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.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. says

    I’ll tell you one thing I value:

    Blogs like yours that help me feel less alone while I go on my journey to financial independence, as well! Not everyone can relate (in fact, most people cannot relate) to what we do so it is very comforting to read your continual output. Keep fighting the good fight, keep up the great work.

    I’ll do the same….

    To answer your questions, yes I do believe I value my independence over someone else’s view of what I should or should not do, and I think that given the opportunity to own my own time (be the boss of my portfolio, per se), I will be productive in ways that I would really like to.

    Cheers!! To us and our ilk.

    • says

      Joe,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I’ll tell you something I value: readers like you. I appreciate your support and I’ve always enjoyed bouncing ideas off of you. Glad to see you’re also still fighting the good fight.

      I’m with you. Having the freedom to do as I please with my time, whatever that may be, is simply priceless. The more of that freedom I have, the better off I’ll be.

      Please keep in touch.

      Best wishes.

  2. says

    Great post. It’s true, all the money in the world means nothing if you don’t have time. Time should never be taken for granted because it won’t always be there. From the moment we are born, the clock starts ticking. And nothing, not money, hard work, prayer, or anything will ever allow you to reacquire the time you’ve lost.

    So, it’s really a shame that so many people get so caught up in building up their careers and working hard. Is that how you want to remember your life? Working from dust till dawn 60+ hours a week, every week until you are old and gray? What kind of life story is that? Talk about a dull movie.

    With that said, the only thing I would consider more valuable than time is health. This is also something that is taken for granted, unfortunately, until it’s too late.

    If the health can hold up until enough funds are in place to buy time, then freedom will be attained.

    Best wishes!

    • says

      FI Fighter,

      Absolutely. It’s impossible to reacquire time once it’s lost. I was somehow unaware of that ticking clock in the background for most of my early life…but thankfully starting a few years ago I became blissfully aware of it.

      Health is also very important, and definitely something that we all take for granted. I try to maximize my health by working out pretty consistently, but of course my diet could use improvement. What can I say? I really enjoy crappy food like pizza and cheeseburgers. Of course, it’s nice to read “Tap Dancing To Work” and see how much Warren Buffett relishes cheeseburgers and Cherry Coke. The guy is in pretty good shape for his age. I guess genetics are also taken for granted!! :)

      It looks like you’ll reach FI before I do. Please keep blogging and I’m really anxious to see how FI treats you once you reach the promised land.

      Best regards!

  3. says

    Good article. I’m not sure if I agree with your perspective 100%(If I die tommorow I dont want to regret not spending my money on going on that cruise) but time is a very valuable thing.

    • says

      fiveoh,

      Thanks!

      I agree with you. There must be balance in life. I’m not living in a tent out in the woods while I try to attain a savings rate of 90%+, nor am I living paycheck to paycheck. So, there is something to be said for balance. Balance makes things sustainable. My path to FI is sustainable because I’m not suffering. Rather, I’m quite enjoying the transformation in my emotional and psychological states.

      Best wishes!

  4. says

    I really enjoyed this post, because I have been thinking about the time to enjoy my dividend earnings for a few years now. I recently switched from a job where I was working what felt like all the time ( as much as working 70 hours/week could feel) to one where I work more like 45, but with a higher salary. I realized that working super hard is just a waste of my time.

    They say that no one at their death bed wished to have spent more hours at the office..

    • says

      DGI,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Congrats for being able to not only land a higher paying position, but also one that allows you to work less hours. Double score!

      I’m not as lucky as my current position is fairly fixed in hours no matter where I go. I’d have to completely switch careers to try and work less hours, and I’m quite sure that would come with significantly less pay. But, the larger my Freedom Fund becomes the more realistic it would be for me to seek out employment that is more emotionally satisfying.

      That last quote is one I refer to often, and one I’ve used in past articles. I find it quite revealing. I don’t anticipate 10 years into early retirement looking back and telling myself “I only wish I would have kept working instead of spending all my time as I wish. Damn it!”

      Of course, it’s easy to keep running on the treadmill, keeping up in the race with everyone else while you’re still in it. We adapt to our situations. Changing gears completely, especially when you’re swimming in the opposite direction from everyone else, can be quite scary. I’m willing to take that challenge on, however.

      Best regards.

  5. says

    Great post DM! I like when you take the time to reflect on the why of what you are doing.

    I never had the strong urge to end my working years as you have. Nothing wrong with your approach at all. I did consider early retirement, but what I find I value most is living my life well. Living a good life. I think that every living creature on this earth has to work a little to sustain itself. It is part of the natural order of things. To provided clothing, food, and shelter requires a little work. Where most of the developed world has gone wrong is being wildly successful in achieving the minor needs of existence and yet still craving more. It is the “more” that keep people working crazy hours at jobs they don’t like to accquire things they really don’t need/want.

    I’m one of the few people at work who do not want OT and have no real desire to work my way up the ladder. I know where the ladder goes. I’m unimpressed. Let me live life on my own terms and let me live it well.

    I’m now stepping off my soap box! ;-)

    • says

      Stoic,
      Do you plan on some kind of different job when you have enough passive income to survive? Perhaps something that directly improves the world, like working for a charity? Maybe you already have such a job? I know I want to quit my job and achieve financial freedom…but will change gears and teach a class at our local college, coach little league, create art, etc. i won’t be doing anything like “work” but also won’t be sitting around using up resources with no input to society. Is this sort of what you’re angling at? Maybe this is DM’s goal as well?

    • says

      Stoic,

      It’s hard to find one’s “enough” when there is so much stuff available to purchase for just a couple of hours of more work here and there. All of the sudden, however, the hours add up, the stuff adds up and you’re in a self-imposed pit continuing to dig and dig and dig. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and a cycle that is very difficult to break.

      I’m with you on the OT. I not only decline to work extra hours to make a little extra money but go out of my way to give up Saturday’s and extra hours when possible. I’d rather leave a little money on the table and enjoy my time while I have it.

      My time is limited. Money will never cease to exist! — That’s something I always try to remind myself. That would make a great article title….I’ll have to use it.

      Best regards.

    • says

      Headed Home,

      I can’t speak for Stoic, but I wouldn’t mind something like that. I think it would be fantastic to contribute my resources towards making the world a better place…however that may play out. I currently do not feel that what I’m doing is really contributing to society in any meaningful way and I’m the type of person that would derive great emotional satisfaction if I felt that what I was doing was making humanity better off.

      We’ll see. It’s a grand plan!

      Best wishes!

  6. says

    Hey DM,

    I feel the same way and it seems to be a common consensus among the early retirement crowd. I just don’t understand the mindset of people working 60 hours a week to afford themselves a certain lifestyle that they aren’t really even able to live because they are always working.

    And it becomes a circular slavery too. They have to work to support their spending, but they can’t cut out some of their expenses because of work, etc. Harder to eat healthy and exercise when you are working all the time too.

    Hard work is necessary for a while, but it is best done towards a specific goal and only for a specific amount of time. Working simply because you have no other purpose or self-identity is nothing but a recipe for a midlife crisis and a lot of life missed out on.

    • says

      Monk,

      Absolutely. Continuing to earn money to have a big house that you actually spend very little time in is a shame. “Look at my fancy car! Of course, my fancy car just drives me to and from work…which is really just like having a fancy prison bus to transport you to some working field.”

      I’m with you on working towards a specific goal. I often wonder how intermittent spurts of working hard would be…lifestyle-wise. I imagine the life of a freelancer or someone who works on projects for months at a time with breaks of months in-between would be really interesting. At that point, you get plenty of time for pure enjoyment and never actually lose interest in what it is that you’re doing. Something to ponder.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Take care!

  7. says

    Dm, Thanks ! I Love your blog. Your philosophy is excellent ! Life is absurd as it is set up now by society. Eisntein said there were two things very abundant on this planet: Hydrogen and Stupidity. But you are none of these, you are Oxygen. You help me fight for the right cause. Keep on making us breathe healthily.

    • says

      Aspenhawk,

      Thanks so much for the support. I appreciate you continuing to stop by and comment!

      If you haven’t read it already, I recommend the book “Your Money or Your Life”. It was the first book I read when I decided to start taking control of my financial future. It really is an eye-opening book in terms of how you go about looking at time, freedom and work. The philosophy and spirit of that book is often reflected in my posts.

      Best wishes.

    • says

      Dtmheat,

      I explicitly plan on not having children. I made that decision a long time ago, years before I started down the path towards financial independence. In fact, a small surgery guaranteeing this outcome is budgeted in for 2013.

      Although my decision is not financially related, it just so happens to work out quite well for my plan. That said, I think I’d simply make a much better uncle (I have three sisters that are looking forward to motherhood) than I would a father. Whatever paternal chip some men come equipped with I naturally seem to lack.

      My girlfriend has two sons. One lives with her, and one does not. She is not having any more children.

      Best wishes!

  8. says

    I look at time a couple different ways. You can try to save as much as possible to buy time towards the end of your life by retiring early. Also you can buy some more time by exercising and generally living a healthy lifestyle.

    Another option is choosing a current job, that while may pay less, requires you to work less hours currently. For me I have chosen a job in my field that pays probably $20k less than other positions I could go into but I work roughly 40 hours per week compared to the 60 hours that would be required in the other position.

    I think time is very important and like you I would like to retire early rather than waiting till I’m close to knocking on heaven’s doors!

    • says

      Dan Mac,

      I’m with you on the exercise. I’ve been a little lax on that front this week, but plan on getting back to it next week and through the New Year.

      Nice decision on the job. I would love to find a job that would pay me approximately half of what I make now, but would also require half the hours. I’d gladly make that trade tomorrow if I could, but alas part-time work (at least anything I’d be qualified for) is simply not that profitable.

      In the mean time I’ll continue to build the Freedom Fund to a point where part-time work, profitable or not, is still possible from a financial standpoint.

      BTW, I seen your book giveaway. Very cool! I’m actually reading that book right now and it’s fantastic. I’m about 60% done. The chapters on stock market valuation from a decade ago are wonderful.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Best regards.

  9. says

    I’m looking forward to the day when I can call it quits and just wake up and do whatever I feel like doing. Go on a 50 mile bike ride? Sounds awesome. Go on a 1-2 month long road trip of the United States. Even better. Backpacking and camping through the Rockies? Sounds like a hell of a time.

    If I can stomach this job for another 7-8 years then I could very well have over half my life spent not having to spend on my time on the hamster wheel trying to earn that extra little bit so I can afford some new gadget that’s I’ll be tired of in a year or so.

    Your post reminded me of the movie “In Time” that came out earlier this year. There is no money but once you reach age 25 you stop aging but you are now on a 1 year countdown. You can “buy more time” in pretty much the same way that we earn money in real life. Time truly is everything in that movie because once your time runs out you die.

    • says

      Pursuit,

      I like your way of thinking. The opportunity and flexibility that you’re talking about is exactly what I’m trying to achieve by doing what I’m doing. Maybe you don’t go on that long bike ride. Maybe you do. Maybe it’s only 10 miles. Whatever. The point is that the opportunity and choice is there for you at any given time. The time you’re born with, the time that is your given right, is now all yours. All to yourself.

      That would be great if you can get there in 7-8 years. If you can maintain the savings rate you do now, and increase it as your dividends grow, you’ll easily get there in that time frame.

      I watched that movie. It’s an interesting take on things. While it’s all sci-fi of course, I’d argue it’s closer to reality than people think. Time and money are extremely inter-related, and by going to work we’re all simply exchanging time (as well as labor, skills, etc.) for money.

      By engaging my frugal and investing skills, I hope to be like one of the people who lived in the mansions in that movie….with years and years on those wrists!! That’s what I’m talking about.

      Take care!

  10. says

    Time is everything, of course. There is no value on it. Would Warren Buffet trade all his millions, oops billions for a few more years? I would. I remember when I was driving trucks cross country years ago, whenever I went out West, there were always places I wanted to stop and get a better look at, but hardly ever had the time to do so. Because I was so busy trying to get the next load to the next stop, like any trucker. I did see a lot of pretty country, and dont regret driving, but it would have been wonderful to take a few days every now and then and see the sights for real.

    • says

      Soldier,

      To “stop and smell the roses” is something I greatly look forward to. My life, especially during the workweek, is constantly hurried. It’s get up, hurry through breakfast, get to bus in time, quickly clock in before I’m late, rush to take care of clients, go to lunch, close out my afternoon, hurry home, eat a quick dinner, get to the gym, go-go cardio, lift weights, come home, hurry up and shower…and it goes on.

      Imagine being able to drive cross country, but in your own rig or RV, and stopping and getting a better look at anything you’d like. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

      I occasionally stop by this blog:

      http://www.tosimplify.net/

      He epitomizes that kind of lifestyle.

      Best wishes!

  11. says

    many years ago an old shaman suggested the idea of letting my death be my advisor.

    His view was that our death is always with us and that it is important to make an acquaintance. once you do, it changes completely how you approach life.

    many mistake this for morbidity, but if you can get past that misconception…

    I’m also a http://www.tosimplify.net/ fan!

    • says

      jlcollinsnh,

      Thanks for sharing that. Definitely an eye-opening way of looking at things.

      I’m glad you also follow To Simplify. Definitely a guy who follows the beat of his own drum. I really love uniqueness.

      Best regards!

  12. says

    Good stuff, Dividend Mantra,

    I’m with you on this “time is everything” mindset. I too and piling up assets with my young wage instead of buying things with it. It used to be so I could buy a house, but then I realized I would rather become financially independent than buy a house, thanks to Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I’m slowly, buy surely learning about investing and it’s been fun. Jlcollinsnh above has actually inspired me quite a bit in my investing strategy.

    Anyway, I’m with you on aiming for financial independence ASAP, instead of buying crap that I don’t need on things that won’t even bring me happiness. Sitting at almost 4 years of living expenses in the bank/investments is what makes me happy and knowing that it’s growing like crazy.

    • says

      Kraig,

      I’m with you on the house thing. I continue to rent because I feel that one of the best things about being financially independent is being geographically independent as well. Once you no longer have a regular job you have to go to, you’re free to live wherever you want to. While real estate can be a fantastic financial asset/investment, a house in certain cases can also be a shackle. Things change, of course…but that’s where I’m at right now.

      Great job saving up 4 years of living expenses. That’s really fantastic. I know that work has become less stressful the more money I’ve saved up because I know that if I lost my job I’d be really comfortable without it for at least a decade or so…so that ever-present fear of getting fired that most people have starts to fade away when you have a pile of assets that have your back. And, it’s really fear that holds us all back.

      Please keep in touch. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your comment earlier. Unfortunately, I was never notified by e-mail for some reason.

      Best wishes!

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