Time, the Ultimate Commodity

I thought I understood the concept that time is more valuable than money. The way I understood it was that time is finite and cannot be purchased (not yet at least) and money is infinite. This thought has been just lingering in the back of my mind for some time now, but I never really acted upon this knowledge. Sure I may not have gone after that higher paying job because I knew it would eat away at more of the life part of my work-life balance, but at the same time I have stayed in a career that eats up 50 plus hours of my week most weeks. That’s almost a third of the total hours we have in a week. So now two-thirds of my time is either working for someone else or sleeping. Seems like a crummy deal.

My favorite podcast lately (by far – highly recommended) is Invest Like the Best by Patrick O’Shaughnessy. I was listening to the episode where Patrick interviews Chris Cole. At the beginning of the podcast Chris said something pretty basic, yet it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m going to paraphrase what he said:

Warren Buffet is worth 66 billion dollars and is in his late 80’s. Would you trade places with him? No one would say yes to that. Therefore your time is valued in the billions.

For whatever reason, maybe it was just the mood I was in while I was eating my turkey sandwich and listening, but this blew my mind. My brain started going in a million directions. Why aren’t I doing something I’m passionate about everyday? Why am I working for someone else? Why are golden handcuffs so hard to break? I know time is more valuable than money, but my actions make it look like I believe the opposite.

Obviously my most blatant action that goes against my belief that time is greater than money is my job. To understand why I’m still in my career I put together a quick list of reasons why, off the top of my head: income, health insurance, prestige, cultural norms, the people, money, expectations, scared to leave comfort, at times it is rewarding and challenging, free laptop and cell phone, airline and hotel status, faster time to financial independence, and money. A majority of those reasons have to do strictly with money. What’s up with that?

Now obviously those of us who haven’t reached financial independence must earn an income of some sort to survive. But without a doubt I could figure something out where I work less than 40 hours a week, cover my expenses, and save a little. I think the reasons I don’t are the fact that I want to get to financial independence so fast. I think I’m doing a good job enjoying the journey to that goal, but maybe I could be doing a better job at ignoring things like cultural norms and expectations. Maybe I should just go for it and create something that would give me back more of my time. What is the worst that could happen – I go back to a 9 to 5?

Do you think time is more valuable than money? Do you make decisions based on money even though you know time is more important? How do you condition yourself to make decisions not based on money?

32 thoughts on “Time, the Ultimate Commodity

  1. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    I think that, at the end of it all, time is more valuable than money. You can’t generate or create time; everyone is given a finite amount of it.

    But! There are times when you have to sacrifice time for money. I justify this in the sense that, while I do spend 8 hours a day in a cubicle, I’m sacrificing this time upfront to build savings so I can have more time later during early retirement.

    It’s all about balancing time and money. I determine most of these decisions by imagining how I’ll feel looking back on my life. What were the things that mattered?
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend!My Profile

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You’re right – it is a balance. And a tough one at that. I try to make it a good balance too, but sometimes I think I tilt to much to the money side.

  2. Mr Crazy Kicks

    It’s a tricky balance. In the years leading up me quitting my job, I was shedding more and more responsibility. By sidestepping some promotions I was able to position myself to do work I found interesting while earning the same amount of money and only working 40 hours a week. It was great, but at the same time it can be frustrating watching other people move ahead. It’s hard not to think about what you are giving up by throttling your career.

    That never changes, even after reaching FI and quiting, it’s still in the back of my mind how much money and opportunities I might be giving up. But I know I am doing the things in life I want to be doing, and I don’t have to think too hard about whether I would rather go back to work 🙂

    Great quote about being Warren Buffet, you can’t buy your time back!
    Mr Crazy Kicks recently posted…The Cost of Living Well – 2016 ExpensesMy Profile

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience MCK. I bet once I get to the FI financial line I won’t mind that I had spent maybe a little too much time working, since it got me to the end goal faster… Only time will tell 🙂

  3. FIRECracker

    Love that Warren Buffet quote. So eye opening and so true. When we are young, we have health and time but no money. When we are older we have health and money but no time. When we are old, we have time and money but no health. FIRE let’s us have all 3.

    Great post!

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      FIRE may let us have all 3, but the journey to FI puts a real strain on the “time” part 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Full Time Finance

    While time is more valuable then money, you can invest time to make money to buy more time. Building yourself to FI is exactly that. Buying yourself opportunity to use the time in a different way. Now I saw you mentioned building something to buy more time. I’d advise a bit of caution here. It’s been my experience that being self employed actually takes more time then working for the man. It just has other benefits like choosing when to work,
    Full Time Finance recently posted…Understanding Data AnalysisMy Profile

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Definitely FTF. I’m investing my time to make money so that I can buy appreciating assets that will give me time later. Kind of tricky haha. I agree that being self employed is by NO MEANS easy. But I find that (at least in my circle) the self employed people have so much more self fulfillment with respect to their careers and it’s something I admire. Would be nice to have something I enjoyed, made me feel more fulfilled, and paid me.

  5. Michal Sadowski

    Great ideas, FF.

    Let me chip in my two cents. I think seeing money and time as a binary choice can lead to a dead end. When you free up large amounts of time, you need to spend it somehow anyway. Most people spend it on work. That’s where your peers certainly are. Freeing up a lot of time can cause plenty of worry, uncertainty or sheer laziness too, which ultimately negates the benefits.

    Striking a balance is where it’s at. I don’t know if you’ve read this one: https://sivers.org/balance Being binary abour time and money is probably not where it’s at.

    I loved the Buffet quote but see its limitations too. You obviously wouldn’t trade places with 80-something Buffet. He’s simply too old. We don’t like old. We prefer young. Would you trade places with Buffet in his 20s? You know, Buffet when he was your current age?

    You probably would because at that time he’d had a lifetime of experiences and a very meaningful life ahead of him. He was young. And driven. Money came as an afterthought of being passionate about capital allocation, business, valuation, strategy, forming partnerships and some such.

    So, who knows, maybe instead of pitting time against money in some sort of eternal fight, you (we) should be thinking more about whether we have something (a passion, a theme, a specialization, a mission, a huge question to answer, a goal to achieve and what not) that will drive us forward. Preferably this should be profitable so money gets taken care of. Or it should be a side gig along 9 to 5, at least before it takes off.

    My point is time will have to be spent on something. Another way to approach it could be: Do you think you’re living a kind of life that would make you, in your 80s, want to trade places with anyone? Is there anything you might regret doing or not doing when you get old? I think this is a great framework to wirk with as well.

    Thanks for sending my thoughts in a million directions, FF. Cheers from snowy Poland, Europe.
    Michal Sadowski recently posted…Jakie są wyniki i koszty mojej polisy inwestycyjnej ViennaLife (Skandia) po pięciu latach od startu?My Profile

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks for sharing the link and your perspective! I guess I’m being a little bit of a dreamer in wishing I could create something that would bring me joy, fulfillment, and money. I know people that do it, but maybe they are lucky that their passion lines up with an opportunity to pay the bills. Maybe that’s an excuse and I just need to work harder at finding mine 🙂

  6. Amber tree

    Good refelections FF… That is what we have been thinking as well. My current job pay less, has less of a company car and less corporate stuff. My wife thinks I am more relaxed, I ride the bike to the station… All in all, a good balance.
    It will probably slow the FIRE date (unless the business I joined as employee becomes a real jackpot). So what?
    All the best figuring it out!

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Seems like you’ve already made strides to find a healthier balance along the way. Thanks for the well wishes!

  7. Steve @ Think Save Retire

    Time definitely holds a higher value to me than money. It always really had. When I worked full-time, however, I knew that I was in the accumulation phase of my life. The priority at the time was, naturally, amassing as much of a fortune as I could to enable retirement sooner. While I never worked myself straight into the ground, I had never considered a part-time position or reducing my hours or workload *during my accumulation phase*. That would crush my ability to maximize earnings.

    After reaching financial independence, however, a part-time gig seemed much more attractive. I didn’t end up going that route – opting instead to continue maximizing earnings. But, once the majority of your desired fortune has been earned, I can definitely see the wisdom in a significant shift towards time over money.
    Steve @ Think Save Retire recently posted…Want to retire in your 30s? Cool! Here’s how I did itMy Profile

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      We think alike Steve. It’s hard for me to think about “scaling it back” when I’m still a decent away from my goal. Once I get closer though I think I’ll really consider scaling it back even before FI.

      Hope FIRE is treating you well! 🙂

  8. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    Time is absolutely more valuable to me now…especially with a family. I feel like I spend much of my waking hours working, commuting to work or doing chores/running errands. Would love to reach FI but it’s hard in NYC as you well know. I should move to the Midwest too! =) But my family and friends are all here, as is my job…it’s tough.

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      A agree Andrew. It was much easier for me to move out of NYC as most of my family and good friends are scattered east of the Mississippi, for the most part. But I’m definitely really liking the move. Nicer people. Less workaholics. More easily accessible outdoors. In the end, I’m just not a big city guy at heart. Take care!

  9. Biglaw Investor

    Powerful stuff. Intuitively people know that time is more valuable than money, but the way you were able to put a price on it with the Buffett quote is magical. It’s true. I wouldn’t trade places with him. Therefore, it must also be true that I value my time on Earth in the billions. Mind blown! Thanks for this inspiration.
    Biglaw Investor recently posted…Pay Down Auto Loan at 1.9% or Invest?My Profile

  10. Freedom 40 Plan

    Wow – its like you got inside my head and wrote this article for me. As I read along, I just kept nodding my head. I’m very much in the same situation as you right now. I’m really hating work, but yet I can’t seem to break away because….well, I’m not exactly sure why. The safety the job provides, enjoying the big paycheck, free phone, health care, etc. etc. But to your point – what’s the point of all that if it has me working 50-60 hours a week doing something I don’t like any more.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do – I’ll be trying to jolt myself into something new sometime soon, but I worry I may need a nudge (or a big freakin push) to get there…
    Freedom 40 Plan recently posted…Consolidating Brokerage AccountsMy Profile

  11. Julie @ Millennial Boss

    I don’t believe in pursuing your passion. That mantra has led me to a crazy awesome job but also incredible burnout. Like you, FI pushes me to keep doing what I’m doing. As Ive learned with travel-hacking though, there is always another way to get to the same end. Maybe I am more the Tim Ferriss than the disciplined MMM (by the way- can’t wait for that podcast episode to come out!). I probably should just keep doing what I’m doing but also, I don’t know whats behind the shiny door #2.
    Julie @ Millennial Boss recently posted…January Side Income Report – $793My Profile


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