Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Time: It's Everything
I realized a few years ago what I truly value in life: time. Time is the only commodity that one can buy, but cannot truly purchase. I plan on buying mine by continuing to save large portions of my income, thereby having freedom to then "spend" this time however I'd like for the rest of my life once I'm financially independent.
Time provides so much. It provides opportunity, flexibility, freedom, chance. Some people say money is everything. I beg to differ. While money certainly has value (you have to buy food and pay rent), I could be afforded unlimited money, but with no time it won't matter very much at all. Conversely, give me unlimited time and no money and I think I'd be a very happy soul indeed.
Perhaps I was exaggerating a bit when titling this article. Is time truly everything? One most certainly needs more than time to live: food, water and air quickly come to mind. But, if you have literally no time (as in you cease to exist) then nothing else matters. So, while time isn't everything...if you don't have any you have nothing. Furthermore, as important as food, water and air is to survival, these live-giving qualities share something greatly in common with time: they're easily taken for granted until they're gone. It's easy to take the air we all breathe for granted. Take it away, and all of the sudden one realizes just how important it is.
All the same, it's easy to take time for granted. When you're working away in your younger years, spending your 20's, 30's and 40's with your nose to the grindstone it's easy to think you'll live forever. You're likely very healthy, very productive and you feel invincible. You're putting away money for a retirement that seems all too far away. Of course, you one day will find yourself older and much nearer to death than birth. This is when time, or the lack of it, all of the sudden gains perspective in the foreground, rather than a distant thought deep in one's consciousness.
How can you do anything that you love; whether it be skydiving, playing chess, spending time with loved ones, watching favorite movies or laying out at the beach if you don't have any time?
You're only given so much time once you're born. The most interesting thing about this fact is that the exact time you'll be afforded is completely unknown since none of us can predict the future. It's easy to be optimistic about your own life and anticipate a lifespan of 100 years. After all, many of us are living longer and longer. However, I like to look at actual statistics rather than optimistic predictions. Based on the average life expectancy of a U.S. male at 75.6 years, I'll have a good shot at falling woefully short of a triple digit lifespan.
I don't mean to be morbid here, but I'm actually planning on an average, or even below average, lifespan. Staying true to my plan of retiring by 40 years old will give me over 35 years of retirement based just on the average life expectancy! Fantastic, right? That means even if I live a very average lifespan in terms of time, my life will be anything but average. Not only will I have 35 years of freedom, but I'll be spending much of it while I'm still in prime health. Compare this to someone who plans to work to 65 and then live out their "golden years" in peace and harmony. The problem with that plan is that based on the average you only have 10 years of freedom, and you'll also be spending that time as your health likely starts to falter.
By giving up the rat race at such an early age I'll likely be also giving up millions of dollars in earnings and potential investment gains on those earnings. But what good would millions of dollars be to me if I have limited amounts of time with which to spend it? I've learned when "enough is enough". My "enough" will be when my portfolio is throwing off enough passive income to meet my expenses with perhaps a small margin of safety built in. I could, of course, keep working and earn a gigantic margin of safety. But when I'm on my deathbed many years from now, which will I be thinking about: a margin of safety, or the time I got to enjoy while I was alive and all the memories that the time provided? I think the answer is obvious.
I am extremely fortunate that I have realized what I truly value in life while still a young man. I'm elated that I have started down a path that maximizes my opportunity to enjoy as much time as possible. If you truly value time more than anything else in life then I do encourage you to start down your own path, if you haven't already.
How about you? Is time everything to you? What do you value?
Thanks for reading.
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