Time is Not Money

Though Both May Not Exist

Two big events are fresh in my mind, framing today’s column. First (and less important), today is my birthday. Second (and more important), my aunt just passed away at age 55, despite being the picture of health.

These events coalesced into a single purpose for this column—to focus on the idea that all one ever actually has is time to fill in various ways. You’ll probably spend a significant percentage of your time on sleeping, but you can decide for yourself if that’s a waste or an enjoyable necessity. Eating and drinking work the same way—you’ve got do to them in some form or another, and you can determine how much pleasure you derive and how much time you’ll spend on that need.

One strategy we humans have devised to determine the options available for time-filling is money. If you have a lot of money, then you have more options available to fill your time. You might drastically alter your geological location by flying to a new place, which will cost little time but some money. If you have more time and less money, you might relocate to the same new geographical location by walking and foraging for food along the way. Both might enjoy the journey equally, but given collective human measuring systems, they spent drastically different amounts of time and money on those journeys

As a financial columnist, I could blather on that in this sense time is money (or can be exchanged for money) and so urge you to get all the money you can gather in as short a time as possible. I should at least encourage you to demand the most amount of money possible for your time and labor. Those are fine ideas, and they might serve you well, but they are not the ultimate goal of this column. The column is intended to show your financial choices now impact your time and your options to fill it, for better or for worse. If you plan to never retire, because you love your work, congrats.

Conversely, your job may not satisfy you in that way, and there’s no shame in that acknowledgement. Consider again my aunt. As near as I can tell, her great love was spending time with her family. She had been working for years toward the goal of retiring, wherein she would have enough money to cover her expenses without working, enabling her to spend even more time with her family. If she knew her time ran out at 55, I expect she’d have already been retired, instead of slogging on at her job and waiting for the weekends.

This struggle illustrates how time is not money. The fundamental uncertainty of life is that none of us knows how much time is in our account, no matter how we budget it. Think on that, dear reader—what’s one moment or minute or hour of your time that you could give up, and spend it on something else you desire?