Buying Time

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and worked as a financial adviser before retiring at age 35. He is married, has three kids and has returned to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.

Time is money.

Who has never heard that before? Usually it’s used by a self-important executive who values money more than anything and uses it as an excuse not to make time for other considerations. But there is some truth to this well-known saying. Time and money are both scarce resources in that it is impossible to have an unlimited amount of either. Most of us only have access to a finite amount of money and in many cases, it feels “scarce.” While it’s true that some people have access to far more money than others, that’s not true with time. Each of us only has a small amount of time in life and, even those who will live longer only have slightly more than others.

I think it’s fair to say that a person’s life can be summed up by the answer to the question: what did he spend his time and money on? This idea really captures what’s most important to a person. The busy executive above values money more than anything. Bill Gates is spending his money to further education and to improve health in Africa. Ghandi spent his time helping build national unity, something money couldn’t buy. Robert Munsch spends his time and money entertaining children.

Time and money are, in some ways, exchangeable. While working, we trade our time (and effort and ingenuity) for money. Similarly, saving for retirement is like buying time. When we save money for future consumption, we avoid having to trade time for a paycheque later. In that way, we retake ownership of our time. While I was working and saving a large portion of my paycheque, I saw it as progress toward the day when I would be able to replace my earned income with investment income, giving me back my working time.

Now that I no longer work, I need to be careful with how I spend my money and my time. If I’m wasteful with my money, I’ll need to give up my time and go back to work. But it’s also possible to be wasteful with my time. My satisfaction and my contribution to my community will be measured by how I spend my time. With however much time you have available now, how do you spend it? Are you happy with what your choices say about you?

2 thoughts on “Buying Time”

  1. A few years ago (before digital cameras were cheap), my daughter lost mine in a farmers field.
    When I told a friend of mine that I spent 3 hours in the rain finding it, he said I was nuts, should have just bought another $300 camera.
    I looked at it that I was being paid the equivalent of $300 for wandering in a field (I was determined to find it). It would have taken me a lot for than a morning to earn $300 at my job, so I felt it was well worth it.
    That was when I made the connection in my head regarding time vs money.
    Time? Money? I’ve found I’m always trading one for the other.

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