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Book Review: You Only Live Once

“Too many people spend money they earned… to buy things they don’t want… to impress people that they don’t like.” –Will Rogers

“Money often costs too much.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to talk about money. Wait! Don’t go away. I know, you’re thinking, this is Psych Central, not WSJ, and I agree with you. But money is so intimately tied in with so much of our lives; our goals, dreams, aspirations and self-worth can be all tied up in the value of a dollar. And yet it often remains a taboo topic of sorts. Our money, what we make and how we spend it, is no one’s business but our own, and yet sometimes we don’t even make it our own business. We make an income, spend it on things we want at the time, but don’t have any bigger picture in mind. If we make ends meet, that’s counted as a success and we don’t put much more thought into it. Or we know we should think about it more, and we worry about that, but we leave the whole thing at the worry stage, hoping that it will just “work out” and our retirement will be there when we need it. In his new book You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life, Jason Vitug offers a guide to understanding your own personal money mindset and helps you take action towards an improved financial future.

Jason Vitug is a millennial who has dealt with his own complex relationship with money, one to which many can relate. In college, he got his first credit card and was soon mired in debt. After college he scrambles to dig out of the debt, becoming “professionally successful but personally unsatisfied.” He notes, “Money was the obstacle to my dreams. I came from a place of fear and scarcity. I chased money as the solution to my problems and believed my ability to spend corresponded with control.” Focused on his finances, he says, “I had achieved financial success and set financial goals, but without a sense of purpose…” Realizing his life was not headed where he wanted, he resigned from his stable executive job to backpack around the world. On returning, he founded his own personal financial website Phroogal, and created a grassroots campaign to break the social taboo about money that involved a road-trip around the country to speak with people in campuses and communities about their relationship with money. He distills the knowledge gained from that journey into his book.

You Only Live Once (OK, you knew someone would use that as a title eventually), is focused on his self-defined ACT process, which stands for Awareness, Creating a plan, and Taking control. The section on Awareness works on making you more cognizant of your relationship with money. Many of us simply earn money and then spend it, with little real thought to the overarching process. “Everyone has a money mindset,” Vitug writes. “You may not be aware that your current financial situation is a result of this mindset. A money mindset — how you think and feel about money — creates a set of beliefs that determines your behaviors, attitude, and outlook with respect to life and money.” Throughout this section he asks a series of questions to try to get you to explore your own money mindset, including why you spend what you do. “What emotional need are you looking to fill?” he asks. He points out that “[n]o amount of spending and borrowing or saving and investing will get you what you want if you’re not clear about what you really value and what you’re working toward.”

In the section on creating a plan, Vitug helps you create a budget “that aligns with your values and priorities the goals that support the vision for your life” (sounds kind of like CBT principles lurking in there). He examines what gets in the way of people creating — and then following — budgets. He focuses on “purposeful” spending rather than simply looking for good deals or making sure your income is greater than your expenses. In the final portion of the book, Taking Control, Vitug focuses on turning these plans into action and moving towards financial goals, as well as ensuring all of this moves you closer to larger life goals.

Overall, this is an easy read, particularly for a book about finances. Some of the ideas and concepts do seem a bit simplistic and idealistic, but there is plenty of straightforward, reasonable advice to make it a worthwhile book.

You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life

John Wiley & Sons, Inc, June 2016

Hardcover, 169 pages


Book Review: You Only Live Once

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Megan Riddle

APA Reference
Riddle, M. (2016). Book Review: You Only Live Once. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Sep 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Sep 2016
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