Let’s get a move on people! We don’t have all day. Time is Money!
You’ve heard that before and probably said it, so have I. Benjamin Franklin often gets credit for the phrase, but it’s wrong.
Money is time, not time is money.
It’s disgraceful to say that time is money. Your time is your life. It’s the only thing that you really ever HAVE. Even someone that has no possessions, as long as they are alive, still has time*. Time is the basic THING. Hours, minutes, seconds – one’s existence.
It is the one thing that we all have, and what we are trading with each other when making financial decisions. Unlike the Gold Standard or any other commodity based system, everyone is on the Time Standard and always has been. The catch is that no one knows the correct exchange rate. I have a constant goal of improving my personal time exchange rate.
It’s the ultimate fixed currency. Everyone has it, some just use it better than others. It’s possible to make money or save money, but you can only save time. You can always trade money for the time of someone else, but that doesn’t increase your total amount. It might just increase the amount spent on something worthwhile.
You can try to figure out what your effective hourly rate is, building in the time and cost to commute and other expenses associated with your job. I have done this and there were years that I got a raise, but my effective hourly rate went down due to working a lot of hours but being a salaried employee. Nevertheless, the time I spent wasn’t money, it was time. Those hours are 100% spent and will never return.
Even physical products, materials, and natural resources are on the time standard. Materials are unusable until someone trades some number of their hours to extract the materials and produce something useful. I think this even works to account for the cost due to the rarity of an item. Because if something is rare, it typically takes a lot of time to find it. There may be some luck, like stumbling upon an antique at a flea market. But I’ll stick to my argument that all things, services and products, come down to trading money for hours of another person’s life.
Even bartering works on the Time Standard. Say I have fresh cow milk and you have an Audi R8 (we’re living in a weird world in this scenario). The trade isn’t 46,000 gallons of milk for the car. It’s the thousands of hours I woke up early to raise the cows, milk them, and keep the farm running traded for however many hours you spent building the car and sourcing the materials.
As I said, I don’t know what my total time bank is. Being a parent brings this into sharp, sometimes painful, reality.
I realize there are only so many hours that the kids will be young and living with us, let alone want to spend time with us. How many of those hours do I want to spend driving to and from work, at work, or yelling at them to pick up their socks?
The hours never come back. It’s easy to talk about a side hustle, or putting more time into a career, but we’re on a fixed time budget. There are about 14 years until our youngest goes to college, only about 8 until our oldest goes. That’s 70,000 hours. I will spend about 2,800 hours just commuting to work in that time. I’ll spend about 15,500 hours at work and about 17,500 hours sleeping (6 hrs/night, ideally closer to 22,000, which would be 7.5 hrs/night).
Just commuting is over 100 full days that I could spend, not on “something productive”, but on something worthwhile.
There are two ways to save time. You can become more efficient at tasks, or you can save money to use later and trade for the time of someone else. Becoming more efficient at tasks is just like saving money at the store. Less of the resource is spent. I just wish I could get a coupon for 30% off the time it takes to clean the bathroom. That’s why we try to make our chores as efficient as possible, like saving time on food and folding laundry.
Efficiency in tasks is a time coupon.
Saving time by saving money is just… saving money. Setting it aside so that it will be available later to buy time from someone else. And then there is the beauty of compound interest. The earlier in life you set time aside, the more time it has to make time on its time! (a ridiculous sentence, but I couldn’t resist)
There is no question that we want to save time by becoming more efficient at the boring but necessary parts of life. We also save time by saving as much of our income as possible. The question is, how hard to push on increasing income and savings to bank that time now? And since money is time, the real question is:
Should I spend thousands of hours now in the hope of reducing hours later? I’m still not sure and I suppose I won’t know until later in life if I chose correctly. I like to think that I’m balancing it correctly, but there it’s difficult when the kids want to play, but there are projects at work to be completed, or side businesses to run.
The only way to balance it is to constantly remind myself that money is time and focus on the tasks that matter, because time is true commodity of our lives.
*Yes, people can be incarcerated, in poor health, exiled, or in any number of bad situations within or outside of their control. Life, though difficult, still remains.