History

Would you take financial advice from these people? Millions have. This is the history of Your Money or Your Life, a NY Times bestseller, that the LA Times called the “new morality of money” and Oprah called a book “that will change your life” and many people have called the best financial book they’ve ever read.

 

Twenty years earlier, in the 1950s, Joe Dominguez was attending middle school in Spanish Harlem in New York City. A teacher assigned an essay on what each student wanted to be when they were 30.

vicki and joe

He said: Financially Independent. Where did a kid in a gang, whose father lived in a TB ward and whose mother never learned English, come up with that idea? Perhaps because he was the sole earner in his family by the time he was 7, perhaps because he saw what poverty did to everyone he knew, perhaps because he was a Mensa-level genius.

 

A decade later he was invited by a buddy he’d met traveling to work at a Wall Street firm run by the guy’s father. You never know where people on the road have really come from. Joe applied his engineering training (from CCNY, no degree) and penetrating reason to learning about the world of finance, not just what made stocks tick but what made people tick in relation to money.

 

One conclusion was that wealthy people were no happier than poor people, they only had more money. Another was that those with money who were happiest were those who didn’t focus on money, but rather focused on their values and a sense of service to family, community, and their faith. From this he returned to his tween goal of financial independence – saving, investing and liberating his time from paid employment and focus on what mattered more.

 

He also observed that by translating engineering principles about the flow of energy through systems to the stock market he could do a better job for his employer in predicting the market. From this he developed some of the earliest technical analysis tools, moving to a major investment banking firm and writing a weekly market letter with uncannily accurate predictions. All the while he squirreled away ever greater percentages of his salary and in 1969, just before his 31st birthday, he declared himself financially independent with enough income to meet his needs, now and in the future – and set sail in a “land yacht” (motorhome he built himself) for a life of adventure.

 

For the next decade, he devoted himself to his inner life and to help others – which led to a “back-to-the-land” stint of clearing land, growing vegetables, raising animals, hunting and building a common structure. The picture above was the “hard hat” crew (with a baking dish and colander on their heads) setting the foundation for a building.

 

Then people started asking Joe why he didn’t have to work. Reflecting on his own process, he observed that he took 9 steps to his FI goal – and thus the 9-step program in Your Money or Your Life was born. At first, he spoke in church basements and motel meeting rooms to groups of 20-50 people. Several years later he was filling auditoriums, with all monies collected were given to organizations he supported.

 

This was not the life he’d set out to live, however. Vicki joined Joe to help set up a Foundation, the New Road Map Foundation, as a charitable and educational organization to produce his seminars and disseminate the income to organizations working for positive change. Years earlier his approach to money had opened her mind, revolutionized her life and liberated her time and she wanted to make his teaching available widely. Joe put the seminar on tape, Vicki and friends wrote a workbook and NRM published an audio program that reached another ten thousand people in the next half-decade.

 

In 1989 Vicki attended the largest US convention on an idea coming out of the Bruntland Commission Report, Our Common Future: sustainable development or “meeting the demands of the present generations while preserving the rights of future generations to meet their own needs.” There the penny dropped about the link between the FI program that verifiably resulted in 20% lower expenses with a reported higher quality of life and the biggest threat to sustainability, the socially sanctioned and abetted addiction to consumerism as a path to profit and happiness. Joe and Vicki decided that the 9-step program needed to reach every American and with a nigh on to missionary fervor sought a way to do that within a decade.

 

Soon after, Beth Vesel, an NY agent, read an article about some people following Joe’s advice, contacted him and proposed he write a book. Together he as the idea person and Vicki as the wordsmith transformed the seminars into a highly readable book with steps, stories, philosophy and advice which Viking/Penguin published in 1992. Joe stayed home except for a quick trip to Chicago to be on Oprah, which shot the book to the NYTimes bestseller list. Here are Vicki and Joe on Oprah in 1992.

 

Vicki went on the road, eventually doing well over a thousand media interviews, including a reprise on Oprah. Here they are “shopping” with clothes tagged with “hours of my life it would take to buy this.” (yes, she wore the same dress for each show, 2 years apart). Here is the full Oprah episode from 1995.

 

 

Joe Dominguez died in the first weeks of 1997. Vicki continued their mission through 2000, their book reaching a million people in a dozen languages and through her media appearances reaching half the population of the United States.

 

Hundreds of thousands of lives were changed, though consumerism provided to be a more deeply rooted cancer in our economy and society than they ever imagined.

 

Fast forward another decade plus a few years. After working on a wide range of social change projects, Vicki, now over 70, returned to Your Money or Your Life to introduce it to a new generation. She soon discovered that “while she was out” on other assignments, FI had rooted itself in a world-wide sub-culture hundreds of thousands strong. She met Grant Sabatier of Millennial Money with whom she developed this platform – and many other bloggers and practitioners, one of whom called her the Eve of Adam and Eve of the FIRE (financial independence retire early) community.

 

With the publication of her update of Your Money or Your Life in April of 2018, Vicki is happily joining forces with these many FIers to share the good news that there’s more to life than money and that there’s a way to achieve FI for yourself and beyond that to be of service so we may all be free, happy, fulfilled and in service to the best possible future for our world.