What I believe about money

I believe:

…that money was designed to work for human beings, rather than the other way around.

And I mean that in terms of the actual historical context of money’s origins, not in the capitalist, our-money-should-earn-money, passive-income sense. My own relationships with money and work are constantly evolving. There’s always more to learn, and I love experimenting with new ways to bring the various aspects of my economic life into better alignment with my ethics and values. Since 2003 I’ve also had the honor of professionally supporting people as they navigate their own relationships with money, values, work, and often, social entrepreneurship. May the practice of sharing through this website contribute to more curiosity, awareness, and openness, for myself and others.

…that making conscious decisions about WHY and HOW we use money is more important than HOW MUCH we earn, or spend, or accumulate.

Of course these things can be related. I try not to judge anyone (myself included) for where we started or the choices we make. I also try to remember that we’re all working with different conditions, and that those conditions are changing all the time. Meanwhile, it’s hard enough to understand our own conditions, much less anyone else’s! Which is another way of saying: just because something worked for me or anyone else, doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a good fit for you, and it might not even make sense for me or that other person two weeks / months / years from now.

…that capitalism, colonialism, globalization, white supremacy, the patriarchy, gender-and hetero-normativity, ableism, and lots of other interrelated systems and attitudes are problematic.

Some people have a lot more opportunity to earn or spend or accumulate or give compared to others, whether or not we choose to… often as a result of things beyond our control, such as the color of our skin, or our gender, or what type of financial situation we were born into. I’m doing my best to learn more about how these forces shape just about everything in my experience. Sometimes these factors work against me. And in many other ways I benefit from them. None of this is my fault, AND I’m trying to figure out how I can feed these problematic systems as little as possible… while doing everything I can do cultivate and encourage the type of world that I DO want to live in. It’s a humbling work in progress.

…that most people feel some combination of alone / confused / shameful when it comes to money

Here’s a scene from my own money history: I had just arrived in my new dorm at the beginning of university in Canada. Everyone on my floor was organized into a circle so we could share where we came from. Calgary, Russia, Vancouver, Toronto, Pakistan, Montreal, Bermuda, India, Halifax… When I said, “Marin County, California,” the guy from Russia (who would later beat the rest of us at chess while literally blindfolded) blurted out, “Oh! Marin! The wealthiest county in America!” I felt I might die of shame. Not only because now I was permanently branded as The Rich Girl, but also because it had never even occurred to me that this might be true.

…that talking more openly about how money does or doesn’t work in our lives will help us support each other as we figure it all out

My parents came from wildly different class backgrounds, and I absorbed a confusing mix of messages about money growing up. It was made very clear, however, that talking about our family’s wealth was bad. While I trust that there were good intentions behind this message (see below), I now understand that not talking about money is one of the things that keeps our lives AND the bigger systems stuck. I think I’m doing a much better job now of living according to my own values rather than anyone else’s. Part of that is choosing to fight back against the taboo of talking about money, and talking about it whenever I can. And I respect people’s choices to keep their experiences private, too.

…that we’re all doing the best we can with whatever knowledge, energy, and resources we have.

That includes me, you, and everyone around us. May what I share here remind you that there are so many ways to approach Right Livelihood.

What do YOU believe about money, work, or making a living?

If you are are willing to share, please let me know 🙂

My favorite money people, organizations, and resources

Here are some of the people and organizations that have inspired me most in my Right Livelihood journey:

Vicki Robin‘s book, Your Money or Your Life, sparked the beginnings of my own Right Livelihood journey back in the early ’90s. (I wrote more about that here.) Unbeknownst to her, this book also launched the entire FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early) movement! When Vicki finally discovered that gobs of millennials had created entire subreddit communities (etc) based on her work, she jumped back into that particular fray… only to leave a few years later due to a very clear values disconnect. I LOVE all of this about her, and am honored to consider her a friend as well as a mentor.

Hadassah Damien, AKA the “femme punk big sister of financial real talk,” is a multi-talented genius. I simply adore her values and her take on big picture economic stuff. If you want to be inspired by someone who started out working class and who is absolutely kicking ass in terms of educating herself (and everyone else!) about money — and who has increased her earnings by FIVE TIMES in as many years — I highly recommend her Ride Free Fearless Money website. And sign up for her e-newsletter so you don’t miss any of her new blog posts or videos.

Resource Generation is a “multiracial membership community of young people (18-35) with wealth and/or class privilege committed to the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power.” If you identify as such, don’t miss their next Making Money Make Change conference! If you’re in the US, there might be a local chapter near you? I highly recommend their other programs and resources as well, including their brand new transformative investment principles. I experienced many firsts through this organization: my first time learning about the diversity of gender pronouns; my first anti-racism workshops; my first taste of what is possible when there is EXCELLENT facilitation of cross-race and cross-class conversations.

Kate Poole is SO inspiring to me. I look forward to one day working with the business she co-founded with Tiffany Brown; Chordata Capital is “an anticapitalist wealth management firm that supports “clients in redistributing rather than continuing to accumulate wealth”. I love that people like Kate are taking the topic of reparations so seriously that they’re creating avenues for actually making it happen! Plus she oozes artistic talent, and is generally a very fun and generous soul.

PocketSmith is my favorite app for making sense of my financial situation. Yes it costs money, but consider the net cost to society of the free option; Mint is owned by a company that lobbies to keep the US tax code super complicated so that they can sell you tax filing services (I’m looking at you, TurboTax!). Calling it a “personal finance” app would be selling it short. I use it to categorize my spending transactions so I can see where my money is going. It can handle currencies from multiple countries. Their new dashboard is customizable and brilliant for putting whatever information you want to see front and center. I love that you can plan out different scenarios to see how different choices will affect your financial future. And the calendar view for budgeting is super handy. Want a free month of Pocketsmith Premium? Use this link and I’ll get a free month too 🙂

How to charge on a sliding scale

I don’t think I’ve mentioned lately how much I love Hadassah Damien, curator / writer / technologist / activist and “femme punk big sister of financial real talk” over at Ride Free Fearless Money.

One of the coolest things on her site is a really thorough explanation of how to charge on a sliding scale… also known as letting people pay what they can, within a set of boundaries, such that the people who pay more essentially cover the costs of the people who pay less.

Hadassah goes into detail on:

  • Why a business or organization that charges for events, services, or even goods might consider using a sliding scale (because: colonial capitalism!);
  • How to set up a sliding scale pricing system that won’t compromise your business’s financial sustainability; and
  • How to guide your customers toward the most appropriate end of the your sliding scale.

To that last point, she also just released a new-and-improved version of her own sliding scale fee guidance chart:


If you’ve ever been tempted to use a sliding scale for your business or organization, I highly recommend checking out the very useful resources Hadassah has compiled! Better yet, sign up for her newsletter for a regular dose of “nerdery and hustlerdom” (eg awesome money tips, ideas for hacking capitalism, and ways to hustle).

Thanks for the inspiration, Hadassah! ❤

Your Money Or Your Life: one of the most influential books of my life

Of course this woman is one of my role models (Source: yourmoneyoryourlife.com)

I finally had a chance to read the new edition of Your Money Or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, a book that had a huge influence on me when I first discovered it back in the late ’90s.

With this book, co-author (and now friend!) Vicki Robin sparked the FIRE, or  “Financial Independence, Retire Early” movement… though few people were aware of this until relatively recently. She is a huge inspiration to me, and I definitely aim to be like her when I grow up!

The new edition includes a wider range of examples from Millennial types, and the chapter on investing is FAR better aligned to today’s investing climate.

YMOYLIntrigued? Vicki has generously shared a VERY detailed summary on the fancy new YMOYL website, but I still suggest you buy the book, and spend some time with it!

In addition to calculating how much money we’ve earned over our entire lives, and what we have to show for it (aka our net worth; this is Step 1), we’re instructed to calculate our real hourly wage, a function of our life energy, and track every cent that comes into our goes out of our lives (Step 2). And we get into the habit of tallying up our spending by categories that are relevant to our lives, and we regularly convert those monthly spending totals into hours of life energy (Step 3).

But my favorite step by far is Step 4: Three Questions That Will Transform Your Life: Continue reading “Your Money Or Your Life: one of the most influential books of my life”