My Net Worth is… (2016 Update)

Robin Greenfield sitting barefoot in front of his camping tent, with
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This is my net worth from 2016. See my updated net worth here

Many of you may be wondering what my financial situation is. I get asked about my relationship with money a lot, which makes sense since most of us feel that we need enough money to be able to really pursue our passions. I believe that I am living proof that that is just not true.

When I last updated my net worth a year ago it was just a little under $15,000. I had $3,200 cash and about $13,000 in possessions which included my tiny house ($950), bicycle ($2,000), camera ($2,000), computer ($1,000), and clothing ($1,800). Since then I have put a great amount of effort and practice into reducing my dependency on money and abolishing my desires for material possessions.

In January of this year I auctioned my tiny house and donated the $10,000 raised to be used for building tiny houses for people who are living on the streets in San Diego. While living there I had about 400 – 500 possessions. Upon moving out I further simplified my life and managed to get down to just 111 possessions. This is all of them:

My 111 Possessions

I gave away a lot of the possessions I had and some I sold. As of today my net worth is about $3,600. I have $600 cash and my possessions add up to about $3,000 (based on what I could sell them for today). I have no debt, have forgiven all of the debts owed to me, and do not have a credit card or monthly bill to my name. I withdrew all of my investments a few years back to divest from destructive mutual funds and to live in the present. I recently canceled my bank account as well to even further reduce my usage of money. Some would say I’m in poverty and strictly in financial terms they’d be right. However, I’m far from living a life of poverty.

I live a life of voluntary simplicity. But up to now I’ve always been a business oriented person and pretty good at it. On my summer vacations during university I worked 80-90 hours per week selling educational books door to door as an independent contractor. I made around $20,000 each summer during university. After college, I continued doing sales as an independent contractor and made as much as $2,000 on some days. I sold advertising at supermarkets. At the age of 24 I took all that I had learned and started my own marketing company. I ran this company for three years and it was a successful endeavor. I’ve always been good with money and if I wanted to have a lot of right now I absolutely could. I could have a big house, a nice car, expensive suits and fancy possessions. But I have moved away from the world of bills and possessions. I believe in sharing and I’ve chosen to live a life of non-ownership. I do think we’re entitled to our possessions but I’m supportive of systems that allow us to share our resources rather than each of us having our own of everything.

I am not aiming to increase my own net worth but instead to increase the net worth of the earth. I don’t see worth in dollar signs like I did in the past though. I see worth in natural beauty. I see worth in the quality of human life, which in my mind greatly revolves around health, happiness, and liberty. I see worth in abundance and diversity of animal and plant life. I see worth in clean air. I see worth in pure water. I see worth in wholesome food that is available to everyone. I see worth in infrastructure and systems that provide justice and equality for all.

I don’t need money for any of these things and although I think money can serve as a tool to create these things I also don’t think it is necessary. In today’s society I think money often brings us further away from these things. Abundance and over usage of money is destroying our natural beauty. It is decreasing abundance and diversity of animal and plant life. Money is increasingly ending up in the hands of the wealthiest people on Earth while the middle and lower income classes are earning less and less even though they are working harder than ever before.
Because of these reasons, among others, I have made 
vows to live a life that is not based on money. In April of 2015 I vowed to earn no more than $15,000 per year and own no more than $15,000 in possessions and $15,000 in assets. Since then I have found that I don’t even need that much to be healthy and happy and have seen that decreasing my financial wealth actually increases my life wealth. Today I am lowering this to earning no more than $5,000 per year and owning no more than $5,000 in possessions and $5,000 in cash. (Update: I have changed this to the federal poverty threshold. Details here.) At my current state of $3,600 in possessions and cash I am well below that level. I have dedicated my life to bettering the USA by leading by example and by being a person that has the best interest of our entire population in mind. I had also vowed to donate at least 90% of my media earnings to grassroots environmental and social nonprofits. Since I made that vow I have donated over 100%. Between my TV showbook, and a few other things I have raised $35,000 for nonprofits working on great social and environmental issues and haven’t kept any of the money. Today I am vowing to donate 100% of my media income. I aim to grow my voice through TV and media but I promise not to get financially wealthy off of my fame. I promise that I will remain pure and a leader to those who want to live in a manner that is fair to the earth, humanity, and all the creatures that we share the earth with. As my voice grows stronger, so too does my dedication to humanity and the environment. And as I grow mentally and in age, so too will my courage to hold strong to my ethics, morals, and beliefs. Great changes in society don’t come by doing what’s always been done.

I have talked about living moneyless but at this point I am not going to pursue a completely money free way of life. I feel that it could possibly hinder my ability to affect positive change at this point and I certainly would not want to do that. I have calculated that I can live very comfortably on around $5,000 per year. The truth is I could live on much less but $5,000 is very comfortable for me. I plan to earn that money through public speaking or possibly by salvaging things that people throw out and selling them.

Some would say that I’m being foolish by not having a big savings; that I am unprotected. However, I find security in giving all I have, fostering deeply connected relationships, and being resourceful. In my opinion money is largely an illusion of security, especially if you have no one that loves you. I’ve come to feel that the more I give of myself to humanity and the environment the more secure I feel. I believe that in hard times my friends would help, just as I would help them. And I believe in abundance rather than scarcity.

I truly believe that I can be a contributing member of society without working for money. I know many would say that if I’m not paying taxes I’m not contributing, however, I think taxes are just one of the many ways to contribute to society. I honestly believe that my hard work and dedication to my fellow US Americans is worth far more than what I could pay in income taxes if I worked for the dollar instead. If I didn’t truly believe this then I’d be working for money to pay taxes because I can say from the bottom of my heart that I am here to serve the people of the USA. I am happy to say that 2015 was my first year of having zero income to report and thus no federal or state income taxes to pay. Of course you only have to pay taxes on money that you earn so if you are not earning any money then you don’t have to pay federal or state income taxes. And because of the standard deduction and personal exemption that everyone receives on their taxes you can earn some money without paying federal and state income taxes. For example a single person like myself can earn up to approximately $10,000/ year without paying federal income taxes. State thresholds vary by state and are likely lower. Also for those who think that the richest people in the USA pay the most taxes I strongly encourage you to do some research. Many of the largest corporations in the USA work loopholes to not pay a single cent in taxes.

My work can actually save taxpayers vast quantities of money. For example, US Americans spend hundreds of billions in taxes per year on disposing of trash. I’m teaching people (tax payers and non-tax payers) how to live a life that creates less trash. My work, along with many of the nonprofits out there that I support could save taxpayers far more money than I could ever pay in taxes.

I encourage all of you reading this to look past the surface of your preconceived notions and to seek the deeper truth in life. You CAN change the way you are doing things in order to live in a manner that is truly beneficial to the earth, your community, and yourself. I believe that you will find great worth in living in service to humanity and all the creatures we share this earth with. I believe that you will find security in a deeper connection to your fellow humans and nature. I encourage you to explore your own means to follow those feelings inside you, the ones that are telling you to do the right thing.

(Note: People have been asking about health insurance. I cover that in my blog: On Health Insurance, Age, and Death)

Cover Photo Credits: 
Sierra Ford Photography

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