career, you know, it’s like, it’s like my generation. You could ask a little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up? When I was five and there’s three things we could be, we could be a nurse, we can be a teacher or what was the other thing? We could be a secretary. We had nurse, teacher secretary is very uncomplicated. Uh, and uh, it was a very stable society and there was fitting in was sort of what, what you wanted to do.
Now it’s just like, it’s a free for all. So basically we haven’t had an opportunity really to reflect on our values. Maybe our church, maybe our parents really taught us, but not everybody has that. So basically you got to buy the beer and the second beer and the third, fourth and fifth, and you say, is this taking me in the direction I want to go? Well, the first beer you’re, you’re out with your buddy. You’re both enjoying each other’s company and you’re doing a little bit of networking and you know, it’s sort of substitute for your therapist. I mean that first beer really works. Maybe the second beer really works, but after a while you and your buddy are drunk and nothing’s going on. You know. So it’s like, is the expenditure that my life energy taking me where I want to go in life, is it adding value to my life? Am I prouder of my life because I’ve engaged in this and there is no particular item with their fulfills this. You know, for one person, a pair of running shoes is completely aligned with their values to get healthy run every morning.
Another person, it’s just a fashion statement and they already have a pair of running shoes. So there’s no answer to this, this is only your answer. Then the third one is, if I didn’t have to work for money, if my time where my own would I be buying this? And that reveals to you two things. Number one, the things you’re buying for yourself to compensate for not liking your job. So that’s, you know, well no, this would go away. I don’t need to do this. Um, and then the other, the other way is if I didn’t have to pony up so much energy for a job, if I were able to move to a small town and you know, just a volunteer or work in a coffee shop, you’re just do whatever really pleased me. Would I be buying another pair of running shoes when having a pair of running shoes? I mean, it just gives you a chance to think about that. Life devoted to money is only one way to live your life. Then the fourth question, which is really the kicker, which is, is, you know, if everybody did this, would the world be a better place? I mean, let’s just that. What if everybody did this question, um, and see what that does to your spending. So as I say in the book, no shame, no blame, no expectations, observe when you’re spending money with this sort of like, sly irony, like who wins if I buy this, am I really a winner? If I buy this or engage in this or pay for this thing, am I winning? Or some like producer winning.
Grant: I think the level of mindfulness is, is extremely important. Uh, you know, at 24, if you asked me what made me happy, I couldn’t give you an answer to that. And one of the things that I think’s interesting is that when you sort of lead with money as the site of inquiry and you really bring somewhat deep philosophical inquiry to kind of everyday purchases, those purchases are kind of the level they’re the level of life. It’s a level of granularity that through that questioning of the granularity, your values actually start to shape. Or if you don’t know what makes you happy, that becomes the site of discovery. And so asking yourself, oh, okay, how did I feel when I bought this? How did I feel tomorrow when I bought this, you know, did I regret it? Did I like it? It make me happier. Was I buying it for some other reason? I like to say money is a reflection of who you are and if you can look at how you’re spending your money, it can make you feel really uncomfortable because you’re like, oh, I didn’t realize that, wow, you know, I spend $500 a month drinking, you know, that that’s, you know, or that’s who I am, or I’m buying a ton of shoes or a ton of clothes.
And bringing that level of mindfulness. It’s kind of like a reveal of who you actually are and where you’re directing your life energy through money. You know, you’ve spent, you know, quite a bit of time writing about money. You’ve been all over the world talking about it, you know, you’ve lived many different lives. What are some of the things that are different today or maybe some of the challenges that you see that are different today for young people or for people that maybe weren’t as challenging, you know before. And the only reason I asked this as we were talking about just kind of the pace of life, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about that this week of just we’re entering this hyper, this hyper competitive, hyper sort of real world where everything’s moving so quickly. Can you talk a little bit about what you’ve seen over the years and how you’re, how, you know, is it easier to become financially independent? Is it more challenging?
Is it easier or harder to reach financial independence?
Vicki: Yeah. It’s like, I feel like this is the granny question. Oh when I was a girl when I graduated from college. Number One, a college degree was sufficient. Very few people. Unless you had a professional interest, you didn’t go on for master’s and you didn’t. And a phd was like, you know, maybe if you’re advancing in your career. But uh, so the time of education and the cost of education is so much more that we also. When I was a girl, I’m a City University in New York was free. It was free, just like your New Yorker. The state school was very inexpensive, you know, like $30 a credit. We had state schools that if you stayed in state and you went to the state school and some of them were like super excellent. Some of them were good, you know, some of them were mediocre.
But you could get a very good college education for not much money. So one of the things that’s different is that compared to middle class incomes, the price of college has just skyrocketed. And yet the uh, the sense that you need not only the BA but you need an advanced degree. The sense that everybody’s competing with everybody and you have to keep climbing up on top of people’s shoulders. And so you get the Phd and the POSTDOC and you still can’t get a job. You’re still like a Barista in a coffee shop or you’re still doing entry level work. You’re still, you know, like a sales clerk and maybe you’ve like advanced to a sort of middle manager. But still, you didn’t get a PhD for that, so that’s a very different condition and I think that my generation is encouraging people to go to college because our experience was that it did make a difference. So that’s one thing that I see younger people hobbled by debt that is un-payable sure. It’s just some un-payable. You’re not going to have enough years. You could figure this thing out, you know, like how much in cost of living and how much you’re earning and taxes and all that stuff. And you’re just like, Oh man, I’m just like, I’m going to die with this debt. And then it’s also just simply to say that I think probably when I graduated from college, maybe there were 4 billion people on the planet. So it’s almost doubled in my lifetime in this part of my life. And so it means that there’s just more people competing for houses.
I mean New York City has not added land on. You know these cities have distinct boundaries because they’ve just mean you can go further and further out into the country, but if you want to be in the city, you know, like, like I spent, I lived for a couple years in Brooklyn and when I was in my early twenties. The apartment was $110 a month. It was a one room apartment that was $110 a month. It was a lovely garden apartment in Park Slope in Brooklyn. And there were other neighborhoods that were just considered completely unsafe. Now they’re all Shishi neighborhoods and so we’re have the people who lived in those neighborhoods gone? So basically we’re multiplying species without multiplying the space of the planet. As a matter of fact, we’re occupying more space on the planet. So that’s also, there’s a sense of being in competition, being crowded, being the, you know, there’s 50 people just like you on your block in the city, you know, so that can create a lot of stress.
Like, how do I, how do I make my way in a world where there’s not a lot of open slots and I think, um, I, you know, the other thing was I got my first, I got my first credit card when I graduated from college I graduated from Brown University and they sent out these credit cards, which we do not know what it was, you know, and it just seemed irrelevant to me. So if you think about how credit cards, unsecured debt have potentiated overconsumption, which is potentiated, people getting so leveraged, so leveraged. So the credit card debt is also another issue and people have not been educated. That’s the other part of it is, is we need financial education commensurate with the complexity of the money system that we live in now. And there’s no financial education so people don’t know how to manage their credit cards. You know, people think, oh, financial education. People in my generation say financial education. Oh, people should know how to balance their checkbook. Well no, people need to know how to open a, you know, I’m an account with Vanguard or an account with Fidelity, they need to know how to sign on to mint.com and hookup all their banks. They need to know how to track their money, they need to know, they need to be able to pay their credit cards off on time so they’re not incurring massive, massive amount of interest payments. All of this is not being taught. So that’s the other thing is young people are, are just slipping into debt unwittingly in and so, and then the level of advertising is, is so much more. I mean, you know, you go into the supermarket, there didn’t used to be ads, there wasn’t, there weren’t even these newspaper or fillers in the newspaper. Now this like the floor and the beep beep and the lights and all of that stuff. So, so consumer resistance is harder. So, you know, it’s like the pressures on young people are immense. And I think also the way the economy is being structured right now, this, this favoring of the wealthy, is, um, is making it harder for people, you know, that your general public to find a job that will pay them enough so they can afford their rent.
Grant: One of the things that I think has made a huge difference in my life is that at some point, and it was probably a certain level of financial freedom probably when I had $100,000 and I was like, you know, I could live for two, three years on this amount of money. I felt a level of sort of freedom that I didn’t have to worry as much about what was going on in the outside world or the speed. It was really the first time in my life when I started going inside and cultivating. I think trying to cultivate. I’m not saying I did, but trying to cultivate a level of freedom in myself that no matter what job I had or where I was living, I could carry with me.
And one of the things I defined myself by my job, my company. How much money I was making, how good I was at selling, but I, I knew that a, that probably wasn’t going to last and I really didn’t want it to last. And so what was I going to be able to carry on with me? Uh, you know, beyond that. And I had to have enough money to have the space with which to do that. But can you talk a little bit about how I really do believe in. I’d love your thoughts that kind of going inside and creating that space of freedom within you is a way to not only kind of protect you from this speed but, but help you situate yourself in a world that is increasingly uncertain and fragmented and yeah, move moving faster than ever.
Freedom is within you
Vicki: Yeah. That’s an interesting question because when I think about my own sense of ease, it’s not only my capacity to not just reflect, not just meditate like, okay, I’ve meditated for 20 minutes, but it’s like taking a shower. But, um, I think it’s more like a thirst for facing myself and knowing myself so that anything that comes up for me becomes a site of personal growth, you know, so like a failed relationship, most of us, like don’t want to touch it. It’s like a hot potato. We don’t want to touch it. We just bury in the subconscious and go on. But for me, like a failed relationship is like, oh, why did it fail? What do I, what can I learn about this? What were my expectations? What was that person’s projections was I like really enjoying the projections and not taking responsibility for things that I, everything is sort of grist for the mill for me.
And when you, when you live that way, you develop a lot of space around things because there’s nothing you’re running away from or there’s nothing you’re hankering after so that you are collapsing the space because you’re running or you’re running toward or away. So I think that, that, um, that willingness to face yourself as a matter of fact, not just willingness, like eat, I don’t want to do it, but I’ll have to, you know, not like hygiene but, but, but that thirst to know yourself in the fullest sense possible because there’s only one person who is going to be with you from birth to death. And that’s you. The more you know yourself, the more you accept yourself, the more you can be with yourself, the more you can really tune in. What do I really like to do? Who am I really, you know, what kind of friends do I really want are the people who are my friends really my friends, you know, it’s like, it’s actually kind of a detachment without being, um, aloof. This is like it’s all good and I can choose. So I think that is a big space of freedom.
And I have to say that I think one of the things that’s disappeared from the mix for most people is a sense of community. So it’s not just I’m here and I have three friends. One of my friends is like in New York and other friend is in Chicago and another friend in San Francisco, uh, or I have 200 friends on facebook. It’s like, it’s like we, it’s like a me, myself, and I am the center of the universe and I can’t count on anything else. So I am always cast with building these separate relationships, all of which can fall apart and that the people are not connected with each other. I think one of my great feelings of freedom is the feeling that I belong in a community that is, that was here before me, is here now. It will be here after me. That there are people who know me. I, when I first moved here, I said, you know, I may be the village idiot, but I am their village idiot. I belong here. And so there’s a container for my life. It’s not just that the container is internal, like I am aware, but the container is a surround. And that also educates you about, you know, about a sickly manners, manners, courtesy, consideration. Uh, when we’re, when we’re so focused on ourselves, we can lose track of how our lives impacted their people.
But when you, you know, if you build a container, a sense of belonging in a real community place where not only do I know people, I know the trees, I know where the mushroom, I wish I knew where the mushrooms were in the forest and nobody’s telling me, but I could know. So it’s this feeling of I am part of the life of a place and I think it’s so available to everybody you can, you can feel that in, you know, in a city where you hanging out in the same coffee shop, you say hi to people everyday. There’s. So I think that’s an important part that drops out of consideration when people are trying to optimize their own lives. It’s, which is a very self focused, um, pursuit.
Grant: Yeah, I think a lot of people younger, older, the response to this increasing pace is to numb, you know, you use TV rates. You know, watch rates going up. Average American spends five or six hours a night, you know, literally checking out, you know, into a television show and you know, I know there’s really good shows on Netflix and I understand that it’s fun to be entertained and dive into that, but it does definitely require some time and some space with which to confront these edges, you know, that you’re talking about and or also cultivate community and form relationships. It’s hard to build relationships when you’re watching your TV or stuck in your phone all the time.
I think a lot of people out there lonely and they’re looking at, it’s almost like they’re watching a race and they’re seeing the race go faster and faster and faster. And I think with the increased suicide and depression, anxiety rates, you see people kind of selectively opting out or not understanding or not belonging and belonging is so important and so hard to get in our hyper individual age. You know, you touched on, you know that someone even in a city can go into a coffee shop and start talking to people. I’ve spent some time with you now here in your community and just see how many people you know and the routines and you know, you’re very rooted in this place. How can someone be create routes, even within, you know, a city or within, you know, no matter where they’re living, you know, how can you build not only a sense of community but you know, even maybe realize that you don’t necessarily have to play the game that’s currently going on. You can make your own game in some sense.
Vicki: Yeah, I think, you know, it’s a funny thing, but I think developing a routine where you show up, you do your volunteer work in the playground once a week and yeah, so you’re working five days a week but from nine to five. But there is always an opportunity to join a group of people who are doing something good. Or you have a walking club and you go to your walking club every Saturday morning and they might not all be people you find the most interesting. But eventually you belong to that. People like, Oh, you weren’t here last week, you know, we’re, we’re you. That sort of thing. It’s so mundane. But having routines where other people begin to include you in their world makes a difference. You lose some of your anonymity. I mean, a lot of people live in cities because they want to be anonymous. They because they’ve lost the habit of belonging. So I think that’s one thing. I think another thing that’s really wonderful is, you know, every city there’s like natural areas and so you, it’s called in some circles, a sit spot.
You picked a place, a bush, a tree, crack in the sidewalk. Whatever you pick a place for the natural world is going through the natural world’s changes show up every day and you just sit there for 15 minutes and you begin to see, you know, you begin to see how the ants go. You begin to see that the grass has developed a stock and now it’s seeding and now it’s flowery. You see the cycles of nature. So you start to belong to the natural world. So a lot of this is like regularity. It really actually, you know, it’s like, or meditation, you know, it’s like you have a meditation practice even better join a meditation group, so on there is day, afternoons after work, everybody gets scared and you know, in the morning, um, and his son, instead of just doing yoga or sort of like zipping into yoga class and leaving, you recognize this is a community. People you’re part of. These are, these are the sorts of regular activities that create a sense of belonging.
Grant: Yeah. That you can’t over optimize. I mean those regular activities of showing up and being subject to, you know, the rhythms of someone else or maybe something not working perfectly or maybe a class getting canceled, you know, there’s not only a, a vulnerability there, but there’s a sort of surrender to this idea that you have to let life some of life happen. You know, you can’t put it within, you know, you can’t. You can’t show up to a five minute meditation and expect to go deep or five minute coffee and expect to get to know someone. Which, which truly exists. Someone reached out to me and literally asked if I had time. They asked me, do you have time for a four minute call? They wanted to get to know each other in a four minute phone call. And I was like, uh, we’ve reached, we’ve reached the edge here,
Vicki: But you know, perhaps that person presumed that you’re so busy that you know, and that they were low status in your high status. And so they sort of, they sort of computed all those factors as well. If I were higher status thing grant that I could ask him for 20 minutes, but I’m lower status. But I think what you said, you know, like you can go to yoga and try to optimize your yoga and then you’re not part of the community. You’re in competition with the community, your show off in the community, you know, you sort of make everybody feel intimidated because you can like put your head up your ass. So, so, so yeah, if you know that, that mindset of optimization, I mean, yes, let’s be as healthy as we can be, but if that is yet one more self focus, then you are in the yoga class. You’re in your own competition with yourself.
Grant: Yeah. Let’s, let’s, uh, branch off that for a second. As a really, you know, the originator of the FIRE movement, the financial independence movement, the, your money, your life has spawned so many subcultures and different groups of people. To me, money and even in myself at some point, money optimization became money addiction in another forum. It was another side of the coin instead of a consumer. I was an over optimizer instead of spending on things that I really loved and enjoyed. I just didn’t spend money at all. Instead of living, I kind of retreated into my spreadsheet and I see that kind of pretty prevalent in some areas of the FIRE world, and I’m not gonna put words in your mouth by any means, but as someone. As the originator of what’s a subculture that’s taken on many iterations and forums and now you’ve had the last year to get to know a lot of the FIRE people, you know, if you could, could, could give one message to the, to the people that are part of this movement that, you know, maybe something they should focus on that they’re not, or something that they’re missing or, what would you, what would you say to them?
The FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) Movement
Vicki: Oh, the several branches from what you said. One is that I originally, we started doing the seminars and the context of basically a commitment to being of service in the world, uh, to give sharing tools for becoming conscious of resource flows. We never even considered money as what we were teaching. We thought we were teaching consciousness and the money was the occasion for teaching awareness, consciousness, love, connection. Devotion. Devoting your life to something, you know, like the Buddhists, you know, when they meditate, not necessarily American Buddhist, but the Buddhist I’ve known like in Thailand, they and maybe American Buddhist, but they dedicate the merit of every meditation to the wellbeing of all living beings. The merit is not their own. It’s not for their own evolution. It’s dedicating the merit.
So there’s always an awareness that you’re living your life in service to the wellbeing of all life, including yourself. Not like, you know, like selfless service where you’re just like you’re forgetting about yourself in a destructive way. Uh, so those were the people we were trying to serve. You know, people who had either an antipathy to money or they had no idea about money. Uh, and so helping people, you know, people live with a political agenda, social change agenda, permaculture, Jane. You know, but they, we were serving the, the, if you will, to change the world. People, the people who knew that their lives were for something greater than just money, but they didn’t understand money. So we help them understand money. Uh, and so, and also it was a fair, fairer world, it was where we started teaching in 1980. That was like when Reagan started to like, like jigger the economy. So that started to pull apart. Uh, so I mean like a hotel maid, I’m a janitor or a garbage collector. I mean these are the people who are writing to us about being on the FI path and what their dreams were and how they were going to realize their dreams. So that was then and now when I encountered the FIRE movement and I like the people a lot. I’m not saying I don’t like the people really cool, fun, crack up, have a great time people, but they don’t seem to have an aspiration. It’s like there’s, there’s nothing that they’re dedicating their FI to. And so I’ve watched people who fire get a Fi, um, and they, I’ve see some sort of sometimes floundering or you know, pretty much like I’m going to do bodybuilding, learn to play a musical instrument and travel. Those are like the three things I see. But those are not, those are, those are wonderful ways to occupy your time, but it doesn’t have any coherent purpose to it. So I’m curious about that. It’s it, it surprises me. And it shouldn’t really, because, you know, back in the day, the people who are most successful with the FI program we’re engineers.
It just surprised me because I was so on the right brain artists’ side, uh, but I noticed that the people actually got to financial independence where it had a more of an engineering mind like Joe who was an engineer. So for me, financial independence, I was so happy with like freeing my mind, not having debt, having my basics covered. I lived for six years of my life on just over $100 a month. I mean, that was just enough, you know, because what I wanted to have life experience, I wanted to like learn, grow, connect, uh, help people. And so, so for me it was just the foundational capacity to liberate my time for things that really mattered to me. So if there were something I were to recommend to people in fire, it’s not like, you know, bad little people go out and volunteer someplace because volunteering can be pretty boring. But to think about, you know, what do I really care about and what can I do now in service to something I really care about, whether it’s donating a little bit of money or you know, if you want to be an artist, you need to do a little art, you know, or just join a community theater or you know, what can you do now that stretches you in the direction of something that you might think at the end of your life. You go like, wow, now that was a really well spent life. Those sorts of things to cultivate that and read books, you know, who do you like the books that inspire you? You know, for some people it’s the Bible and the Koran or you know, the Tao Te Ching, um, but, but read some things that just look for inspiration.
Vicki: Or dedicate your passion to the precision of numbers to making a scientific breakthrough on something that would actually save a species. I, I just heard a talk by a very famous mycologist who just, who just fell in love with mushrooms early in his life and his studied mushrooms and he’s discovered things about mushrooms and I’m not talking about psychedelic mushrooms. I’m talking about the whole domain of mushrooms and the healing power of mushrooms. And he’s then he developed a company that, that actually processes these medicinal mushrooms so that people can actually buy capsules with it, you know. So, but he’s continuing to research what is the Mycelium, why do mushrooms go the way to do what is, you know, what is, what are the compounds that are in mushrooms?
What else can they do? You know, you take on something, you, you know, you find a little something that you love and then you say, I’m going to investigate this such that it’s not just me getting high on mushrooms or something, but I’m going to investigate it in such, with the idea in mind that devotion to learning about this thing that is called me. I could discover something that’s gonna make the world a better place. I think. I think that sense is life will never be boring. Life will never be boring. Uh, and so for me, even teaching the, your money or your life program, it was nothing about Vicky or fame or it was just simply that I thought this little routine. I thought because I became aware that that in the late eighties that overconsumption was the biggest driver of environmental destruction. And when I found that out and I found out how it’s affecting species and how it’s affecting the ocean and how it’s affecting the coral and now it’s affecting the climate.
But nobody had the answer to overconsumption have we do, you know, because we had been teaching this for 10 years. I was unstoppable for a decade and was it fabulous. It was tough and I was embarrassed and I was lonely and I was like the low man on the totem pole I was ever, ever was on. But that sense that, you know, I’m, I’m part of something that is grander than I am, was just the biggest high it was. And it’s available to everybody because it doesn’t matter what your interest, you’d be interested in, you know, computer technology or growing, you know, begonias. It doesn’t matter what your entry point is, just something that calls you, that, you know, you’ll do whether they pay you or not, that it’s like you wake up on Saturday morning, he said, how am I going is doing, you know, that feeling, that feeling of connection with something that is not you that is alive.
Um, and then following, you know, like investing, love and attention. I was like, I started gardening a number of years ago, a million years ago, and then I got interested in botany and, and my interest in botany. I went to, uh, went to college. You know, I just sort of like arranged that I could go to the Botany course. Cool. Because I was so fascinated and I was able to recognize what the, what the vegetative world was doing and every season, you know, I could see, I could see the buddying, you know, leaf scars. I could see what was happening with the leaf scars in February because I could read the spring was coming. It was like a. So I was engaged just because I gardened and I was curious about, you know, why the tomatoes died.
Grant: Yeah, no, it sounds like you let yourself grow and discover and you were curious. I think what holds a lot of people back is um, maybe a fear of growth. Maybe fear is not the right word, but I’m around money particularly, you know, there’s a level of precision that’s sold that’s kind of unrealistic. It’s like, how do you know how much money you’re going to need for the rest of your life when who you are next year could be an entirely different person. Can you talk a little bit about, is there an element of letting go to this whole money thing as part of the process that maybe people are missing?
Is early retirement the goal? What is real wealth?
Vicki: You know, I think, you know, we talked about FI, yeah, we didn’t talk about fire, right? Joe? Develop the system to retire early, but only I would say one percent of the people who read your money or your life or come to our seminars actually retired early and tried to live off of their interesting gum or their investment income for the rest of their lives. And um, so, but I think that everybody got something about what is money? What’s my relationship with money? What do I think I’m doing when I’m spending money or saving money? Am I a spend thrift in my, you know, what’s happening in my relationship with money when my app, what’s happening with my husband or wife or children about money.
Money became something that was way clear that you weren’t living the life of the society. Like society says, you know, you have this boring job, you do it, do it, do it so the clearer relationship with money produced in most people a sense of elevation and it wasn’t about retiring early and for me like, like I, I actually haven’t, you know, consciously intentionally worked for money in gobs of years, but I’ve earned money and I have more skills like, you know, they, I, I think I, I think young people can do serial sabbaticals, they can work and then save and then take the money and travel and explore and discover or take the money and go and get their graduate work if that’s what they want to do. And then they can do another procession and then during that they can learn something else that basically the mastery of money is not retiring early. It’s being at ease and uh, having a sense of competency, like in, in, in the new your money or your life. I really expanded in the notion of wealth because I don’t think money is wealth. I think your skills and competencies, your abilities, the things you can do for yourself that you can look at the table or a broken table or the broken chair, you can look at these things and they’re, they’re not like, Oh God, call somebody to do it for me. I know how I am a master of the technologies that are necessary for me to live my life. What a sense of empowerment.
So that is part of your wealth, uh, or, and then you’re the people who love you and you love. And there’s many people who, you know, when they ask the questions, is there anybody? How many people could you call in the middle of the night if you were in trouble? A lot of people don’t have anybody. So that sense of belonging is super important and you’re not gonna get it just by flitting around so that you know, that’s your wealth. And then, and then, then then the, the social safety net where you are the informal social safety net of neighborhoods and neighbors looking out of each other’s kids. The four kids, the formal set social safety nets.
That’s, that’s wealth. And we have collapsed all that down into money and we’ve collapsed meaning, purpose, identity, calling, devotion. We’ve collapsed all of that down into job. And so we have become competent in the, the true tasks of being a human, like we work from. We work from the day that, that the to the zygotes get together. I mean the job of growing a body, the job of learning, the culture of the job, of getting educated. That’s work. We’re always working. And it’s so exciting to apply yourself to things. Um, and just to, to conflate that with the job is, um, it’s a diminishment of the fullness of being a human. You know, it’s like we collapse it all down to me money and it’s like, no, you’re a, you’re a father, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a son, and a cousin. You’re, you’re, um, you’re connected.
Grant: Nice to sea plane going over. I feel you
Vicki: You feel, you start to focus on the fullness of your existence and then money can be put in its place and then you can be effective with it. And you can do. You’re optimizing and maximizing and minimizing. You can do all that stuff, but it becomes a sub routine, not the total routine.
Grant: Hey Vicki, it’s really been a pleasure to spend the past week with you. I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration and the guidance and the mentorship and the friendship and the co-creation. I’m excited for what’s ahead. thanks for taking the time to be on the podcast.
To learn more about Vicki Robin visit Your Money or Your Life.
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