It’s Only Money

It’s not often that I’m asked by a complete stranger to read a book but it just so happens that this is exactly how I came to read It Is Only Money and It Grows on Trees by Cara MacMillan. I have to admit, when I first started the book, I was skeptical. It is written in a colloquial style, as the teacher, Catherine, is speaking with a group of international students on the topic of money. Not too many books on money are written this way. After reading it though, I’m thinking perhaps more should be.

The conversations between the students and Catherine pack a pretty powerful information punch. I really feel that I learned a few thing from this book, especially with respect to the different religious and cultural views of money. I have friends of different faiths and from different cultures but we’ve never had a real conversation about money. I suppose I just took for granted that they held the same Americanized beliefs about money that I (once) had. Maybe they do but more likely they don’t, since I’m sitting here  right now thinking about how successful each of their lives are.

The Jewish parable of the 6 jars was probably the most interesting concept that I read about. Those who practice this allocation method have to live on 50% of their income. It’s not an option to do otherwise, since the remaining 50% is allocated to other specific areas, like giving, investing, and saving. (I did Google “6 jars” after reading the book, only to find that I’m once again out of the loop. Apparently this method of money management is more common than I thought.)

It Is Only Money isn’t necessarily a book about minimalism but it does speak to minimalist principles, like differentiating wants from needs and avoiding unnecessary purchases (and high pressure sales). The book also talks a lot about living on less than you make, regardless of your income, and using your talents to create income (rather than simply accepting a soul-sucking job that you hate).

The big takeaway from the book is this – money is a just a resource. You trade your time for it. You trade it for other things. And it is solely your choice of trades that determines money’s value in your life. As I’m beginning to think towards early retirement, I’ve become keenly aware of just how very little of my time I want to trade for money and how many things I’m willing to do without to make that happen.

If you visit Cara’s website at caramacmillan.com, you can download a free copy of the It is Only Money Workbook, which is also included in the back of the book and contains practical tips and exercises. The exercises have been particularly helpful in jump starting my creative thinking about our financial future.

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