Interview with Monique Tilford

by Andy Hough on May 12, 2009

One of the greatest things to happen to me as a result of writing this blog is being contacted by Monique Tilford co-author of the revised edition of Your Money or Your Life. It was my pleasure to communicate with her via email and the result is the following interview especially for readers of Tight Fisted Miser.

What makes Your Money or Your Life different from most personal finance books? There are three big differences. First of all, most financial advice assumes that “more is always better” – more income, more status, and more stuff. Your Money or Your Life is different because it helps you instead to answer the question, “How much is enough?” This is a radical shift away from the more-is-better attitude so prevalent in our hyper-consumer culture.
Secondly, most financial advice is based on budgeting – setting fixed targets and spending at or below those targets. While budgeting is a good way for some people to get spending under control, we find this approach to be restrictive rather than empowering. Your Money or Your Life helps you instead discover what your own spending patterns are and then helps you evaluate your unique “enough point” for each spending category – that Goldilocks experience of not too much, not too little, but just right. Our approach is awareness-based, not budget-based.
Finally, most financial advice assumes that money is the only currency for getting your needs met. Our approach helps people discover what needs are best met through purchasing something, and what are best met by maintaining what you have, bartering with others, applying creativity rather than only cash to solve problems, and how to find psychological and spiritual approaches to satisfaction instead of just buying more stuff. We are complex social beings – and yet the dominant economic model monetizes all transactions, making the wealth that comes from a robust inner life and strong family and community connections invisible.

How would following the steps in YMOYL help someone cope with the current economic downturn? Your Money or Your Life could be an enormously helpful tool in helping people weather the current economic downturn. There are many practical suggestions in the book about how to maximize earnings and minimize spending. We have observed in fact that the average reader sees their spending decline by 20-25% within the first six months. But most importantly, the book allows practitioners to gain a sense of control over money again which is desperately needed right now. For many years, a lot of Americans stopped saving, ran up enormous credit card debt, and yet still thought they were secure because the value of their homes and stocks had skyrocketed. The current economic downturn has exposed the weakness of that strategy. Your Money or Your Life helps people instead recognize the importance of saving cash and provides detailed tips on how to invest it wisely so that it is exposed to minimal risk.

What would you reply to someone who claims that the YMOYL steps won’t work for them? No program is going to work for every person. But Your Money or Your Life is a New York Times’ bestselling book which was featured twice on Oprah and to date has sold more than one million copies worldwide. Before it was a bestselling book, it was a tape course and before that a seminar. So we actually have 30 years of anecdotal evidence proving that this nine-step program works. I’d ask people to follow the steps for one month and see what happens. Most people experience a profound transformation which allows them to save more money than they ever thought possible.

If I just do some of the steps will I still be better off financially? The Your Money or Your Life program consists of nine steps that were designed to work together. They don’t need to be done in a linear fashion (i.e. first step one, then step two …) but readers will only enjoy part of the benefits of the program if they only do part of the steps.

Which step do you feel is the most important? I personally feel that step four is the most important one. The reason I like step four so much is because it lies at the heart of the transformational aspect of the nine-step program. Step four encourages practitioners to ask themselves three simple questions: 1) “Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?”; 2) “Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?” and 3) “How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living?” But it’s important to note that step four doesn’t make much sense without the context of at least steps two and three as well.

How long does it usually take someone who diligently follow the steps to achieve FI? I should say first that we use the term “FI” interchangeably for financial intelligence, financial integrity and financial independence. By financial intelligence, we mean that the nine-step program outlined in Your Money or Your Life helps people stop just throwing money at problems and instead teaches them how to be more conscious and creative with their spending. By financial integrity, we mean that practitioners quickly learn how to ensure that the money they spend reflects their values. Financial independence means that those who are diligent in applying the steps will be able to live off their interest income eventually and never again have to work for money. Some people read the book, do the math, and realize that they can become financially independent immediately. Others take longer, of course. On average, we’ve observed that those who are truly inspired are able to become financially independent within seven to ten years.

Do you feel like you had to make a lot of sacrifices to achieve FI? No, I don’t feel that I had to make any sacrifices. That’s what I love about Your Money or Your Life – the program allows you to make the changes YOU want regarding how you earn, spend and save money. There are no budgets so there is no sense of deprivation.

As I’ve said many times before YMOYL is my favorite personal finance book and I highly recommend it.  Another great resource to check out is the YMOYL website located at YourMoneyorYourLife.info.


1 Tessie May 13, 2009 at 8:26 am

Wow, what a coup on scoring this interview. Great questions, too. Loved it! I have the oldest edition, I wonder what updates this one has? I’ll need to check it out at the library.

Graduating law school, interviewing Frugal Icons – when do you sleep?! I’m just a housewife, and I never get everything done. I’m impressed!

2 Andy Hough May 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Tessie- Thanks. The new edition mainly updates the idea of FI and the investment advice chapter. You probably get a lot more done than me. I don’t feel that I use my time wisely at all.

3 Tina May 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Very cool post, I love that book but need to work through all the steps. Great interview!!

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