Time 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?