Book Reviews: Getting a Life: Real Lives Transformed by Your Money or Your Life, by Jacqueline Blix

Getting a life: Real Lives Transformed by Your Money or Your Life

by Jacqueline Blix & David Heitmiller

Viking Press, 1997

New York, NY

364 pages, $24 hardcover


Your Money Or Your Life (YMOYL), the well-known volume on how to straighten out your finances and simplify your life, now has a sequel. Getting a Life: Real Lives Transformed by Your Money or Your Life tells the stories of people who have followed YMOYL's nine-step program for getting out of debt and achieving financial freedom.

YMOYL tells us that money is just a symbol of the “life energy” you give away to a job in exchange for necessities and luxuries. It advises us to ask if what we're getting in exchange for money/life energy provides us with real fulfillment.

Getting a Life tells how 28 individuals and families are answering that question. It is also a travel guide that helps the reader through YMOYL's steps. It provides tips, warnings of potholes, and words of encouragement from the folks who have already been there.

For this money-phobe, there was help – repetition of the mantra “no shame, no blame” for my past failings with money, plus inspiring stories of victory over lifetime debts that exceeded lifetime income. Plus, there was the realization that the story of money in my life is the story of a relationship, not just a series of failed mathematical calculations. I'll never be good at math, but I can always improve a relationship by making changes on my end.

Seattle-based, “ex-yuppie” authors Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller tell their own story, too. In 1986, the corporate couple joined in a marriage that produced a $100,000 yearly combined income. By 1997, when Getting a Life was published, both had given up their jobs for happier and more meaningful time in writing, quilting, bicycling, and volunteering. They were living on $30,000 per year interest from the investment that YMOYL recommends in US Treasury bonds.

Thirty thousand dollars a year is a lot. Many practitioners of voluntary simplicity live on much less, Blix and Heitmiller are quick and honest to say. Interviewees' incomes ranged from $20,000 to $130,000 a year. Most earned $30,000 to $50,000.

Getting a Life does reflect one weakness of the YMOYL program and the voluntary simplicity movement itself. They are thus far inhabited mainly by those who are college-educated, White, and solidly upper-middle class.

Although the authors of Getting a Life want to tell as many people as possible that “you can do this, too,” the sample doesn't exist that would help them prove it. Among those interviewed, there is little discussion of ethnic values and nothing about religion's affect on the journey to financial independence.

Nonetheless, Getting a Life has made the process in Your Money or Your Life look a lot less formidable and a lot more doable. With that, it's bound to bring the message of financial freedom to a wider audience.

Reviewed by Natalie Pibel, a freelance writer who lives in Snohomish, WA.

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