Money Talks – Live from the UK Chautauqua with Vicki Robin

Money Talks - Live from the UK Chautauqua with Vicki Robin

Last August, I was down in England with Vicki Robin (author of Your Money or Your Life) for the FI Chautauqua.

We were chatting about the new version of the book she was working on (which is out now!) and she mentioned that she created a game called “Money Talks” to go along with the new edition.

The card game consists of 52 different cards, each containing a different money question or topic. The idea is, you can use the cards to initiate conversations about money with family, friends, etc. (as you are probably aware, money doesn’t often get discussed in real life so this game attempts to change that).

I thought it was a great idea so I asked Vicki if she’d be up for playing the game with a handful of Chautauqua attendees and I’d record it for an episode of the Financial Independence Podcast.

She agreed and that’s what I’m sharing with you today!

Big thanks to Vicki Robin for teaching us how to play, to Ettington Park for the fantastic venue, and to Eduardo, Laura, Kimi, Matt, Brandon, Jason, Lena, and Meghan for taking part!

Also, thanks to Shane and Ollie for the much-appreciated beer deliveries during the taping of this episode :)

Money Talks Beer #1Money Talks Beer #2

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Full Transcript

Mad Fientist: Hey! Welcome, everyone, to the Financial Independence Podcast, the podcast where I get inside the brains of some of the best and brightest in personal finance to find out how they achieved financial independence.

On today’s show, I’m really excited to introduce a lot of guests. Back when I was in Stratford Upon Avon last year for the UK Chautauqua, I had the pleasure of sitting around the table with Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life and a lot of really interesting people.

And the way this came about is Vicki is releasing a new version of Your Money or Your Life. And to coincide with that release, she’s also created a game called Money Talks. And what it is is it’s a series of 52 cards, just like a deck of cards, but on each card, there’s money topics. And the idea is that this will help promote talking about money with your friends and family and maybe broaching subjects that you wouldn’t otherwise talk about.

So, when she told me about this idea early in the week, I thought that would be an amazing thing to try to do at the Chautauqua. And it would be even better if I could record it and release it as a podcast.

So, that’s exactly what we did. On the last day in Stratford, we all sat around the table, brought out the Money Talks cards, had a few beers, and had an amazing conversation about many different topics.

And that’s what I’m sharing with you today! So without further delay, here’s Money Talks live from Chautauqua UK with Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life and Chautauqua attendees Eduardo, Laura, Brandon v02, Matt, Lena, Kimi, Jason, Meghan, Ollie, and Shane.

Those last two guys didn’t actually participate in the talk, but they did bring me beer for the talk. So they both definitely deserve a shoutout. So thank you for that.

And a big thank you to everyone who participated. It was a lot of fun. And it was great to listen back to when I was editing it. So I hope you enjoy it.

Mad Fientist: We are in Ettington Park for the UK Chautauqua. And we’ve been here all week. It’s been an incredible week. We’re going to do something special for you today. I am going to pass over to our super special guest, Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life. And she’s going to tell us what we’re doing today.

Vicki: Hi, everybody. Yeah, one of the innovations I’ve done for the makeover of Your Money or Your Life that comes out March 2018 is to develop a set of questions that people can ask themselves in their journal or ask their mates or a group of people or open up in a workplace or have a conversation in a meet-up, a way for people to talk to other people about our thoughts and feelings and strategies around money.

It’s not about advice. It’s just simply learning together because what we all need to know is not necessarily embedded in the experts—of course, it’s you, Brandon—but it’s embedded in other people. It’s just we have to know how to unlock it.

So, these are questions to unlock the conversations we really want to have about money in our daily lives.

And the rules of the game really are that we’re going to go around the circle once, and very brief opening comment, a minute, maximum 90 seconds. Just we’ll have a topic, Brandon will introduce it. And you all will just say, “Here are some of my thoughts on it.”

And then, we’ll go around one more time with no cross-talk, no feedback. And you can keep in your own comment. You can say, “What I really meant to say…” or “Another thought I had…” or you could’ve heard something that somebody across the table said, and you could, “Oh, that makes me think about…”

So basically, what we’re doing is like finger painting. We’re squeezing a lot of colors out here on a collective art piece. And then, we’re going to open it up and just talk and see where the conversation goes.

And everybody has a question card faced down in front of them which is they’re intervention. If the conversation is driveling into meaninglessness or somebody’s over-talking, at any moment—no shame, no blame, no judgment—you can just flip over your question card and change the subject.

And we’ve never done this before, so we’re going to find out how it works.

Mad Fientist: Yeah, I’m very excited. So thank you guys all for being here. So yeah, this is something different from anything we’ve done before on the podcast. I’m really excited about it. So crack open a cold beer, which I will do right now. Thanks to Shane who brought beer all the way to England from Texas. So I have a Hopadillo IPA from Karbach Brewery.

And I just spilled beer all over my laptop, but that’s alright. We will find a napkin.

So, before we start, I just want to go around the circle so everyone can introduce themselves. And then we’ll just kick right in. So here we go!

Eduardo: Thanks, Brandon! Hopefully, your laptop isn’t too broken. Yeah!

So, my name is Eduardo. I’m originally from Brazil. I live in the UK. I’ve been following this stuff for a few years. I’m very glad that I came to Chautauqua. If any of you are thinking about going to the next one, yeah, it’s an amazing week, amazing group of people, amazing conversations—definitely not just the speakers even though they’re amazing. The conversations you have with the other guests are what makes the week special. So yeah, I’m looking forward to this game.

Laura: Hi, my name is Laura. I’m from London, UK. So I didn’t have to travel as far as everybody else. I’m just now down the right. So yeah, I’ve been following the Mad Fientist for a long time. So I’m really excited to take part in this.

Kimi: Hi, I’m Kimi. I’m from Brazil, but I live in California. I’ve come here to the UK. It’s been an amazing week. Highly recommended! And let’s see what this game is all about.

Matt: My name is Matt. I’m from Leeds, England. Like Laura, I’ve not had to travel too far either. I’ve been a convert from the Mad Fientist Podcast for probably about five years now which has got me really interested in this space. And the amount of laughter we’ve had this week and meeting like-minded people has been the real game-changer for me.

Brandon: Yeah, my name is Brandon. I’m from Minneapolis in the US. And this week has been incredibly inspiring, not just because of the speakers, but all of the people that I’ve gotten to spend time with.

I discovered FI about 2 ½ years ago. And man, I was inspired then… I thought. But now, I’m even more inspired. So I’m really looking forward to this game. And I’m glad to have been here.

Jason: Hi, this is Jason from San Diego. And I’m just going to say ditto. Everybody else pretty much stole my lines. This has been incredible. And I’m just going to keep passing it on here.

Lena: Hello, my name is Lena. And I’m pretty much at the beginning of my FI journey. And so I’m really looking forward to having this talk together with you.

Mad Fientist: Great! And you obviously know Vicki. Yeah, this is great.

So, I’m going to start off with an easy one. Obviously, we’re going to get deeper I’m sure. But this will be at least something that will get us going.

Talk about your biggest money mistake, and what would you do differently?

Eduardo: There have been several. Hopefully, none of them [derailed] me too far. So I’m still on the path thankfully.

I’d say one of them was leasing a car when I didn’t have to. You think it’s a good idea, it’ll make you look good. But just the money leaving your bank account every month, I just did not like that. So, that was a lesson learned. I wouldn’t do that again.

Buying lots and lots of pointless things. Small values, they add over time. They compound. Just getting rid of all of that waste, all of that inefficient spending is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.

So, lots of little things add up to one big mistake, I’d say that’s probably the biggest thing.

Laura: So, yeah, like Eduardo, probably too many to count, I’d imagine. But I think it all adds up. I think it’s the things where you spend and actually you don’t like what you’ve bought or you think you wanted it and you get it home and you don’t. So I think they’re the biggest mistakes.

They’re not necessarily the things I spent the most money on. They might’ve been of a lot of value, and actually, I’m glad I spent the money. But it’s the things I didn’t really think through.

Kimi: For me, it was definitely taking too long and being too unsure about getting into the stock market. I felt I came from a different country to the US, and it felt a little unsettling for me. So eventually, I summed up courage, and I bought a single stock. And I watched it go up and down. And I’m like, “I’m going to get comfortable with this because I need to get comfortable with this.”

So, I bought a single stock, watched it for about, I would say, four months until I was okay and I was fine to finally put money on the market.

But I had done it before, this conversation would be moved. I would just be here in financial independence way before I am today.

Matt: I think the bigger one for me has been a car. I was a former professional soccer player, so it was always the competition to have the best car in the car park. And it just became a way of life. That was normal.

So, like Eduardo, having a car payment just became normalized. And once you can free yourself from that, it’s so liberating. And then, obviously, it frees you up the money to invest and dive right in.

I was fortunate that I discovered saving and investing in 2008. So I bought a lot of my things on sale. So I’m one of the lucky ones.

Brandon: I would say, for me, it was really just understanding the value of money in my life. I think my big mistake was thinking that I get my paycheck, I pay the bills, and everything that’s left over is what I have to spend. And that was my understanding of money. I didn’t know that it was really a tool that I could use. I wish I could’ve realized that earlier.

Jason: I think my biggest mistake was, I’m going to say “believing the advice I was given.” When I first started saving and investing through 401k’s and stuff through my employer, the average advice was “Oh, if you could save 5%, you’re doing great. And if you can save 10%, that’s amazing!” And in the FIER community, that’s kind of like, “Oh, that’s cute” and they pat you on your head.

So, for me, the biggest mistake was probably everybody says at some point, “Man! I wish I had been able to start bigger sooner.”

Lena: :I have actually two mistakes I did. First, just like Brandon, I got the money at the beginning of every month, and I would just spend everything. I never really ran out of money [unclear 09:46]. It was just I would spend every single cent. And now I just think that was kind of dumb.

And the second thing I did, I did get some money invested in stocks, but I bought mutual funds. And I just realized about a year ago that this was not very smart, so I pulled out the money.

Vicki: Yeah, what occurred to me as we were going around the table—and it’s sort of an odd mistake (or maybe not)—but I actually put a lot of emotion into things I buy. I can’t get rid of stuff in my closet because I can remember every purchase, where I was and who was there. So there’s probably a lot of shopping mistakes in my closet that I just don’t get rid of.

But I was a co-owner of a house where we had a lot of people living together in this house in Seattle. And people started to move away, and other people moved in. There was a point that it was at the top of the housing market in Seattle. But I had an affectionate relationship with a couple that was living there, and I didn’t want to disturb them, so I wouldn’t sell the house.

And so, when they finally wanted to move, that was the bottom of the housing market in Seattle. I mean, it’s pitiful because it did go on Zillow recently, and now it’s worth twice what it was.

But nonetheless, I’m having a happy life.

Mad Fientist: So, mine was my wife—well, then girlfriend at the time—we bought a house in Scotland, and we did it up over 2 ½ years and sold it in 2007 for like over 50% than what we bought it for, just before the whole world collapsed. So we sold it, and then I was so excited because I’ve always wanted a portfolio to manage, I always wanted money, I wanted to invest and all these stuff… but I didn’t know what I was doing.

So, we looked on the Internet for like a financial advisor. We just picked like the top one on Google or something. I called him up, he came over, and he pretty much picked the funds that would pay him the most, but had previously returned the best return (which obviously, the past doesn’t predict the future). So we went into that.

He treated us like big time people. We were in our early twenties I think. And he’s like, “Oh, yeah! We’ll go in the golf course.” And I was like, “Wow! I’m a big shot now. I’m golfing with my financial advisor.”

And then, it was only a few years later, after obviously 2008 happened, so then everything cut in half pretty much instantly after we put it in there, and I couldn’t get it out because they had ridiculously high fees to withdraw it within the first five years. And that’s when I learned to never trust anyone else with your money.

Matt: Yeah! So, mine will probably be resisting index funds for too long. I think my ego is telling me I could actually pick stocks. Once you have a few winners, you really do believe your own story, I guess, your own hype. But then you read the studies and all the math and everything; not to mention the amount of time that you save.

So yeah, index funds all the way.

Thanks, Jim!

Mad Fientist: Jim Collins is smiling, is smiling in the corner. He’s giving the thumbs up.

So, this one is going to get real deep real quick. So at the Chautauqua, each of the speakers give a presentation. And it’s always shocking when they give a presentation because you expect them to talk about something else like Kristy and Bryce from Millennial Revolution—they’re here—and you would expect to travel, geographic arbitrage and those types of things, not buying a house and all that. But then they talk about something deeper.

And that’s actually what I did too. I’m sure everyone here imagined I would talk about tax avoidance or something like that. And actually, I didn’t.

It’s funny that pretty much every talk touched on similar things. And it all boils down to this question: “What is your calling, the work of your heart and soul?”

Vicki: Well, I get this one first I guess because I’m supposed to have thought about it more. This is Vicki again. You know, at some level, it’s just making people happy so that I’m living in a happy world. That’s a really simple way to say it.

But I’m like 72 now. I’ve been around in this body for a long time. And I finally realized that I don’t have to do everything. My issue doesn’t have to be the most important issue.

What I really love doing is using my skills and talents and networks to make a specific difference in the lives of people I love—and I love a lot of people, so sometimes I chose big projects.

Lena: :To be honest, I don’t really know at this point because I’m just trapped in the rat race right now. I do what I have to do. Afterwards, I do what I want of course. But it’s nothing really soul-searching or something where I say, “Oh, that would make me happy beyond everything I’ve ever done.”

So, I think one of the things that we can really buy with money with the FI journey is that we can really have the time to focus on what we’re good at, what we want to do in life, what we want to achieve, and how we want to be happy in the end. So I’m going for it.

Jason: My grandfather basically advocates the campsite rule for the whole world. And that always resonated with me. And so my goal is to leave the world a little better than I found it. And I really think that helping spread the word about FI especially—the RE is kind of optional, but at least the FI part of things…

So, I would like to help spread the word. And even more importantly, help people figure out what they need to do to get there—whether it’s one-on-one, small groups, conferences or whatever. That’s the kind of thing that definitely moves my soul. It makes me get some fire in the blood.

Brandon: This is a super hard question. And I think a lot of us have spent a lot of time trying to answer those questions. I don’t know for me that there is an answer, so I reject your question. And I will insert my own context of how I think this should go.

And I think that there’s purpose to be found in many things for many people. And that’s something that I’ve kind of maybe learned hints of coming up to the Chautauqua. But definitely, it’s been solidified through some talks. And I don’t remember whose talk it was, but it was almost specifically mentioned. I think it was like—you know, I’m a business analyst, but when I was seven, people weren’t like, “What do you want to be when you grew up?” and I was like, “I want to be a business analyst!”

However, I’m not unhappy with my career. I love being a business analyst. And I love the work that I do. I find purpose in what I do. And I think that business analysis is not the only thing I can find purpose in. I think there’s a lot of things I can find purpose in.

And so, that is the answer to my own question.

Matt: I think we all acknowledge that FI is a route to fulfill your dreams, your passions, what you’ve always wanted to do. And I think the difficult thing for me is that the two things I always wanted to do when I was younger was play professional soccer and be a journalist. And I’ve played professional soccer, and now I do journalism. And I’m 37. So, it’s “what else is there?”

I don’t know if it’s necessarily one thing or one passion or one dream. The Millennial Revolution guys were talking this morning that you’ve almost got six or seven lives if you live for another 50 or 60 years. And I think that’s the most exciting thing. Part of the excitement is maybe not knowing.

Kimi: I think your calling, it changes over life. It changes as you mature. And for me, it has definitely changed. For me, I would say that, when I was younger, my calling was a lot closer to my survival skills. So it was being very good at my job. It was being able to provide for myself. It was being able to make money and be free.

So, I’ve always looked for freedom, but through this fulfillment, I think that has changed as I matured. And today, I seek a lot more community. So I look for impact and I look for community in some sense, whether it’s smaller or bigger.

So, definitely removing the survival, not needing money anymore and removing the survival from the list, has allowed me to go for a deeper purpose of having community.

Laura: I don’t know if my calling now will be my calling later. But I’m not FI yet. I’m about to drop down to part-time work. So I get to have a bit more time to explore some things.

And what I’d really like to do is I’d like to help kids read. So I’d like to go to school. I think that if I couldn’t read, I wouldn’t have found blogs, I wouldn’t have found FI, I wouldn’t have found you lovely people. I think it opens up such a world of possibilities to people if they can actually read.

So, I would really like to spend some time, and then see where that goes.

Eduardo: So, I’ve had the most time to think about this, but I probably still don’t really know the answer. But I have been thinking about this topic more recently in my life. I haven’t narrowed it down, but I do know that there’s something to do with being outside, being active, bringing financial education to younger people. It’s something that I’m quite passionate. The fact that we don’t learn that in school, I think it’s criminal almost.

Being healthy… somehow mixing all of those things together I think will bring me a lot of fulfillment in life. And I’m looking forward to narrowing that down a little further and finding out exactly what it is. But I’m sure it’s something along those lines.

Mad Fientist: I have a bit of unfair advantage because my whole talk was sort of talking about how you need something to retire to, and that to that you retire to needs to be big enough to keep you happy and take the place of your job.

So, I thought long and hard about it, and I reflected on some of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life and the most rewarding things I’ve created. And for me, it sort of boiled down to working hard at something to get better at it in order to create something that helps as many people as possible—myself included.

So, a happy life, creation and mastery, that’s what mine all boil down to.

Thank you, Ollie, for the delivery of Guinness. Thank you. You got yourself on the podcast!

So now, we’re going to open it up and we’re going to chat about maybe something someone else said that you wanted to add to or comment on or if you wanted to dive a little bit deeper into a certain topic.

So, I’m going to open it up. Anyone want to jump in? Yeah, Kimi…

Kimi: I think that something Eduardo said about teaching financial knowledge… I think that a lot of us, there’s so much myth, and there’s so much taboo around money, we don’t talk about it enough. We don’t talk about it openly enough. So we always feel inadequate whenever we’re talking and we are approaching money.

And this is something that I would like to debunk. It’s something that I think we should all—and thank you so much to you, Brandon, and to everybody who talks openly about it and shares information. I think it’s the essential thing so that we look at it, and we’re like, “Okay, it’s not unattainable. It’s not a myth. We can all get there.”

Matt: I think this week has opened everybody’s eyes on the Chautauqua that when we’re at home and we’re following this path, we feel like the odd ones out. And finally, we found our people.

I think that’s been the three words from this week, “we found our people,” that we’re not alone, we’re not worrying about the odd thing. We’re all worrying about the same things. And actually, it’s not the minutia that we’re worrying about. It really makes no difference in the grand scheme of things with the savings rate. Simple investing will allow us to achieve whatever we want to achieve.

And I think in your talk, that was almost the massive, fundamental question. And it probably takes a bit more than a podcast to answer.

Mad Fientist: So, how do you talk with people in your real life because I know I spoke to Ollie who’s the man who just delivered the Guinness—thank you again—and he said something really interesting. He’s like, “I share it with everyone I know because if any of my friends knew about this, and I found myself learning about it 10 years after they actually hit FI, and here I am just like working paycheck to paycheck possibly like I was, I would be really angry with them and sad that they didn’t just share that journey with me early.”

And that’s something that hit home with me. I don’t like talking about it in real life with people I know because I feel like 1) they feel like I’m judging them, 2) I feel like I’m bragging about my financial standing. It’s just very difficult.

So, does anyone here on the table talk to their friends and family? And if so, how do you do it in a way that you don’t have any of those negative consequences?

Laura: I think I’ve been probably talking about it in the wrong way up until now. I’ve been trying to sort of always simplify it down for people to say, “I want to retire early.” And actually, I think a lot of people are very stunned by that. But then it comes back to this whole “What are you going to do afterwards?” or “I really like my job, so why would I want to retire?”

And actually, I think I need to actually change the way that I’m talking about it. I’ve been trying to simplify it down, but in that way, I think I’ve actually been isolating people away from it and probably not explaining it very well.

So, I think I’m going to talk a lot more about how it’s much more about getting freedom and then finding purpose. And some people may think that’s a bit deep and not really be interested in it. But maybe it would just invite a few more interesting conversations rather than just “Well, I like my job, so I’m not going to do it.”

Jason: And to just extend on that just a little bit, I haven’t really been talking about it with people other than my closest friends and family. But I’m thinking about talking about it more and more—hopefully, we’ll see.

But what I’m thinking is a really good hook to get people interested is to sort of point out that no job is guaranteed. One of the talks kind of went into, “Well, you could get a new boss… the company could get purchased by another company.” That has happened to me multiple times at this point, and a really good job turned into way less of a good job. Or you get let go as even Jim has had happen to him once. You never know what’s going to happen.

So, having the protection of a runway of a few years. Basically, the FU money concept, even if you don’t need to say FU, having it there is such a comfort. It lets you take some more risks at work which will actually probably work out in your benefit.

So I’m thinking if I can word it that way, people who initially will be like, “Well, I like my job. I don’t really need to worry about this,” then if you can sell them on some other options, that’s a great way. It’s like I said, it’s sort of the hook to get them interested.

And the numbers, they’re important of course. I’m not trying to say they’re not. But that’s sort of more mechanics and plug-and-chug and figure out your risk and a few other details that can come later when they’re like, “Oh, great! Teach me more. What plugs should I read?” or whatever.

Vicki: Yeah! So, I’ve obviously spent many years talking about this to people with almost a missionary zeal because, really, I wanted to liberate people from feeling like they have no choice. And I also was really passionate—I am passionate—about unhooking people from a consumer society, a throwaway society. And I’ll tell you, if you just talk about your passion for—

Like if you talk about children, if you talk about financial literacy for children, I’m passionate about that. I think our kids are being brought up in a too commercial culture. And so I’m doing this experiment for myself because I really want to unhook and I want to help other people unhook.

That actually goes down like honey because everybody knows we’re hooked.

And the other thing I found is personal story. It’s a basic “I once was lost, but now I’m found” story. It doesn’t have to sound that religious. “A certain point in my life, something happened. And I realized that changed so much for me. And here are some of the ways I’m happier from that process.”

I will also say—I just want to throw in—that as Jason said, we have this term FIRE, financial independence/retire early. Retire early is maybe a little—but then if we talk about financial independence, “I want to be freer. I want to be freer of debt. I want to be free,” everybody wants to be freer. And this is how I’m going about it. Actually, I want to be totally free, blah-blah-blah.

It’s a very human thing. People really want to hear your story. They don’t want to be marketed to. And they don’t want to be convinced. But you tell a story, and it lets them rehearse it in themselves.

Matt: I think it’s a British culture maybe not to share anything. So yeah, I think it’s a taboo subject, probably the most taboo subject, talking about money. So it’s quite a delicate thing to talk to people about.

And if you’ve got a group of friends, or you make the most money out of that group, then you can sound preachy and people can say, “Oh, you can do it because you earn this much and I don’t earn this much.” It’s decoupling the amount of money which will allow you to reach that freedom to find something else.

Even if you’re a teacher, you can still do it. You could just end up going teaching in other countries. But like Laura said, helping people of less advantage to get on in life, I think that’s a really noble thing.

Kimi: And one thing I think is important and is interesting because we talked about it before is also sharing your mistakes. So by exposing yourself, and by saying, “Hey, this is what happens…” or “This is what happened to me when I was down. I failed here, and I was down. This happened, and now I’m better. I’m finally found” is also something that I think connects you to people.

Even though you are exposing yourself, and you need a slightly thicker skin to be able to expose yourself, you are providing this information not from a standpoint that “Hey, I’m financially independent. It’s so great. It’s here where the clouds are beautiful.” It’s not about that. It’s about being on the ground, being in the trenches.

Everybody is in the trenches. We need to go down with them and say, “Hey, I was there. I was below that. And this is what happened to me.” I think then you open a connection and you’re able to talk to.

So, being able to be open and expose yourself is a big thing to get the empathy.

Jason: Yeah, going back to Matt’s point, one of the big eye-openers I had was learning the whole savings rate table because that’s percentages, right? It doesn’t really matter how much you make. It’s a percentage of your take-home pay. So if people can get their heads around that, it’s really powerful as well.

Mad Fientist: Yeah, I love percentages. That’s the best way to go.

Brandon, you had something to add there?

Brandon: I think when Vicki was originally talking, it made me think of, during the Chautauqua, we’ve brought up a bunch of times office space, and we talk about the concept of FU money and being able to just say, “I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m going to walk away.” It’s not just that, but it’s like that confidence that the FU money gives you. It can almost change you as a person into a better person.

And so, the office space references, when Peter gets hypnotized, and then he just has this realization, he’s like, “Yeah, actually, I don’t really care about my job or how well I do or the promotion. I don’t care about the money… like nothing,” and he walks into the meeting with the [bosses], he goes in, he pours himself a glass of water, puts his feet up, he’s like, “What’s going on guys?” They start asking him questions, “Well, what about this? You’ve been missing a lot of work,” and he’s like, “Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob” It’s that confidence.

Chris Hardwick has a great quote about confidence. He says, “Confidence is about having options.” And having the FU money is like having all of the options. And that’s where the freedom is. FI brings you that freedom to choose whatever option you want.

Mad Fientist: So yeah, this is all great stuff. I think we’re going to move into the round where we just pick out the wildcard in front of us that was just randomly shuffled through this deck.

Jason: I jumped it. Mine is: Talk about an early memory of money and how it affects you now. I actually have one that comes right up on this. God, mom, I apologize!

So, I was probably about 13, and my dad lost his job. My parents were not massively over-extended, but they had a house and a boat and just the normal things that you accumulate as typical adults these days in a middle class set-up. And he couldn’t get a new job for a couple of years. It was just rough times.

I watched them suffer, be stressed about it, be unhappy about it. They were very good at keeping the fighting away from me and my sister. I don’t know how the heck they pulled that off. But it really made an impression on me because, teenagers, this is kind of like the time that happens. And I still kind of remember vaguely the “Oh, this is what not to do.”

So, luckily for me, that taught me very early on never, ever, ever spend beyond your means. And don’t go into debt for pretty much anything.

Obviously, later I learned houses, cars—oops, the cars.

Here’s one more mistake. But that’s for me, one of my earliest financial memories.

Kimi: Also, mom, sorry. But I think one of my earliest financial memories are that I’ve always been somewhat of a rebel and I wanted to do things my way. And my mother, very strong woman—very, very strong woman—she would look at me and say, “Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but you live in this house, I pay for everything. When you have your money, you can do things your way. You’re not 18. You’re going to be here. And you’re going to abide by my rules because all of this is provided by me.” And I’m like, “Okay, great!”

So, at 13, I found my first job. And I’ve been working ever since because I looked at it and I said, “Okay, if that’s about money, I’ll get my money, and I’ll start being my own boss as soon as I can.”

So, it’s pretty powerful, but then it puts you in some situations, right?

Matt: Yeah, I remember when I was a kid—I mean my mom is the strongest woman I know—apart from my wife obviously. I’ve got to get that one in there.

I remember when she came home one day when I was a kid and she’d lost her job and she was in tears, and there was just me and her, she found a way to get another job.

And she has been so disciplined. She’s always found a way to save even though she never earned a lot of money. And I think that sticks with you. Even if it’s not obvious, it’s in your subconscious. And it’s probably one of the reasons why I’m here.

Brandon: So, during the week, Vicki told me a really interesting story about her earliest relationship with money. And I thought it was pretty fascinating. So I was sharing if she would share that with us.

Vicki: You’re outing me.

Yeah, this was on an early memory about money. I lived in an upper middle class family. And so I just never saw any transactions actually. I just never saw transactions happening. It was all a mystery. And so I didn’t actually know that things cost money.

I was very young. I was totally into my dolls. I had a Jeannie doll which was like a precursor, but more realistic, of a Barbie doll. And I loved dressing my Jeannie doll. I had a whole suitcase full of clothes for my Jeannie doll. And I make clothes for my Jeannie doll.

And then, my brother told me that if we cut through the back hedge, that we could go down […] and we could go over to a part of town I’ve never been in (because I never went anywhere). It was sort of like a rough part of town, but it had a toy store.

So, I’d sneak down. I’d go down. And I’d go in the toy store. And they had all these Jeannie doll clothes. So I’m like really excited because there’s a little coat, and there’s a little party dress. So I stacked up about seven boxes of Jeannie doll clothes.

And I just walked out! I didn’t know about the money part of it. And somebody stopped me on my way out. I was so ashamed and embarrassed and perplexed.

That’s all I remember of it.

Mad Fientist: Yeah, that’s the secret to FI. You just steal everything and then you don’t have to worry about money. That’s great. That’s the best.

So, we actually have a new surprise guest. So Eduardo had to go and call in from work from UK Chautauqua. So now we have Meghan. So please introduce yourself.

Meghan: I’m Meghan. I’m from the Boston area. Me and my husband are here at the Chautauqua. Ollie, the bringer of beer. We’re from the Boston area, and we’re both teachers—poor, poor teachers. How could we ever achieve FI?

We’ve been subscribers to the cult for about five years now. And we’re kind of halfway along our journey to FI.

Mad Fientist: Awesome! Welcome. We’re nearing the end. I just dished out a new wildcard for everyone. So I think we’re just going to go all the way around the circle. You just flip over the card. And whatever the question is, you answer it, and then you pass it on to the next person.

So I’m going to start with Vicki.

Vicki: Okay, here we go. What skills or social networks could you build now to depend less on money to meet your needs? What skills or social networks could you build now?

I’m actually doing that in my home town. We have a network, a volunteer network, that helps people stay in their homes [unclear 35:14]. We have volunteer networks that help the food bank. If I shop at the thrift store, then I’m putting money in the food bank. And later, I get to take money out of the food bank, take food out of the food bank.

So, actually, yeah, that’s the thing. The social network I’m building is my community […] and making that richer.

Lena: :Okay! Take us shopping with you. Describe where you are, how you feel and what you buy.

Actually, I don’t really like shopping; I never have. Somehow, I don’t know how it ended up in my apartment. No, but usually, I go grocery shopping. I do make a list on Saturdays.

So, I have this book where I write in what I want to cook over the week. And if I don’t have time, I just copy another week. But then I do make my shopping list in my cellphone and just go grocery shopping.

Yeah, somehow, sometimes it ends up being a little bit more like potato chips or something. Somehow, mysteriously, they appear on my grocery cart.

But the other part that I usually would go to to buy stuff is outdoor gear. But then, usually, I do have a purpose for going there. And I don’t come out with any other stuff.

Also, I manage to go into an Ikea and come out with nothing.

Jason: What do you want for your children/loved ones that money can buy?

Really, for my daughter—I have a 10 year old daughter—the main thing I want for her to have is a safe, happy, healthy home. That’s the main one. And that’s right now my largest expense by a large, large amount, is to give her a good home and a good place to go to school and all that kind of stuff.

Brandon: Alright! I have two cards. The group doesn’t know. But I’m going to flip them over and pick the best one because FI is about making your own rules.

And so the first one is: “What values and beliefs do you bring to investing?” And the second one is: “If you could take a year off work, how would you spend it?”

I’m going to go with the first one: “What values and beliefs do you bring to your investing?” For me, I found a lot of happiness in just living simply. I’m not a minimalist I would say by the sense of some other people that I’ve seen online practicing minimalism. But there are some aspects of it that’s simple for my life.

And so, I personally have never really had an interest in investing, pun intended. I was never interested in trading stocks and learning about companies and the stock market. And Jim’s book completely changed that for me because it’s the simple path to wealth. It’s like he wrote it right for me.

And so I read his stock series twice. And I read his book twice. And I feel like I have 100%, literally 100%, of the knowledge that I need to achieve FI and continue on this journey.

Matt: Ooh, this is an odd one. What is your life’s work?

Well, if you would’ve asked me 20 years ago, it would’ve been playing football forever which is not possible. That’s a really deep question to answer. Brandon, you give us about three weeks to work this one out. Ninety seconds, I’m not sure.

I think the thing that’s come out of this week when you speak to everyone is everyone wants to use the opportunity that FI gives them to fundamentally help other people, whether that’s really the children in schools. Mine, I came up with it this week without the pressure of work, giving me the space to think, possibly helping educate professional footballers not to spend as much as they already do and also help disadvantaged children, hard-to-reach people.

You can dedicate that time when you have the time to help other people, I think that’s probably the best gift.

Kimi: Okay! So mine is: Who or what would you trust to help you invest your money?

Well, I’m here, so Brandon, the Mad Fientist… and no one else ever. And he knows this. We’ve had a conversation. I actually stumbled upon the whole FI thing through Brandon and through his podcast. And then I heard the podcast, and then [unclear 39:32], and then I read the blog. And then I’m like, “Oh, Brandon, it’s going to be great!”

So, definitely, this is a very good group to help that I do trust to help me invest my money. There’s a paradox here because you come here and nobody tries to sell you anything. So probably that’s why you can trust them to help you invest your money.

But yeah, it’s a good group.

Laura: Okay! So how do you economize and what? How do you feel about it?

I’ve had a budget spreadsheet for about 10 years now. So back before I heard about FI, I was—I don’t know, just probably been nerdy and just wanted to track my money.

So, I guess I don’t economize on everything because I don’t want to strip it back to the bare bones because I think I’ll probably make myself miserable—and I have made myself miserable. I think it’s things like groceries.

Like Lena, I do a meal plan every week. And then I have been known to have several tabs of all the different grocery stores and compare all the prices, and then do some percentage variances from time to time because, yeah, that’s how it goes. And I just try and work out what makes me happy.

Holidays, probably don’t economize on. I try and use air miles, but they’re not as good as the US credit card air miles. So we do what we can. But I like holidays, and they make me happy. So I’m not going to economize specifically on that. But other things, I do try and make sure that I optimize as much as possible.

Meghan: What did you want to be when you grew up? What about now?

I remember, and I remember being told frequently, that when I was in first grade, and I went to school and somebody said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “I want to be a teacher so I can be in school forever.” I just was such a little nerd and I just enjoyed so much about school and learning and just having all that at your disposal.

And then, for a while, I kind of wandered away from that. But obviously, that’s where I wound up now as a teacher. So now, I am a teacher, but as I’ve shared with a couple of people throughout the week, I’ve attempted to leave the profession several times over the last 12 years or so. And if you are a teacher, and you have a teacher close to you in your life, you’ve probably seen aspects of that.

And there was a blog post that I came across more than a few years back. She writes under the name Penelope Trunk. But the title, the blog was: Don’t Do What You Love. Keep what you love as something on the side, and then find something that makes you a lot of money. And for a short time, that really spoke to me because I was like, “Is this killing this thing that I love? It’s so hard. And finding the right circumstance is so difficult.” But I feel lucky now to be in a circumstance where I feel like I’m enjoying what I do.

And when we think about moving forward into FI, what that would look like is just doing it more in my own terms, being able to move aside the things about it that I don’t like and keep the parts that I do and having that freedom.

Mad Fientist: And the final card for me. Talk about one thing you own that you love? And what do you love about it?

So, I’m going to do two because they’re at the opposite of the cost spectrum. The first one is my Macbook Pro. Like I said at the beginning, I love creating things, and I can pretty much just create anything, including this podcast, on this machine. I love it so much!

But that’s a very expensive one. And the only other purchase I’ve made recently is one of those little cones that you can make coffee in that makes the best coffee. It’s the Pour Over Coffee. And every morning, I get up and it’s like the best experience ever. I fill my house with smells of coffee, and then I drink wine. It’s the best! And it’s only like $9 or something. And it has brought me so much joy.

We’ve probably owned it for a year or something already. And every time I go in there, and I’d make my little pour over and make the bloom, and then bubbles and stuff, and then you’d pour over like in circles, and it foams, it’s like, “This is the most amazing experience!”

So yeah, there’s two things.

And that brings us to the end of it actually. This has just been so fantastic. So thank you to all the participants. This has been amazing.

Vicki: Good! Go roundabout: What am I taking away from the conversation?

Mad Fientist: Oh, yeah, yeah. Sorry, yeah. Let’s go around and say what you’ve taken away from your conversation. And then I’ll wrap it up. So Vicki?

Vicki: Yeah, I just love this! I loved watching these questions that I developed at home alone with a cat on my lap come alive in your story and see how enlivening it is just to have that permission to talk about these sorts of things. So, thank you all very much.

Lena: :I really enjoyed the cards. We could talk a little bit and that gave us some structure.

I think I never really talked to anybody about my plans. Some people know that I’m a little bit financial nerd, but not that what I’m up to. So, I think what I would take with me is that it’s not that hard to start talking about money in general. I don’t want to out myself, but I’m doing this journey at my job or something. It’s just that I want to talk more about money in general.

Jason: The thing that struck me as we were talking just before we get started was just all the different places everybody was from. This particular podcast is a lot less US-centric than my typical reading and stuff.

So, that was one thing I’m going to take a key from Brandon in here and change the rules slightly and [unclear 45:16]. The other thing I really pulled out of this—and I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot as well—is just the idea of how do we get this sort of teaching to people who aren’t as well off.

All of us here probably have had some good advantages rolled our way. We had some good roles of the dice when we started out one way or another. It’s not to say that we haven’t made good use of them, but to fully acknowledge that and how can we help pay it down if you will. That doesn’t sound right… whatever.

Anyway, to help other folks out, especially people who aren’t going to necessarily run into this on their own.

So yeah, looking to help the disadvantaged—and especially kids.

The thing that really spoke to me was that it’s criminal that we’re not teaching kids about money better. It’s just absolutely nutritious. What we can do to make that better is definitely cool.

Brandon: Jason, I think your last comment about children is—a couple of people around the table here mentioned the piece about children and financial literacy. Like I shared in the beginning, I just thought you get your paychecks, pay the bill and spend the rest because I was never taught any different than that.

And so I think it’s really cool to hear other people thinking about “Yeah!” At that point, it’s not necessarily like we need to teach children FI. It’s like we just need to teach children about money and the value of money and how it’s used and how it’s not used.

So, it’s really cool to see other people really thinking about finances and children.

Matt: I’ve been talking to a lot of people this week. I think a lot of people came to FI probably through Brandon’s podcast. And that’s how they got started—I certainly did.

But I think, to a certain extent, the guests you interview, Brandon, sometimes, the audience is a bit like preaching to the choir. I think what we were talking about earlier is the fact that while we’re on here, we will then send out to all of our friends as bragging rights to say, “Listen to this! Listen to this.” And that could probably be one of the most powerful things, that you’re actually sending it to people who have no idea what this concept is, and just by definition, sharing it beyond its normal audience.

Kimi: I think the game is awesome. I think being able to talk about these things and having the diversity of questions is important. That is very good.

But more than anything, the first thing we talked about was the financial mistake. And as we’re going through the table, you see glimpses of recognition and acknowledgment on everybody’s eyes. So it means that we are all in the same place. We’ve all been in these places.

So, that is the important thing, a feeling that we share that is very mutual. Everybody has it. So bringing it there and bringing it out and being able to talk about it may be very uncomfortable in the beginning, but eventually, will pay for because you’re really talking about something that people do understand.

Laura: I think the big takeaway for me is how things can change for the better when you take a bit of a risk and you have FU money.

So, four months ago, I was on my miserable […] journey to work listening to the Mad Fientist, dreaming of the day I would be FI. And I had FU money. And since then, I’ve quit my job, I’ve gone part-time. And now, I’m actually sat with the Mad Fientist on a podcast with all these amazing people.

So I think when you’ve got that financial security, even if it’s not FI, even if it’s just FU money, there’s so much cool stuff you can do.

Meghan: I think, for me, a big throughline from this week has been values and how much you think about FI being about money and how much, really, for me, fairly quickly, it turned into a question of values.

As soon as you strip away this idea of not needing money, and this very bare question of “Why are you here? What are you doing? What do you want?”, for me, that was the most transformative thing with this journey [unclear 48:58] to you need a job. That was our first intro to all these of holding yourself accountable to living the life that you say you want to live. And that’s been the most transformative thing.

And then, throughout the week, the speakers have been saying, “Well, you know, I’m not really talking too much about money in my presentation.” And that’s really been a throughline of it’s much bigger than that.

Mad Fientist: So, this conversation just highlighted the thing that I love most about the Chautauqua. It’s like people come here for the presenters presumably, but it’s everyone that’s here that has the knowledge and the experiences and the stories that teach everyone else so much.

I can’t wait to listen back to this when I’m not actually trying to orchestrate a podcast and just dive deeper into all of the gems of knowledge that all of you have shared. It’s an incredible thing being here with all of you and meeting you and learning from you. And that’s the thing that I don’t think people expect, everybody is learning so much from everyone else. And that’s the really beautiful thing about this week.

So, I just want to thank all of you for being here, one, for agreeing to do this, talk. And Vicki, thanks for putting this together. We’re recording this in August of 2017. But I’m hoping to release this in March of next year to coincide with the release of the new version of Your Money or Your Life. And I can’t wait to read that new version.

So, presumably, it’s out. And you can look in the show notes for a link to it. But yeah, thanks, Vicki for putting this cool game together. There’s so much gold that came out of these discussions. And thank you all for being here.

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21 comments for “Money Talks – Live from the UK Chautauqua with Vicki Robin

  1. FIRECracker
    March 28, 2018 at 5:46 am

    Oh man, brings back so many good memories of Chautauqua. Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

    I cracked up when you spilled beer all over your laptop. “NOOOO! Save the beer! GAH!” And I guess I’m glad the laptop’s okay too. :P

  2. Mr. Financial Freedom Project
    March 28, 2018 at 10:09 am

    The Money Talks concept is really interesting. It’s truly a shame that there is so much reticence to discuss personal finance in modern society. I was truly blessed during my working years to work with very like-minded individuals when it came to overall financial mindset and even a pursuit of financial independence.

    Three of us in my four-man department were all pursuing financial independence. I’m not sure if this was a testament to the analytical, type-A that my profession typically attracted or whether it could simply be attributed to the extremely poor company culture that was driving us all to pursue FI with everything in us.

    We all had different areas of focus, different backgrounds, and were of different generations. We constantly shared new tips, hacks, and concepts with each other. It was amazing how much we all learned from one another.

    I wish discussing personal finance with friends and family was easier than it is. Like Brandon, I often have to pull back on my own reins for fear of my enthusiasm being misinterpreted as judging others financial decisions or coming off as someone who is simply over-eager to share their own knowledge.

    I love the Office Space reference! Great movie.

  3. Meghan
    March 28, 2018 at 10:32 am

    So fantastic to hear everyone’s voices! This was such a great conversation, and something I’d love to replicate with people in my non-Chautauqua life.

    • Anthony Rich
      January 15, 2019 at 9:02 am

      I’d like to hear more from you and Ollie about breaking away from teaching.
      My wife and I both have 25 years in our districts and want to retire early but feel locked in by pensions and healthcare. We are FI And want to try to figure out how to go out at 30 years/51 years old without giving up too much.
      I run all the financial workshops for my district and preach the indexing philosophy through Vanguard. Thx

  4. Brandon
    March 28, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Wow, this inspires me all over again. I’m already using this podcast as a conversation starter with some peeps (as Matt recommended).

  5. Jeremy
    March 28, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Nice! Good to see a beer from Houston, TX make it on the show, too!

  6. Ed
    March 28, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Gamifying personal finance is a great idea. When will the game be available for purchase? I host cash flow games in Dallas and would like to offer this game to all my members.

  7. Suz
    March 29, 2018 at 8:53 am

    I enjoyed all the stories that were shared and sounded like a fun time was had by all! Listening to the great discussion, I also wondered if the Money Talks game was available for purchase or whether it was something created just for this gathering…..? I recently attended a similar discussion on personal finance where Money Habitudes cards were used to generate lively discussions about our individual attitudes surrounding money, the sources of our financial education and how that translated into our financial journey. I enjoyed it so much that I purchased some of the cards and use them in various settings as a way to start conversations about money habits and have learned a lot about people’s money psychology. I see the value in such tools to help people open up about personal finance and stimulate conversations on the subject.

    • grantmeaname
      April 19, 2018 at 6:15 am

      Agreed! Is Money Talks going to be available for purchase (or download and DIY printing)? I’d like to bring it to some FI meetups I attend this summer!

      • The Mad Fientist
        April 23, 2018 at 4:32 am

        Yes, I just heard from Vicki and she said they’re working on it so hopefully it will be available to purchase soon!

        • grantmeaname
          July 21, 2018 at 7:39 am

          Hey Brandon – have you heard any update on this?

  8. jlcollins
    March 29, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Brings back great memories of an awesome Chautauqua.

    Great fun listening to this. Thanks all!

  9. Kam
    March 29, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Is the new edition of Your Money or Your Life Out Yet? Can’t seem to find it! March is almost over!

  10. Jane
    March 30, 2018 at 12:19 am

    I got 20 years on most of ya and I’m a little surprised to hear folks say they would
    pay their bills and then spend everything else. I did the same back when and so there’s much
    education to be done for children.

  11. Accidental FIRE
    April 1, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Great episode, cool idea with the game. As for the question of “what’s your calling”, it is indeed difficult as everyone said. I like the guy who said “i reject the question”. Cal Newport talks a lot about the fallacy of “follow your passion” which is along the same lines as this question. I personally think everyone can and will have many passions at different points in their lives, as well as many “callings”

  12. CorpRaider
    April 3, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    The game is an interesting concept. Always into hearing another episode of the MadFientist podcast. Thanks!

  13. Knittingmole
    April 6, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Hey Mad Fientist, which pour over coffee thing do you have? I’ve been looking for one…thanks!

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 23, 2018 at 4:33 am

      I’ve got this one and I love it!

  14. Mr. Income Master
    April 7, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Great episode! Very lucky the laptop survived the beer spill lol.

  15. Playyourmoneyright
    May 5, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    Hey Dude, Right on ! Such a great episode … This is what i call living the real dream ! not that bullshit from TV and The Rat Race.

  16. Nilo Demito Lopes
    April 9, 2019 at 5:08 am

    Hi Brandon, would you have Eduardo’s contact? I’m also a Brazilian seeking FI in the UK do it would be nice to reach out. Thanks, Nilo

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