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My Financial Independence Journey » Reflections » Placing a value on time

Placing a value on time

1381091_time_is_moneyTime is a big concept in the early retirement and financial independence community.  I think almost every blogger out there has written about it at least once, if not nauseatingly more.  Since I’m blogging in that space, I suppose that I should lend my voice to the chorus.

Time is unfortunately limited.  We only have so much.  At some point we will pass away and then our time is no more.  So we should make every effort to use our time for the betterment and happiness of ourselves and those around us.


How do you currently spend your time?

I’m willing to be that you spend a lot of time engaged in work and work related activities such as getting ready for work, driving to and from work, and working from home.  I easily burn off 45 to 50 hours of my week this way.

Then there’s sleep.  If you get 7 hours of sleep a night, there goes 49 hours right there.

Keep in mind that there are only 168 hours in a week.  About 100 of those hours just evaporated thanks to working and sleeping.  You’re down to 68 hours.  But before we explore those 68 hours, let’s take a look at the time you spend working.


How much do you enjoy your job?

Many early retirement and financial independence aspirants hate their jobs.  I can understand and sympathize with them.  I have worked a variety of jobs in my life, some have been awesome and some have been terrible.  There is nothing worse than having to drag yourself into work every day thinking, “Why am I being paid so little and treated like crap so that I can work my ass off here?”  From personal experience, I can tell you that if you don’t like your job, you are going to be profoundly unhappy during every minute you spend working.  And every minute you spend do anything even remotely work related.

On the other hand, if you like your job, as I currently do, spending time at work isn’t that much of a problem.  I don’t really mind it at all right now.  Of course, every day isn’t fun and smiles.  Some are hard, but overall my job is mentally stimulating and generally engaging.  The people are nice and I get to spend a good amount of time working on important projects.  Plus, there is so much to learn and master that this place will probably keep me entertained for quite some time.


If you quit your job, what else would you do?

It’s an important question.  You spend a lot of time at work, and if you stopped working, you’d have to fill that time up with something.  What would that something be?  Would you work at some kind of hobby job, backpack across Europe, spend a lot of quality time laying in a hammock and reading a book, or just be bored out of your mind all day?

The closest I’ve come to being in that situation has been when I’ve been between jobs and waiting for the new position to start and when I’ve had prolonged holiday breaks.  I do find it kind of boring after a while.  Of course, it’s not really a fair example because every time I’ve been between jobs, I’ve also been on one end or the other of some big cross country move.  So it can be a bit boring when all you’re doing is waiting for a move out date to arrive or a new job to start.

One thing that has always perplexed me is the desire of various early retirement and financial independence aspirants to replace paid work with unpaid household chores.  Yes, you’ll save a bunch of money if you insource your cooking, sewing, yard work, etc.  But with the exception of cooking, there isn’t a chore out there that I would derive any pleasure from.  I’d rather have a day job.


Time for obligations?

If work wasn’t bad enough, life has a way of filling up our time with all sorts of obligations to other people, usually family and friends.  One thing that I’ve noticed about my coworkers is that many of them put quite a bit of time into their children.  Shuttling their kids between activities, helping them with their homework, and otherwise raising their kids takes up prodigious amounts of time.  I do not have kids, but I’ve always wondered whether committing yourself to obligations like this is really that emotionally rewarding to the parents.


Time for personal betterment?

I am a major advocate of being constantly engaged in a program of personal betterment.  I work out regularly at the gym.  I try to learn and master lots of new areas for work.  I learn new things and sometimes entirely new fields for fun.  I’m relatively well read on a variety of topics.  I even started a blog (this one) to help advance my knowledge of personal finance and investing. While the specifics of these activities has varied a lot over my life, the one thing that hasn’t is the fact that I’m always working on making myself a better and more knowledgeable person.

I wish I had the time and the talent to learn to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, and draw.

I wouldn’t expect other people to be as obsessive about personal betterment as I am, but I hope that everyone will clear out a few hours a week to better themselves physically through exercise, and mentally through a commitment to lifelong learning.


Time for fun?

Finally, we all need some time for fun.  It’s a bit hard to talk about fun since we all consider different things to be enjoyable.  But just make sure that you’re scheduling time to enjoy life.  After all, you are only going to live once.


Placing a value on time

As I hope I’ve made clear, it’s a bit hard to place a value on time.  It’s certainly a finite resource and should be used wisely.  But how it’s valued depends on many factors including how much you enjoy your job and what kinds of obligations you have.

So now the onus goes onto you, the reader, to figure out the value of your time.  And to decide how best to allocate it.  The wonderful thing about financial independence is that having it frees you of financial burdens so that the decisions about how you spend your time are no longer made under duress.  If you want to work because you love your job, go for it.  If you want to spend your days building ships in a bottle, rock on.  If you want to quit your job and move to a beach in Thailand, nothing’s stopping you.


Open questions for me

Retirement sounds great.  But what would you do with your free time?  I’m curious.  In theory, if this whole financial independence quest of mine pays off, I could be a very early retiree.  But what would I do?  Where would I focus my energy?  Lots more blogging?

I would like to spend more time traveling.  Maybe taking some extended trips across exotic places.  Can those even be done cost effectively?  Spending a month crashing in even modestly priced hotels gets crazy expensive fast.


Readers:  How do you value your time?  What would you do if you achieved financial independence?  Would you still work?

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18 Responses to "Placing a value on time"

  1. For me it was pretty easy since I bailed on my corporate hellhole to raise Pretired Baby. One he goes off to school, I may have some decisions to make, though. But I’ve barely had a free second since he was born so it’s safe to say I don’t need to worry about getting bored!

    1. MFIJ says:

      If you really hate you’re job, it’s a pretty easy decision. Especially in your case, since you also wanted to raise your kid. Do you have any idea what you might do once your kid starts school? Do you think that you would go back to work or just focus on personal development?

  2. I think I would keep working, but maybe switch to teaching instead of working in industry where I’m currently at. If I wasn’t working at all, I think I’d try to become skilled in home improvements, construction, maybe learn how to train dogs, coach soccer maybe.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I’d probably keep working as well. But I might try to switch fields to something a bit lower paying but with lower demands. Or something in a more desirable area of the country.

  3. I think you bring up some great points. It’s pretty crazy to think that almost 100 of our 168 hours are spent working and sleeping. I really enjoy my job, so those 50+ hours a week aren’t a drag. That being said, I still would love to be pretired and be able to do something else that I enjoy even more.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I enjoy my job as well. I’m just not sure it will stay that way after 10 or 20 years. I might get tired of it. I look at the people in positions above me and they seem to get stuck with a lot of meetings at odd hours and other nonsense that I’m not sure I want to spend my life dealing with.

  4. When I talk about early retirement, I’m not talking about sitting on a boat fishing all day. I’m talking about making Reward Boost my full time job and being my own boss. I could work 80 hour weeks on this website and be happy. Half the time I spend at my current job is on crap that I think is pointless but have to do because my boss tells me to do it.

    I plan to work just as hard when I’m “retired”. The only difference is I don’t have a boss telling me to do stuff I don’t agree with.

    1. MFIJ says:

      It’s great that you already know what you want to do and have an entrepreneurial venture that you’re passionate about.

  5. Great article.

    When someone considers quitting their 9-5 job, they should consider self-employment that allows them to share their knowledge with others, and allows them to focus on developing skills and aptitudes that may be have been lying dormant for many.

    When I quit my regular job in 2010, I already had started a part-time business in 2002 that I could devote more time to. I also embraced a long standing desire to write books, which has led to public speaking, interviews, and other positive avenues opening up.

    Quitting my job allowed me to move down a path that was closer to who I really wanted to be.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I’m not too worried about people who leave their job to be self employed. Often that self employment is much more in line with their passions and interests than they previous job was. I worry more about what one would do if they left their job but didn’t have an employable passion to follow in its place.

  6. Troy says:

    I’m literally putting in 80 hour weeks – trying to achieve financial independence as fast as possible. Back in college, they said that those years would be the best years of your life. I’d have to disagree – the best is still to come.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I too hope they were wrong about college being the best years of my life. Kind of depressing to think that it’s all downhill after 22. That’s something like 60 or more years of decline.

  7. Time is the most important currency of all.

    Alan Watts gives a great discussion about the nature of it and how people can adjust their personal framework of life.

    This is a fascinating subject to tall about, and I too, will one day delve into it on my blog.

  8. […] My Financial Independence Journey has some thought-provoking views on how to value your time. […]

  9. About how you got bored in between jobs, not sure early retirement will look like that, because you were waiting for a company to call you, negotiating your salary, considering a move, etc. If you have only free time, you can easily fill your days with activities. Say you like golf or tennis and play 3 times a week, that is three half days out of the way. Add a second hobby and half the week is busy. You’ll meet friends for lunch, go for a run, take a class, … or even do some volunteer work and fill up your week. Now comes the location problem, if you moved for your last job and mostly know your colleagues but have no other friends or family nearby it may get lonely but you meet people at activities.
    Regarding travel, it is not as expensive as you think if you limit the flights. You can travel on your current budget and still have money left if you go to South America or Asia. I spent 3 months in the US a couple of summers ago, from coast to coast we spent about $1,000 each a month, sleeping in $45 motel6 and camping in national parks. Some days you want to splurge and get a better hotel, but in Guatemala, a clean basic room costs less than $20 a night and even less if you stay a while and get a weekly or monthly discount. On $1,000 a month you can live well. I did not keep a place when I was traveling, my stuff was in storage at my mum’s but the cost of an empty property can add up quite a bit.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I could come up with activities to fill my time, but most of them would cost money. I would like to take art or music lessons. And I’d take a lot of those adult education classes. But even that would leave a lot of empty time in my day. I’d have to start taking university level courses with required homework to really start filling up my day. Realistically, I could fill up my time, but it would take a while to get a new routine down and there would probably be substantial costs.

      I’m surprised that you were able to see the US on $1,000 a month. Even if you only camped at the cheapest of state or national parks, which run about $20 a night, that’s still $600 ($20 X 30 nights) a month. That’s not even getting into gas, food, and admissions fees. I’d have to keep my apartment up and running while traveling, otherwise I’d have to take the cats with me everywhere I went. Doable for some destinations, not so doable for others.

  10. I am not retired, however I slice it. But I did quit my job and we live on my husband’s salary. So I now have the same time I would have if/when I retire. To answer your questions, I am now spending my time the same way I would have spent when I retired.
    1) I am volunteering for 6 hrs a day
    2) I blog/research 7-8 hours a day
    3) My husband & do work on our hobbies for a couple of hours each day, currently that is furnishing our home ourselves. We develop the plans and do the carpentry.
    4) Sleep about 6 hours
    5) Normal stuff for 1-2 hours (we cook on the weekend for the whole week so we do spend a lot of time cooking but that doesn’t come in a normal weekday).

    For the last few weeks I am taking a break from almost all of these activities due to being on bed rest for health reasons but after I get an ok from my doctor, the same schedule will resume. When we have the baby though all this will change, but right now I have no idea on “how much” it will change. We will have to figure it out as we go.

    We still don’t have enough time in a day to do everything we want.

    1. MFIJ says:

      You’re really keeping yourself busy after quitting your job. Going by what I’ve seen happen to other people, once you have your baby, that will probably become the focus of your life. At least for a few months. Then you’ll selectively pick up other things that you used to do, but probably not all of them. Or you’ll wind up doing less of each one.


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