Growing Financial Freedom is written by Michael Hoag, with Vicki Robin.
As someone who’s been around farming and homesteading for over 30 years, worked on farms at every scale, managed farm markets, worked on a commodities floor, worked with a food justice organisation and worked for a farm credit operation. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that it’s difficult to get folks in our community to talk or think about money seriously.
Often, I’ve got to push hard to get people in our community to accept that talking about money might just be nearly as important as eating weeds. No wonder the vast majority of homesteads and regenerative businesses go under. No wonder farms fail at a higher rate than any other business.
For some it’s just a worldly worry. For others in our movement it’s “the root of all evil”. I think that for some of us, money just doesn’t coordinate with our hippie fashion sense. But if we want to get serious about achieving our personal dreams and building a stronger, more effective movement for earth repair, then we need to start taking our financial design more seriously.
Changing your relationship with money
The book that completely changed my relationship with money and helped me become mindful about finances was “Your Money or Your Life” (YMOYL), by Vicki Robin. Vicki has a long history of involvement with permaculture, the Transition Movement, local food activism, and simple living. This book deserves to be on the bookshelf of every farmer, homesteader, activist, artist and permaculture designer. It teaches a strategy for freeing ourselves from the cage of consumer culture, debt and wage slavery, and climbing to the freedom of “Financial Independence,” or FI. This best-selling classic has helped many “FI’ers” to achieve the freedom to live on their own terms and it has inspired the trendy “FIRE” (Financial Independence/Retire Early) movement.
As a permaculture designer, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who fill up our PDC classes are FI’ers looking for meaningful ways to invest their time and resources. They’re folks who have achieved FI and can now put their money and energy where their values are. For Vicki Robin, that’s the point of financial freedom. “For me, FI has simply been the freedom to pursue a higher purpose – to grow spiritually, to learn, to create and to serve”. That is exactly what Vicki Robin’s has done.
After, co-authoring “Your Money or Your Life” with Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin has been free to put her energy into helping others achieve FI with the New Roadmap Foundation. She has served on the board of Transition US. Her book “Blessing the Hands that Feed US” covers her experiment with a 10-mile diet. She has also promoted investing in local organic farming.
Take a year off….
Vicki invites us all to imagine: what would we do if we could take a year off work to devote to our permaculture dreams? To which I’ll add: Imagine what we could accomplish if there was an army of permaculturists able to free up more time and capital to invest in creating permaculture projects and regenerative enterprises around the world….
Vicki says the barrier to this is that our systems for meeting our needs, including our financial needs, have broken down. The old economic dream of working a simple 40 hour week at a reliable job, owning a home, college for the kids, and retirement with time to enjoy the golden years has become a mirage for most people. Yet that remains the standard roadmap most of us are given to navigate our financial lives. As Robin says, “we need a new roadmap.”
So, what does the Your Money or Your Life new roadmap look like?
The first step is “freeing your mind from the grip of consumer culture. Realising you are being manipulated by culture, personal history, marketing, fashion, to spend money on so much that never brings out anything but clutter. The capacity to say no to false desires and feel smarter and freer rather than deprived, you’ve liberated your mind”. Unique for a “money book,” YMOYL is the most compelling and freeing critique of consumer culture and the financial trap of the modern economy that I’ve ever read. She shows how “we no longer live life, we consume it”. She gives primary source quotes to show how this economic prison was intentionally created through manufactured demand, debit, planned obsolescence, etc.
A natural match for us practical-minded permaculturists, it doesn’t end there. YMOYL walks us through a 9-step journey of tracking our spending. Evaluating it and plotting an escape plan that truly transforms our relationship with money and puts us on firm financial grounding.
The 9 steps
- Making peace with our past by calculating our life earnings and net worth.
- Understanding the hidden costs in our paychecks like transportation and clothing by “calculating our real hourly wage”.
- Tracking our expenses.
- Assessing whether our spending actually increases our fulfilment.
- Charting our money to give ourselves a visual representation of our progress.
- Spending less.
- Redefining work.
- Calculating our “crossover point,” the point at which we can live off our savings.
- Investing to meet that goal.
The real transformative power comes from actually going through the process. There’s still no better tool for changing our relationship with money than “Your Money or Your Life”.
As Vicki Robin points out, “freedom in our lives is a feeling of expansiveness after a time of constraint”. This new roadmap gives us many opportunities to “celebrate the breakthroughs along the way”. Deciding you don’t need those new clothes or that car payment can feel freeing. Achieving a slush fund to handle emergencies can feel freeing. Getting over the idea that we are defined by our work can set us free to do things that are more inline with our values. It can free us to invest in creating real abundance.
“The world needs you to show up and follow your dreams.”
For me, the real challenge and opportunity presented by “Your Money or Your Life” is to start taking ourselves seriously. To start really investing in ourselves and the future we want to see. Vicki says:
“Turning your avocation into income production doesn’t mean abandoning your values – it is sharing what you value with others in concrete, useful ways. Harvesting income from the hard work of entrepreneurship is ethical. Pioneers of frugality, simplicity and regenerative practices who “package” what they know for “delivery” to “markets” eager to get off the money-go-round do a great service as the world detoxes from industrial growth.”
If we can set our movement on better financial ground, then we will really have the resources to invest in regenerative projects. And we can help others find the same firm ground to build on. In that way, as a movement, we can start truly accumulating resources, social capital, and with those, the political capital necessary to influence larger systems.
This gives us the tools to slowly but surely accumulate real durable power. We can use this power to transform the world.
Once we’ve achieved that footing, we may have more freedom to live with purpose. As Vicki says:
“Entry points to having an impact are everywhere, from helping one miserable family member feel more buoyant… to influencing crowds of thousands who are like baby birds with their mouths open, seeking some guidance from somewhere. If they turn towards demagogues it’s just that people like you and me are not showing up fully to offer something better. It’s easy to organise around hate. Too many these days are doing it. It’s much harder to get millions, like flocks of birds, to respond to another signal and swoop towards love.”
So, now’s the time to ask yourself, which will it be: Your money or your life?
Today the question may be even more profound: Our money or our future? The choice is ours.
For more information, or to take our free course on Permaculture and Money, visit: www.TransformativeAdventures.org