How I got started on this approach to money

Once upon a time, which is to say a long time ago, a couple of friends asked if I’d go halves with them on a study kit they saw advertised in Utne Reader. They’d moved off to establish a medical practice in an economically besieged corner of the country and were financially strapped. So I shrugged, asked myself why not, and figured that helping them get their fiscal house in order was the least I could do.

Look, I’ve always been frugal — or at least been seen that way. Besides, I’d chosen a profession that didn’t pay especially well. Usually, on the wage scale, journalists were below public-school teachers, even before the Internet eroded the business. Frankly, looking at this mess could be depressing. Oh, sigh, as one colleague used to say.

Even though I had earned a minor in economics in college and was editing the Sunday Business section in a statewide newspaper, nothing had prepared me for what we would encounter in the materials based on Joseph R. Dominguez and Vicky Robin’s Your Money or Your Life. If you’re not familiar with their work, I think you’ll find it revolutionary. We’ll come back to it later. A lot.

As my friends and I worked through the exercise workbooks and swapped the audio cassettes, our phone calls and letters turned into confessions of what we were discovering about ourselves and the ways we handle money. This was hardly what I’d expected. These were becoming passionate discussions.

Later, after adding Jacob Needleman’s Money and the Meaning of Life and Richard J. Foster’s Money, Sex, and Power (later renamed The Challenge of the Disciplined Life) to the curriculum, I facilitated an eight-week autumn workshop in my local Friends Meeting (Quakers), where a lively circle spent two hours each week examining some of these topics.

Afterward, one of the participants suggested we offer a similar workshop at New England Yearly Meeting of Friends the next summer.

As you’ll see, it grew from there.

Where do you talk about money? Your money? Or is it largely kept secret?

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