I was riding the New York City train yesterday and noticed an ad for a service like TaskRabbit that simply read, “Time is Money.”
But it’s not. In fact, this is one of the biggest money myths in our world today and it’s holding so many people back.
Time Isn’t Money
While time and money certainly share similarities, they are by no means equals.
Time is energy. Money is a thing. But both are human inventions we embed with so much meaning. They each have power over our lives.
Time is simply the word we’ve given to this thing that moves each day. It’s a word that represents what we read on a clock and use to measure our lives and the world around us. It’s a benchmark.
Time is a word we’ve given to the energy that pulls us all forward. Tracking it on a sundial or a watch or a computer is a process designed by humans.
As I’ve written before, money is infinite but time is not. You can always go out and get a part-time job or start a side hustle, but you’ll never be able to get back this moment or this day. Equating the two diminishes the value of time.
And it also undermines the importance of passive investing, of building passive income streams, which I believe really is the primary goal of personal finance.
Investing and Passive Income Disrupt the Money/Time Relationship
We all know that if you invest, whether it’s in real estate, stocks, bonds, businesses, or whatever else a person can invest in, the goal of investing is for your money to make money.
To make money without having to trade any of your time frees up your time to ultimately do things that are more important to your happiness.
Just as with most personal finance strategies, the best investing strategy is by no means rocket science. It’s simple:
- Make as much money as you can
- Keep your expenses low
- Invest the difference
- The more you invest and the more frequently you invest, the faster your money will compound and make you more money
- Sit back and earn money in your sleep. Boom, you are no longer trading your time for money.
Unfortunately, in our culture we end up believing that time equals money.
And so we also trade more of our time to make more money when in reality, if we use that time to do things that bring us greater happiness, to do things that we love, we would lead happier lives. Or we manage our wealth poorly so we end up wasting our time.
More Money Isn’t Always Better Than Time
I know many people making good money now that are stressed out. They either don’t like the work or they feel like they’ve worked so hard for their careers that now that they’ve made it to the top they have to try to stay there and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Take the lost road warrior Dan, who I met last year. Dan has more money than he will ever need, but he keeps working while lamenting that “I wish I had more time to spend with my boys.” He went on:
“NOW THAT I’M MAKING SO MUCH MONEY, WHY WOULD I WANT TO STOP?”
In reality he could easily step off the more-more treadmill and spend more time with his kids. Remember: his time is a finite resource, and admittedly, he has all the cash he could ever want.
Still, I’ve met many people over the past several years who say the exact same thing to me: “I wish I had more time with my kids.” Then, when I tell them they could by moving to a smaller house or outside of town and getting rid of their two cars, and then taking a part-time job, or just a reasonable full-time job instead of an 80+ hour a week grind… they don’t accept it.
Instead, my suggestions are almost always followed up with, “Well we don’t have enough money.” So they want time, but even though they are making money, they don’t have any.
I wish people valued their time more.
I don’t get it. So many people are asleep in their lives and end up making huge trade-offs for money.
I’ve met many people who could easily make a couple of shifts in their lives in order to have a life they would probably enjoy a lot more, but they would have to take a pay cut.
No one ever wants to take a pay cut. Even if it means the permanent opportunity cost of the finite resource that is time.
Give Yourself Permission to Do Nothing, Not Chase Money
Time is not money when you need to rest and reset. I used to always fill my time trying to make money, but in retrospect, I should have also been scheduling a time for myself and actually prioritizing time for myself.
By “time for myself,” I simply mean the process of checking in with my health and general well-being. We all move so fast and we just keep moving faster. So it’s sometimes hard to make time for yourself unless you make it intentional.
It’s very difficult, especially during a single weekend or a couple of weeks of vacation each year, to actually stop and reset. It’s officially been a year since I left the corporate world and started my corporate detox.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is it truly takes an immense amount of time to decompress and de-stress after being in an incredibly stressful and intense environment. It truly has taken me almost an entire year to recover from burnout.
When you’re going 120 miles an hour, it takes a long time to slow down. I’m sure some people can. But, I never found that 10 or 20 minutes of meditation a day or even just a long weekend that would give me the rest I needed. It never quite reset me.
I always just felt more stressed out. Or my mind just couldn’t settle down.
I remember going on a nice, long weekend trip to Michigan. I was hoping it would provide the space and time I needed to decompress and come back fresh on a Monday or Tuesday morning. But that rarely happened simply because my mind couldn’t stop.
Change the More Money Mindset
If we’re in a stressful environment, we’re probably going to be stressed. Whether it’s because of your job or your relationships, when you’re around stressful people, you feel stressed yourself.
And it’s taken me a year to really understand the methods of unwinding and giving myself time and space to exist and be open to a world that is truly a privilege I’m very grateful for.
I’m thinking very hard about whether I could have achieved this space and time if I had only taken three months off during my intense corporate period. Would that have been enough for me?
I don’t think it would have been. I think we get so tightly wound and our minds move so fast that it literally takes months and months to unwind and relax, to calm those stress reactions and unclench those synapses.
We are clearly living in a world of burnout and it’s pushing our minds and bodies to the max. Seeking financial independence by trading your time for cash over and over often only adds to that burnout.
Passion is Money
I am deeply passionate about finding ways in which to help people manage money and form a relationship with money that allows them more time and space in their life.
And then, once you get that time and space, what do you do with it? Good question! I myself am deeply in the process of journeying and discovering that for my own life.
And of course, I’m experiencing new things. But as I create more time and space in my life, I’m realizing I wouldn’t have been able to cultivate the things I’m currently experiencing and the amount of peace I’ve created in the high-pressure world I previously lived in.
And so that’s the challenge in how to make money and use that asset to live a life you love.
And maybe it means moving from full-time to part-time work, or moving to a different city, or finding a less stressful job—those are things I never did and never considered.
I was just always on all the time. That’s why I admire people who have balance in their lives. I’ve always struggled with that.
Time is Not Money: Final Thoughts
For me personally, I think a good place to start is to stop thinking and talking about time as if it is money because in reality, that undermines the power of both time and money to make more money for you. Whether that’s through passive income, investing, or any other form of building wealth.
The simple fact is that when you say time is money, you’re quantifying time. You’re putting both concepts on equal footing.
But we know time is finite. You can’t get it back. If you lose money, by contrast, you can always try to find a way to make more money. You can pick up a side hustle, a part-time job. You could do anything after this moment is gone to get that money back. But you’re not going to get the moment back.
So let’s stop talking about time as money. They’re really two very different things. And let’s focus on both and use them to our best advantage.