What would you consider to be your most valuable asset?
Are you thinking of an investment account? Maybe your house? Perhaps you’re thinking about it from a different angle and considering a quality you possess – charisma, tenacity, intelligence.
Have you considered that your greatest asset may, in fact, be your time? It is, after all, the most irreplaceable asset we all possess.
“We easily let others encroach on our lives – worse we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”
– Seneca, On the Brevity of Life, 3.1-2
Many people pursuing the path to financial independence do so to pursue a goal of freedom. Perhaps you want more free time, freedom from your day job, freedom to travel more, or freedom to move to your dream location.
As with all things in life, achieving that freedom inevitably comes at a cost. Is your current path to financial independence worth the cost?
Let me be clear, I am NOT trying to discourage you from pursuing financial independence. Indeed, I believe it is an extremely worthwhile goal and one I hope to achieve myself. I just want you to consider the sacrifices in time you are making to get there.
You can always make more money, but you can never get back your time.
Have you ever really tracked how you spend your time? I recently kept a time journal. It’s a little log where you keep track of how you spend every single hour within a day. I think the activity is a bit inherently biased because when I had to write it down, I consciously considered every action.
Me: Wait, I know I shouldn’t watch 5 hours of TV, that’s bad. Do something else.
Still, even if it influences your actions, it can be an eye-opening experience.
Not every single hour of every day needs to be productive necessarily but there are so many competing priorities for our time that it can be valuable to reorient ourselves and be sure that the way we are spending our time truly aligns with our values and our goals.
How many times have you considered doing something and thought, “I don’t have the time.”
Is this actually true? Or are you just not prioritizing your time efficiently. Have you gotten yourself into commitments that you don’t actually value?
Think about the fact that the average American spends 42 hours in traffic each year. Almost two full days!
When you look back now, will you be pleased with how you spent your time?
I read many stories about people wanting to reach financial independence to leave a job they hate, but when I hear those stories my first thought is why waste the time staying?
Maybe you will reach FI and it will all be worth it. However, life has a way of happening and derailing even the best-laid plans. If your plans go awry and your FI date gets bumped back, will you regret staying in a soul-crushing job?
If the answer is yes it’s all worth it, then you don’t need to keep reading because this doesn’t apply to you. However, I would wager that there are some out there who have questions about whether the money is worth.
Remember, money is a tool to live your life. It’s nothing more than a tool. Don’t focus on the money and forget to live in the process.
Perhaps I’m looking at this from a perspective that is too extreme. I see examples of famous FI success stories and how they saved 70%+ of their income and reached FI in (insert crazy small #) number of years. That won’t be me.
We’re on the slow path to FI. There will probably never be news articles written about our story because it won’t be attention-grabbing enough. But that’s ok with me, because it’s what we consciously choose. Even though we could make more at other employers or in other fields, we choose jobs that allow work/life balance. We choose a lower cost (lower paying) area of living so we can be closer to our families.
What are you wasting your time on?
Are you in a job you dislike? Is your commute too long?
How many hours did you spend watching TV or playing video games this week?
Those are cheap shots at easy targets, so perhaps it’s better to look at it from the perspective of, “What do you wish you were doing instead?”
What are your missing out on because you lack the time?
Is is exercise? Relaxation time? Starting that new hobby you’ve wanted to try? Time with friends?
Is it time spent visiting your aging parents several states away? Or your kids’ annual recital?
You can always make more money, but you can never get back the time spent on these activities. Don’t wait until you reach FI to do what you’ve been putting off. Find a way to start incorporating it now.
Everything is a choice and only you can determine if your choices are right for you.
However, when making your choices, I just encourage you to consider more than just the money. Consider your time.
There are many different ways to be financially independent. Maybe that means having a large investment account with 25x your annual expenses and quitting your job. Maybe it’s a few mini-retirements punctuated by working. Perhaps it’s having multiple active streams of passive income. It may be having that large investment account and choosing to continue your job because you love it.
Your FI will not look like anyone else’s and neither will your path to getting there.
A spendthrift is someone who spends money in an extravagant or irresponsible way. You can’t reach FI and be a spendthrift with money, but perhaps we should be equally judicious with the choices we make regarding all of our assets. Especially our time.