At one point in my life, I bought into the saying that “time is money.” Never was I more aware of the link between time and money than when I was a CPA stressing over tracking every minute I spent at work and allocating my time among clients and other work-related tasks. I would even be a little stressed if a partner called me into his office and talked for too long. I would start thinking, “this is going to look bad that I have an hour of unbilled time” and “now I’m going to have to work more hours to make up for all this unbilled time!”.
Not only was the time I spent on the client billed to them at my hourly rate, but also my time was turned into ratios that showed my job performance, my efficiency, the amount of time that I spent on client work but that couldn’t be billed, and more. Despite my excellent employee reviews, I would consistently have to worry about having enough billable hours. I loved my job and the challenging work I had in personal, small business and corporate tax.
However, I did not love the time billing aspect, which itself took up at least 15 minutes of each day and over an hour each week. In many industries other than just public accounting, time directly converts to billing clients and customers, which directly converts to cash. It’s a very direct link with time and money and one that is essential for these businesses to thrive.
…BUT TIME REALLY IS NOT MONEY
However, there’s a huge difference between time BEING money and time being WORTH money. When you have the mindset that time is money, you:
- Feel rushed constantly
- Feel that you need to work more hours to get more and more money
- Put money and things above people and relationships
- Don’t enjoy relaxing or down time
- Have a sense of never having enough (time and money both)
When you instead have the knowledge that time is simply worth money, you realize that:
- You are choosing whether to spend your time making money or to use your time for something that is even more valuable such as taking care of your health and relationships
- If you aren’t so dependent on money, you can do even more valuable things with your time
- You’ll never get your time back, but money comes and goes
LEARN IT NOW OR LEARN IT TOO LATE
It often takes a wake-up call such as a life-threatening illness or sudden accident to make us realize that our time is more valuable than we ever realized, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just as I always promote using your money to provide value in your life (hence the name “Making Your Money Matter”, you should make sure that you’re using your time to provide value in your life. You can do this by:
- Prioritizing your time to make sure that the things that are important to you are put first.
- Spending your most valuable time where you are the most productive on the most important tasks.
- Putting relationships ahead of work and money-making ventures. Jobs and business opportunities can vanish instantly, but your family and friends can always be there for you. Your health is also more important than any job opportunity.
A recent UCLA study showed that people who place a higher value on their time than they do on money are happier, despite the fact that over half (64% of those surveyed) chose money over time when given the choice.
FINDING BALANCE BETWEEN TIME AND MONEY
Realistically speaking, many of those that are the most successful in building wealth have a good balance of not just working nonstop to bring in money but in building relationships and using their time for more than just their own personal gain. They are also doing something that they are passionate about, which brings joy into their life through the time spent on it.
A great resource if you’re intrigued by the link between money and time is the book “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin. If you feel caught up in the rate race of America—going to work long hours to make money, spending all the money, needing to work more to make more money and buy more and more things—you need the perspective that this book brings. The book walks you through a calculation of your real hourly wage factoring in the costs that directly relate to your job (clothing, commuting costs, etc.) and the true number of hours that your job costs you (commuting time, decompression time, etc.) and refers to them as hours of “life energy”. The overall theme is this: TIME IS LIFE.
The biggest difference between time and money is that time is a finite resource, where there will always be more money out there for us to earn. None of us are going to reach a maximum amount of money that we are going to earn-there’s plenty of that resource in the world (although unfortunately most people worldwide don’t have the ability or opportunity given to them to obtain it). If you are willing to work more hours, you can undoubtedly find another part-time job somewhere. But where is the quality of life in always needing more money in order to be happy? In the end, I think we’ll all agree that what we really want is more time.
Spend your money wisely, but spend your time even more wisely. Time’s not money, it’s life!
Amen, sister! This is so true. I keep hearing stories of folks who prepared well for retirement – only to pass away before or early in their retirement years. That’s not an excuse to not prepare well for retirement, but a reminder to live in the present as well.
I’ve heard a lot of these stories as well and have a family friend that was involved in a very serious car accident this week. I’m totally planning to save a ton of money for retirement (and I’m not delaying saving), but I’m going to enjoy my kids while they’re young as well and spend time with them instead of pursuing more and more money opportunities. Thanks for stopping by!
I’m a SAHM, but I still suffer a bit from this mindset. I’m anxious to get debt paid off. That makes me feel like I need to devote as much time towards bringing in extra money or saving as I can. Which makes me anxious sometimes. I need to find a better balance, probably.
I’m always striving for more balance in finances. It seems like often there is a shortage of time or a shortage of money but neither at the same time. I think financial success is a combination of a lot of things but especially a result of really prioritizing everything, including paying off debt. Good luck with your debt journey!
So true! And so easy to forget when we’re setting financial goals! Thank you for this beautiful reminder.
Thanks for the kind words!
I’m a paralegal and the worst part of my job is those timesheets
Right?! I see the necessity in it, but it doesn’t make it any less pleasant. 🙂
Well said. There were decades of my life where I worked as if time were money, but in my later years I came to see the light that time is life. There’s a whole world out there, but it’s difficult to see it when you’ve chained yourself to your work. Now I’m able to focus on relationships and it’s made my life richer.
I think there are some people that never realize this and honestly, I think it’s difficult in our society to step back and go against the norm. I love you how your focus is on relationships specifically. People are what really matters, not things.
It does take a long time to realize sometimes it’s more worth it to turn down and job and keep some of your time than to make more money.
I think it’s a realization that some people never reach unfortunately. It always seems to be a trade-off between time and money.
I love this! Saving for retirement is like buying back my freedom and my time. It’s so nice to be part-time and looking forward to the day when every single hour will be free to do productive things of my choosing, not more unnecessary and redundant charting.
Such a good post and I really needed to read this. The bullet points you have up there about always feeling rushed and having a sense of never having enough basically describes how I feel right now. I don’t want to feel this way. I’m going to come back and read this from time to time when I feel desperate to take on a new project to try to earn more.
I’ve totally felt that way, and still do sometimes. We took on an enormous home renovation project recently, which I think is why I was thinking of this topic so much. Life’s about balance, and I need to revisit my own thoughts about time vs. money and make sure I remember my priorities.
Great post, also love Vicky Robin’s book – Your Money or Your Life.
This lesson is sometimes so easy to forget and hard to implement depending in what environment and stage you’re in. Financial Independence gives you the power to make higher level decisions on how to prioritize time and money in your life. Opportunity cost for time is often forgotten, it increases with advanced age. When you’re young all you’ve got is time and just a little money, so it’s easy to do the trade. The older you get, the less time you’ve got and the more money you should have as trading time for money gets less and less attractive.
I can definitely see throughout my life that I’ve either had money or time, but not generally most at the same time. Financial independence really does help you achieve both and although I haven’t officially reached it yet, I can see the options and opportunities that it opens up for me.
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