Money is Not The Goal, Time Is

“Happy Friday,” the woman at the checkout counter says, “We finally made it.”

Every week it feels the same in the corporate world – my friends are excited it’s the weekend, clients ubiquitously end emails with “have a nice weekend” or “Happy Friday,” and everyone starts talking about their weekend plans by Thursday morning. This is the cycle.

But for some reason this past week when the woman at the pharmacy counter said it, I could tell she really meant it. I was struck by how tired she looked.

That’s one of the things I notice a lot more these days – just how tired so many people look on a Friday. I could tell she desperately meant it when she said: “we finally made it.”

Most people live their lives for the weekend. It’s not surprising since we’ve been conditioned since we were kids to look forward to Fridays and doing whatever we want on the weekend. In 3rd grade, I was even in a school musical called “Saturday” about the best week all day long.

But how much of yourself can you really pack into 2 days, especially when you have weddings to attend and date nights and kids and chores and laundry?

There just never seems to be enough time for anything – to read that book you’ve been putting off or reach out to chill with one of your friends you haven’t seen in a while, to practice that guitar you bought two years ago, or take that last-minute trip.

Now we slog through the week so we can go out hard Friday night, hit up the Saturday recovery brunch, a Saturday night and all that entails, and Sunday football on the couch. Then comes the dreaded Sunday night when you start thinking about the stresses of the upcoming week.

80% of American workers say they get the Sunday blues. It’s a real thing. I used to feel it all the time back in the day. But you might be saying – well I only work until 6 pm every day and I have evenings to hang out with my family, and friends, and do the things I love.

But data shows that most people are so tired from work, they tune out and watch TV every night.

On average Americans are watching over 3 hours of TV every day! So a vast majority of Americans are disengaged at work and they come home to disconnect into a new Netflix show. I struggle with this too. Like most people, I run pretty hard and often struggle to chill as hard as I hustle. But this really got me thinking – when it comes to money, time is not all the same.

Not All Time is the Same

The study of time is as old as time itself and its relationship to money is deeply paradoxical.

Time is both more valuable for some reason when you are young and more valuable for others when you are old.

To me, financial independence has always been about time, not money. My goal was to make work optional as quickly as possible, so I could have more options with my time. If you view money as the goal, then you miss the point.

Money is infinite, but time is not.

1. When You Work You Are Trading Your “Premium” Time

How many times have you felt energetic, inspired, and awesome at 11 am on a Tuesday, only to be called into another meeting in a windowless conference room or another call about nothing? Or you’re stuck at your desk on a sunny 70-degree day even though you don’t have enough work to do. This is your “premium” time when you feel most inspired, creative, and alive.

While those moments can come at any time, if you work 5 days a week from 9-5, you are working 72% of the week, just to get 28% off. Just based on the simple math, you are likely spending the majority of your “premium” time working at your job.

Of course, this is great if you love your job, but if you don’t, and most people don’t, then you are selling your “premium” hours for your salary or an hourly wage.

According to Gallup’s annual survey of the American Workforce, 70 percent of employees in the United States are disengaged at work. They are just getting by.

This just makes me so sad – that people resign to a job that they don’t like and spend the best hours, the “premium” hours of the best years of their lives, “just getting by.”

In an office building where I used to work, there was an investment firm where the partners almost always were traveling – but they needed to ensure someone was in the office during the day to take calls and receive packages.

A woman who was in her mid-20s sat behind a big glass door at a receptionist’s desk without windows. I walked by almost daily for 3 years and never saw her move and only very rarely saw another person in the office. She was trading the best years of her life sitting behind a desk just waiting for packages. She always just looked so blah.

You spend more time with your co-workers than you do with your family. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely heard the joke a few times in a professional setting, always with a laugh: “I feel like I know you better than I know my own wife and kids.”

This is why mini-retirements are so compelling because you can keep your job, but start reclaiming some of your premium time to do what you love. It’s also why it’s worth trying to retire as quickly as possible, so you can reclaim your own premium time for yourself.

2. When it Comes to Money, Time is More Valuable When You Are Young Because Your Money Has More Time To Grow

When it comes to investing, time is not equal and a lot of people are wasting it. It’s a well-known fact that the earlier you start investing the more time your money has to grow, so the larger it can grow.

One dollar saved at 25 is going to be worth 2-3x more when you are 65 than a dollar saved when you are 35. When it comes to investing, every year earlier than you start makes a massive difference.

This is why ideas like the Baby IRA are so compelling – if you open a Roth IRA for your baby at birth and max out the contributions at $5,500 every year for 30 years, your child will be able to retire when they are 30! Talk about a gift, haha.

This was one of the primary reasons I started saving as much money as possible when I was 24 and began to fast-track financial independence because I knew I had time on my side. But no matter when you start or how old you are today, today is a better day to start investing than tomorrow.

Waiting to invest is leaving money on the table and above all else, you are wasting the most precious resource of all: time.

3. Time is more valuable the older you get because you have less of it

Time gets more valuable as we get older for two reasons– we feel like it’s moving faster and we have less of it.

Cognitive psychologists believe we as humans feel like time goes by faster as we get older because we have fewer “firsts” in our lives.

By the age of 7, we have already experienced half of all experiences we will experience in life. Time moves slower when we are experiencing new things – it’s why when you travel time seems to move slower.

But when it comes to working and our routines, those experiences are so comfortable – it’s why the weeks literally feel like they are flying by when we eat, sleep, work, and repeat.

And not only does time feel like it’s moving faster as we get older, but we also have less of it. Time, becoming more valuable as we get older, is a simple concept, but unfortunately, but it doesn’t often align with how people value their own time or think about money in their lives.

There’s no “I only have 20 more years to live” pay jump, bonus, or premium. In the corporate world, your compensation is based on how much experience you have and how valuable you are to the company, not how valuable your time is to you. You are paid based on how valuable you are to the market. And the market doesn’t care about you.

If you don’t value your own time, no one else will.

Money Is Not the Goal, Time Is!

With the recent passing of my 100-year-old great-grandmother, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own time left on this earth. I had the opportunity to spend some time with her 6 months ago on her 100th birthday, her mind as sharp as ever.

When I asked for her thoughts on money, my great-grandmother who balanced her own checkbook every month until she died said, “What about it? I haven’t thought about money in over 5o years.”

At the end of your life, what will you remember? What will you regret? As you get older, your dreams, and how you see the world will inevitably evolve. Your dreams of the past might even disappear, leaving unrequited trails of “what ifs” and “in only”.

In her reflective book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, nurse Bronnie Ware, who works with people who are dying, shares their top regrets including:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”

“I wish I didn’t work so hard”

“I wish I had let myself be happier.”

She goes on to share that a vast majority of her patients had never accomplished at least half of their dreams, often because of their choice to keep working instead of following their dreams.  Here’s Bronnie Ware’s TED talk which is inspiring and well worth 15 minutes of your time.

When we’re in the trenches commuting to work, pushing through the daily grind, and worried about money and our future, it’s important to step back and question whether the time we are giving up for the money is worth it.

And to remind ourselves to ask that question often, because what you want, need, and love will continue to evolve. You can always find ways to make more money, but you’ll never get back the time you are trading for it.

This is why investing is the OG passive income because you make money without trading your time.  So we should optimize our money for time above all else.

Money is infinite, but time is not.

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  • Comment Author image blank
    I found this to be one of the best articles I have read in my life! I cried when you talked about your grandmother regretting not being as happy in her life and being so hard on her self more and living life as her true self. It touched my heart in so many ways. I am 25 years old and my passion is to work for myself be able to put my TIME into something I love is the way to go. Also very important you can have all the money in the world but if you don't have people in your life that you love you will never enjoy your TIME!
  • Comment Author image blank
    Love the title of this post, Money is not the goal, time is. Time is each individuals rarest resource and what we do with that time matters. The goal of financial freedom is not money but the future time you will have to focus on the things that matter to you :)
  • Comment Author image blank
    […] The playboy could have learned a thing or two from Grant of Millennial Money. You see, Money is Not the Goal. Time is. […]
  • Comment Author image blank
    […] needs money to survive, but the real goal is time. Time to spend with your friends and family. Time to explore your passion. Money can help you buy […]
  • Comment Author image blank
    Love this post. I recently read a few reports that showed the inverse correlation between stress and happiness. For most, peak stress is around age 50, and, of course, the two biggest drivers of stress are money and the j-o-b. It's definitely made me rethink the core reasons for why I want to be financially independent.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Even though I am still young, I realize how important time is. We can always earn more money. You can do nothing to earn more time. I work Part Time and Freelance/blog on the side, so I don't have a Full Time income. But I love that I have the time to travel the world. I don't even need to retire to do that.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Time is important to all of us. Find a way to make money while you sleep. Multiple sources of cash flow is the way to go.
  • Comment Author image blank
    It is all about time. If you have plans, execute them. Don't wait and think how it could have bin... Take action!
  • Comment Author image blank
    Great post! Nothing better than hearing the wisdom of ten decades' worth of lived experience expressed in a pithy comment. I sat in your session at FinCon. Admittedly, hadn't heard of you before then, but you were great.. I have "Chill as hard as you hustle" written in my notebook!
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Brad
  • Comment Author image blank
    Well said. Also inextricably tied to the money time exchange you mention is the marginal utility of money. That is, more money doesn't give us as much because we've already satisfied needs. Also, money becomes less valuable to the individual as time passes and becomes worthless at death. These 2 points and the points you make keep me asking the question "is this worth my time" more often as I age. It's the primary driver behind my desire for financial independence.
  • Comment Author image blank
    There's nothing I appreciate more than the chance to spend time with my daughter, travel on a whim and be my own 'boss'. Money comes and goes, but family life is what matters to me the most right now.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Such an important message! It's so easy to lose sight of this during our paper chase. Thanks for sharing, Grant.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Thanks for such an eloquent post Grant. I really enjoyed your perspective here as this is something that has come much more in to focus for me lately. Screw 'cash is king' it is clearly time that rules! Money is just a tool and I'm glad to be learning this now with plenty of time to achieve the desired state. Keep up the insightful writing mate!
  • Comment Author image blank
    Sorry to hear about your great-grandmother but so happy for you that you got to spend some quality time with her. When people greet Mr. Groovy out in the park, or in a store, they invariably make small talk. Somewhere in the middle of their banter he usually says very blandly "it's just another day" -- as if he's still toiling for the man and every day is a burden. Except that it's not. But he doesn't like to make others feel badly that they have to work. I really feel for working parents with small children. I would have trouble missing out on those years if I was unable to adapt my job or hours to spend optimum time with them. There are always trade-offs in life that can be made to get you closer to what you want.
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Mrs. Groovy ?
  • Comment Author image blank
    I think the key is to find the happy medium between time and money. Some money is necessary to make the most of your time. If it wasn't people wouldn't spend so much of their time working.
    • Grant Sabatier
      I agree. It's all a balance - which as long as you are conscious of it, you can balance it. So many people aren't though - they just keep slogging. Thanks Michael.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Oh man, I bet your great-grandmother was awesome!! 100 years old - wow!
    • Grant Sabatier
      I know! And she was sharp as a tack almost until the very end.
  • Comment Author image blank
    This is why I cut my hours back to 80% at 28 years old (when my son was a year old) - I want that time NOW. And honestly, I'm not going to want to give back those extra 2-3 hours a day later, either ;) It's amazing though how much just a couple extra hours a day makes such a difference. I now find lots of fun time during the week. Plus I have time to get a lot of chores done as well so we can have time to play on the weekends when my husband isn't working. He works a ton during the week so this way we get to enjoy our weekends instead of catching up on chores. We even usually manage a short hike once a week with him during the week as well.
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thank you for sharing Angela. I'm happy to hear how an extra 2-3 hours has made such a difference in your life and you are able to spend more time with your son.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Isn't it funny how we trade a lot of our time to get money, and then (ideally) apply that money to earn more time? What a vicious cycle!
    • Grant Sabatier
      Definitely a vicious cycle, however, the key for me was investing as much as I could when I was in my 20's, so that I could live off the gains in my 30's and beyond. So I was will to trade A LOT of up front time, so I would need to trade 0 time in the near future.
  • Comment Author image blank
    I admit I wasted time in the past. I wasn't focused. I was a stock flop. I didn't know what I know now. I wish what I knew now I knew 20 years ago. But we live and learn, right? Money comes and goes. It's the priceless knowledge and relationships we gain and earn along the way and how we use it to our positive advantage to forge ahead successfully.
    • Grant Sabatier
      Yes, we definitely live and learn. Thanks