What If You Could Buy Time?

What if you could buy time? What if there was a store, like a Wal-Mart, that sold time in blocks…like 1-year increments? Would you purchase it? Time is the most interesting commodity of all, in that you can buy it but you can’t purchase it. What do I mean by that? Well you can buy it…you can buy time by retiring early and exchanging future earnings for free time. You can’t purchase it, because nobody has the power to sell it to you. This is an interesting phenomenon that is constantly on my mind.

I DO plan to buy time. I plan on retiring at 40 years old, and by doing so I’ll be giving up over $1 million in future earnings in exchange for the time I have on this Earth to be given to me to do with what I want. I make a little over $40,000 per year right now. If my earnings were to stay static (unlikely due to inflation), that would be $1 million, before any gains in investments, over 25 years. I use 25 years because most people use 65 years old as a retirement age for relative comparisons. It’s actually likely that I’m giving up a lot more than just $1 million for 25 years of my time.

What if you could purchase 10 years of time for $400,000? Would you buy it? Would you save up your pennies, scrimp and save and go down to the store and proudly exchange your money for time? I bet most people would. After all, you only live once. Once your time is up, and your eyes close for the last time there is nothing else you can do. There are no more sunrises or sunsets. No more first dates. No more late-night phone calls with a lover or a friend. You’ll never smell a freshly baked apple pie or get together with family for holidays. When you are out of time, that’s it. You only get one ride on the merry-go-round of life, and I plan to maximize every minute of that single ticket.

Even though I bet most people would gladly pay $400,000 for 10 years of time, people usually seem to do the exact opposite. Instead of saving up their money for more free time, they usually exchange their time for money and more “stuff”. They work overtime, get second jobs and continually update their resumes in hopes for increased earnings. For what? It seems it’s usually for a vacation house, a newer vehicle, a new granite counter top or weekly trips to trendy restaurants. I’m not judging these decisions as bad. If that’s what you want to do with your money, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s a bad decision. I would just like to know if you truly would purchase time if it were for sale? If your answer to that question is yes, then you are probably not serving yourself well by continuing to work to earn and earn to spend.

Time is hard to put a value on. I understand that. We can place value on material objects like a house or a car. Time, however, is given to us for an undetermined period. We don’t know how long we have on this planet. I believe that most people naturally become unrealistically optimistic when they think of how long they are going to live. After all, who wants to think they are going to pass away at 45 years old? That’s extremely depressing. But, with all the obstacles facing one in life like car accidents, cancer, disease, etc…it’s difficult to automatically assume one would live until they are 80+ years old. My plans are made on the assumption that I will not live to old age. If I do, that’s fantastic! If I don’t, I won’t have any regrets. I’m covered either way.

So, back to the question at hand…it is possible to buy time, and I plan to buy as much of it as I can. I’ll be giving up a lot of money in exchange for it. I’m OK with that. My portfolio will not be as large as it could be if I worked until I’m 65. I won’t have a big house or a shiny new car every three years. I’ll likely be unable to fund expensive shopping trips to the local mega-mall. What will I gain instead? Freedom. Freedom to pursue my dreams and desires. I’ll be able to stop and smell the roses anytime I’d like. I’ll be able to spend an afternoon on a hammock in the shade reading a book, or lounging on a sandy beach listening to the waves approach my feet. I can spend summers in the north where my family resides, watching nieces and nephews grow up…and then spend winters in Florida where the sun eternally shines. When the alarm clock would usually be blaring and waking me up…I’ll still be sleeping. I’ll be waking up a few hours later, eating a late morning breakfast, managing my portfolio before going out for a nice jog and getting in a workout.

What if you could buy time? Well, you can. The real question is: will you?

I leave you with a quote by Paul Tsongas: “Nobody on his deathbed ever said, “”I wish I had spent more time at the office.””

Thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. says

    DM,

    It’s interesting you quoted Paul Tsongas. Time wasn’t on his side. I wonder if Tsongas knew he was going to die at age 55 if he would have bought some time…

    Income Pirate

  2. says

    Hi Mantra,

    Thank you for that quote!! I always tell that to others (I should follow it more myself), but never knew who said it. In fact, I recently changed jobs to “purchase” more time by working fewer hours.

    Great post and thank you for your continued inspiration.

    Mike

  3. says

    Mantra,

    Good posting on this “Buy Time” post. I did give up on my potential more earning from the corporate world and took my retirement a few days ago.I am now managing my retirement portfolio with dividend come. Way to go Mantra, I am sure you can achieve your goal and retire by 40.

    Ocean

  4. says

    Pirate,

    You never know when it’s your time. That’s why I operate on the assumption that I will not live to see old age. If I do, then that’s great. I just want to maximize my time and happiness while I’m alive.

    Take care!

  5. says

    Mike,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Congratulations on moving to a position where you will work less hours and have more free time. It takes an incredible amount of foresight and courage to make a move like that. I commend you. It’s not easy.

    I wish you the best with that move. I may even stop working at my current job before I’m 40 and move over to part-time work. The faster I can stop working grueling 50-hour weeks, the happier I’ll be.

    Best of luck!

  6. says

    Ocean Portfolio,

    So you are retired? That is fantastic. How old are you?

    As I was writing to Mike, I commend you on giving up potential earnings in exchange for free time. You are definitely buying time by doing that…and I think time is worth whatever you’re paying for it. Great move, and I’ll think you’ll thank yourself over and over for making that decision!

    Remember, even if you fall slightly short on income you can always work 10 or so hours a week to make up the difference. The upside is that you won’t ever work again. The downside is that you may have to pull a few hours a week. That’s a pretty good trade off in my opinion.

    Good luck!

  7. says

    Awesome post Mantra! A nice change from the usual dividend stock talk.. What can I say? well done :)

    PS
    I didn’t even start investing seriously until my late thirties. Imagine if I started at your age… While my coworkers are going to work until their 65 to get their full pension, I’m taking mine at 55 thank you :)

  8. says

    Ninja,

    Thanks so much for the compliment and encouragement. I didn’t know how well this article would be received, as it’s a little off the beaten path. I’m a bit idealistic at times, and I can see how it might be a turn off for some people.

    Hey, at least you started! I was just reading an article a few minutes ago about how America has hit at 15% poverty rate, which is the highest of all industrialized nations. In the article they had numerous examples of people who were earning a lot of money and now find themselves in homeless shelters or other various undesirable circumstances. One couple was earning $100k/year and now are homeless. I don’t understand how people can’t have more control over their money.

    Good for you for taking control and inspiring others to do the same! Retiring at 55 doesn’t sound bad, especially when everyone else is going to work a full decade after you.

    Thanks for stopping by! :)

  9. says

    Mantra,

    Thanks. I am 56 now, originally I was planning to retire at 60 but I took my early retirement when the company that I worked for is relocating. I will receive some pension and I will need dividend income from my IRA account to supplement my income when I need it. Hope it will work out.

    Ocean

  10. says

    That is a great philosophical article. If you want to spend $40,000 for a new shiny car, that’s great. But if it would take you 2 -3 years to save the money to buy the car or pay off the car loan, then that’s 3 years of your life you are trading for a piece of machinery.

    Actually, there is a movie with Justin Timberlake, called ” In Time”. Basically it is a futuristic movie, about the future where time is the ultimate currency. The rich live forever, while the poor die young

  11. says

    cashflowmantra,

    Earlier than 65 definitely sounds good! In the end, you have to go with whatever is comfortable for you. Everyone has unique circumstances that will make working later in life either attractive or miserable.

    I wish you the best in your journey, no matter how long it lasts!

  12. says

    DGI,

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Great comment there. Buying a brand new car is an awesome experience, but only you can answer if it is worth 2-3 years of your life. For me, I would almost always say it isn’t.

    I didn’t know anything about that movie. I’ll definitely have to look into it. Sounds really interesting!

    Keep in touch. Take care.

  13. Wilhelm says

    Great article that really simplifies a deep philosophical question. Looks like you have wisdom well beyond your years. Your article is timely as I’ve recently been coaching a family member who is about to graduate from college. I’ve been trying to help her understand that the harder she saves and the more frugal she is once she starts earning a real paycheck, the sooner she’ll have the freedom that you are aspiring to. I recommended your blog to her, and I suggested that she needs to start buying income-producing assets with at least half her new income, before the whole lifestyle creap sets in. This way she is buying a year of freedom for every year she works!

  14. says

    Wilhelm,

    Thanks for the compliments. I really appreciate it.

    I’m glad that you have encouraged a family member to live within their means and seek freedom with their time. I agree that it’s important to start this process as early as possible, and definitely before one gets comfortable with a certain lifestyle.

    Good luck with your journey, as well as your family member’s journey!

    Thanks for stopping by. Keep in touch!

  15. Jack Harris says

    Good Luck in your endeavour to retire early. It is true that in society material possession is valued more than freedom to do what you want when you want.
    Funnily enough this post’s headline reminded me of some children’s book named Momo, where the bad guys went around buying other people’s time so they could smoke it in big cigars.

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