Today, we talk about your most valuable asset, time. Your allotment is decreasing every day, so use it with purpose and intention.
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Time is your most valuable asset. As soon as you’re born, the countdown starts. No one can tell you how much time you’ve got left, but it’s a finite number.
I’ve been very conscious of the preciousness of time as I’ve gone through my mid-life crisis. I increasingly feel like I have less and less time to spare. Between my new administrative duties at work, my real estate investing, blogging, and family duties, I often feel so starved for time that it’s maddening. Time spent in one activity inevitably seems to shortchange another competing activity or responsibility.
The 2011 movie, “In Time” took this concept of time as an asset to an extreme. Actors Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried run through a dystopian future with their lives literally ticking away on their wrists. Time is so precious that it’s used as currency, traded for everything from a haircut to a new car. When the counter drops to zero, it’s game over.
In the movie, the rich folk move around gracefully and slowly, secure in the knowledge that they have time to spare. The poor folk scurry around, always running and hustling to score a few more minutes of life.
Although the critics were largely unimpressed with this movie, I found the foundational concept of time as an asset truly fascinating.
Time is an asset with relative value
Time is a strange asset, though. Its value fluctuates depending on your age, and even depending on your day. Just when you want to start savoring it, it seems to slip away.
Do you remember the endless summers in grade school, when those hot days and nights seemed to last forever? On the east coast where I grew up, my summer break seemed like one idyllic, never-ending mix of sweaty games of tag, cut grass, bikes, books, and adventures with friends.
Now, I blink twice and my child is a year older. I turn away for a moment, and summer turns to fall. If I stop to catch my breath, it’s suddenly New Year’s again.
My time grows more valuable with each passing moment. But the busier I am at work and at home, the faster my weeks seem to fly by.
I trade my time for money
As an employed surgeon, I’m essentially an hourly worker. Since I provide a specialized service, I do get paid well for my time. But if I decide one day that I’d rather spend my time going to the beach, I won’t get paid (and I’ll probably get fired).
I signed my employment contract willingly, but when I think back to my mindset when I graduated from residency, I didn’t know there was any other way. I was $300,000 in debt and had no marketable skills other than doctoring.
Now just a few years after my realization that I could become financially independent, most of my investment activities are geared to creating passive income instead of active income.
With enough passive income, I hope to break free from the obligation of my work-week, and instead be more intentional on the time I devote to my job.
How to value your time
So you might be wondering how to treat your time with the respect it deserves. I struggle with this every single week. I don’t have it all worked out yet, but for me, a few realizations have been important:
- Time is an asset that increases in value as you age.
- Any job that pays you an hourly wage likely undervalues your time
- Spend your extra time working to free yourself from activities you don’t enjoy
In summary, time is your most valuable asset. How valuable? You won’t ever really know, because you don’t know how much of it you’ve got left.
I trade my time for money and I’m paid well. But as my net worth increases, I increasingly feel the desire to cut out the parts of my life I don’t enjoy.
So I’m trying to use my time and money to lay the groundwork for businesses that will generate passive income.
This blog is a business that has so far taken up an incredible amount of time for not much income. But I really enjoy writing, and I think one day the time to income ratio will change.
The main way I’m hoping to regain control over my time is via real estate investing. It’s going well, but we’re certainly having growing pains. You can read the latest on this here:
- Leaks, fires, and pit bulls (oh my!): Anno Darwinii 1.25
- The real estate empire has grown! Anno Darwinii 1.0
- Rental empire under siege: Anno Darwinii 0.75
If you’re reading this post and feeling despondent over the way you’re spending your precious time, stop it! Channel that emotion and instead think about what you can do to start changing your situation.
Think critically about your week. Analyze your spending. Develop a financial plan. And start living life intentionally.
How are you going to regain control over time, your most valuable asset? Comment below and subscribe for more!
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Because you are not old enough to know better I’ll forgive you using In Time instead of the original movie to spring the idea, Logan’s Run. But the point is well taken, we’ve all got a ticking clock. Life is short, but it should be long enough.
I was just scrolling through comments and noticed I missed this one. I do admit I only caught snippets of Logan’s Run — I have some fuzzy memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger running around in dystopian 80s garb. I’ve got to look this movie up again!
I came to your blog late in the game but have read several postings with interest. I am on the downslope of my career (I am 68 and my financial advisor says I can retire when I choose, but I keep practicing because I love it) so I do not foresee making much use of your experience. I do have children who are physicians starting out in their careers so the information may be useful to them. I do take issue with one thing. The plan for a rental empire to fund your retirement early is fine but as you have already seen, this is not a foolproof concept. It is subject to all the vagaries of the economy and society. Property management takes a big chunk out of your profits, unless you wish to manage them yourself, which is work on top of your primary profession. Not everyone has the interest or ability to successfully buy, renovate, and rent out properties. I began my retirement planning late in life but, fortunately, I have always tried to live within my means, whatever that was. I obtained wise financial counsel and chose a financial advisor with similar ethics and a conservative approach to wealth accumulation. I saved steadily and invested conservatively. I survived the crash of 2008 and my portfolio recovered fairly quickly. My house was modestly financed so it was never underwater, even when property values in Florida fell by over 40%. I make my final mortgage payment, ever, this month. So far, despite Covid, my retirement has not dropped in value; it has actually grown. I never planned on any get rich quick, retire early schemes. I chose medicine because I love it and planned a long career, which now spans 42 years since graduating med school. I hope you do not forget to enjoy the journey in your rush to retire. There is still much to love about a medical career. My wife and I raised three successful children, worked hard to stay healthy and active, and are now enjoying the fruits of our labor- mine in my practice, her with the family, now with four grandchildren and one more on the way.
Richard, thank you so much for posting this experience. It’s an incredibly valuable perspective, and a very fair criticism. Rental real estate investing adds a significant amount of complexity to my life. I enjoy most of it, but my life would be much simpler if I just stuck to index fund investing. I do find it exciting and interesting, which I agree is not true for everyone.
To be fair, I do continue to max out all available retirement accounts as a “Plan B”.
I invite you to peruse this breakdown of my net worth to see our mid-2020 breakdown: The Darwinian Doctor’s net worth
Congrats on all your well deserved success!
Time is certainly an asset and I trade time for money and vice versa like most people. It just depends on how much you value your time.
Agreed! I’m trying to value my time more and more with each passing year. It helps me make better decisions about how to allocate my hours.
Interesting comment, “I’ve been very conscious of the preciousness of time”
I have also been experiencing this over the last several months. In some cases, I wake up in the morning thinking about it. I find myself being very defensive of my time at work (healthcare finance) and much better at saying “no”.
If I’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that life and our time cannot be taken for granted. Whether it’s a deadly virus, disability, or an accident, our status quo can change in a flash. Here’s to finding the right balance, together.
Agreed. Time and money are a balance. In the FIRE movement we often flip the equation, especially early on — the instinct is to spend as much free time as possible in the pursuit of earning money to get to that point when time becomes less limited (in the micro sense – it’s always limited in the macro sense).
I think for most FIRE folks (hopefully anyway) a balance correction happens when one realizes A) FIRE is probably a ways off B) we’ve now changed enough of our thinking so that FIRE is the inevitable outcome of how we’re living and B) with assets not climbing even if we don’t put money in, the feeling of “let’s get this thing started” transitions to “on the right path, I can relax a bit.”
I’ve just reached this phase in the past six months or so. Still frugal overall, but letting a bit loose on some spending, like buying a friend or a couple of coworkers lunch, or indulging on a fun trip (even if I still do so more frugally than most would).
It’s an important stage to reach because time is truly limited and we know not by how much. We could have 50 years, or an hour. For most of us that number is likely closer to 50 years, but we don’t truly know. The balance is finding a way to prepare for the future while also enjoying our time now. I happen to think that doesn’t need to be expensive and my natural living style lends itself to spending less than $20k per year (where I live that can be done comfortably), but I could probably winnow that down to under $15k if I really wanted. But I don’t. That’s the balance.
Thanks for the nice post.
What a thoughtful comment, thanks for taking the time to write this. I’m happy that you’re emerging on the other side of this balance correction. I don’t know if I could really say this for myself, though I am consciously trying to do this as well. I sometimes get overwhelmed with the frantic need to make more progress on my journey to FIRE. But I’m getting better at accepting the inevitability of FI. Consistent effort, consistent results.
[…] was thinking I wouldn’t write much in this post, other than a quick intro, but a post by the Darwinian Doctor got me thinking about time and […]