The Money vs. Time Continuum – It Changes As You Age. Did You Forget To Calibrate?

by Darwin on April 17, 2011


There’s a strange yet consistent life law that many of us forget about, myself included.  It’s worth contemplating once in a while and seeing if you need to recalibrate where you fall on the scale vs. where you SHOULD be.

  • If you’re anything like me and the vast majority of all humans that have ever lived, when you’re very young, you have all the time in the world and no money.
  • As you enter adulthood, you start to make money and often times, pursue additional sources of income at the expense of your free time.
  • If and when you have children and get into the sweetspot of your career, your free time is virtually eaten up completely and you even start to forgo activities that may either save you money or make you more money if they take considerable time.  You’re spending most of your time with work-related and family-related activities.
  • Then you’re old.  Your kids have left the house, your friends have drifted away or perhaps passed away and you’re retiring or living out your golden years.  If you planned right and didn’t encounter disaster earlier in life, you have all the money you need and then some.  But time is ticking away.  What is endearingly referred to as “the golden years” is really the sunset to a long, great day.

When you reach this point in your life, you stop dreaming about things you want to do someday and instead look back on things you DID in life.  Perhaps you always wanted to learn how to ski, but you were picking up extra shifts on the weekend for more money.  Perhaps you always wanted to learn how to play piano but you were blogging at night to make extra money.  Perhaps you wish you had more memories of your kids, but you were burning the midnight oil at the office.  While money is a fungible medium of exchange, time is not. You can’t trade back that extra money you made for more time on earth.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve been too busy on the “ambition/money” side and haven’t just kicked back and enjoyed life enough.  My wife says that I’m always onto the next big project.  When I entered the workforce, I worked tons of hours, nights and weekends included as a shift supervisor.  I got out of that lifestyle and jumped into an MBA which took me four years to complete at night.  As I was wrapping that up, I took up blogging and eventually turned it into a decent part-time gig (see the Real Economics of Blogging for what makes me tick).  Now that we have three kids, I’m definitely prioritizing blogging solely for 9PM onward and a few hours on weekends during nap time.  But at what cost?  I haven’t watch a football or baseball game on TV in years.  I don’t read anymore like I used to.  I gave up my piano lessons (although I still work with my son while he takes his lessons).  And I don’t just kick back and zone out and relax like it’s nice to do now and then.  On one hand, it feels good to be busy, motivated, ambitions and successful.  On the other, I wonder if it’s taking a toll on my health, my relationships and my balance.  I’m writing this because it’s on my mind.   This weekend, we had a birthday party, an Easter Egg Hunt, lots of playing outside, a I squeezed in a quick workout.  But it’s Sunday night and I feel compelled to have a Monday morning post out as usual.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re relatively young and somewhere along the early or middle part of the continuum I spoke of.  Use this reminder to think about how your balance is today, where you want it to be, and whether you think you’ll look back fondly on the balance you struck when you were younger.  You won’t regret it!



{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ravi Gupta April 18, 2011 at 5:20 am

Great post! I’m 20 and I feel myself yearning to make more and more money. I don’t see money as a big number I see it as time and essentials. It’s my hope that I can work for a couple years and then be able to create a business online. Once I’m done paying off a house, I hope that I would be able to cut down to part time hours at the most. A man can dream…

-Ravi Gupta


Darwin April 18, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Sounds like a great plan!


Dave @ Money In The 20s April 18, 2011 at 8:49 am

Good post! I think that maintaining a work/life balance is extremely important. Sometimes we can get so caught up in work (blogging included) that we forget to step back and take some time to do the things we enjoy.


Darwin April 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Just finished coaching the kid’s game; baths done, read to 2 out of the 3 and now it’s blog time. I don’t really miss TV too much, just gonna take tomorrow off probably…


101 Centavos April 19, 2011 at 6:20 am

I guess it depends on how much enjoyment you can wring out of your activities. Like you, I’ve quite watching and following sports, and while I don’t miss the time spent on the couch, I miss being able to hold my end on a topic of conversation with friends and fellow workers, who still make it a big part of their life.


Tango November 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Yes, the continuum changes (and worsens) with age. We spend a very disproportionate amount of attention on learning about money… and learn very little of significance about time. Without the ‘idea’ of time, there is no money. But, alas, our young students are learning too little about basic math and science, so there’s no hope for ever understanding the philosopy and practice of time.


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