The value of time.

I have recently read two books The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and Vagabonding by Rolf Potts which both discuss the idea of time being a form of wealth. This is something I almost instinctually understood once I began to work for a living. Very few people I come in contact with grasp this simple truth or, if they understand it, fail to apply to their own lives.

It works like this:

If I earn $52,000 a year (I use this number purely as an example because it makes the math easy), that works out to $1000.00 a week or $25.00 an hour if I work a “normal” 40-hour workweek. Take a moment to perform the same calculation with your numbers so the rest of what I am suggesting you consider will have a more immediate impact.

I have an hour and ten-minute commute. Twenty-five minutes of this is walking to and from the train and is so pleasant that I can’t really consider it commuting time. I read on the train which means that time is almost always something pleasant as well. The only real-time cost to my commute is the final 15 minutes when I am already “at work” but haven’t officially started getting paid yet, and waiting for the train to show up at both ends, I would say about 15 minutes total a day.

My real-time cost for work is 1000 a week/42.5 hours or about 23.53 an hour. Not quite as much as I thought I was getting paid, but not bad.

A coworker of mine in the same position and salary range commutes 3 hours each day round trip. The math is a little tougher on him and his real-time cost is 1000 a week/ 55 hours or about 18.18 an hour.

He lives in a town in the mountains that is beautiful and I know the drive is very scenic for the first hour, but he has to do it every day and it costs him in gas, wear and tear on the car, insurance premiums, and time away from his family.

The last is the real killer, because by the time he gets home to his family I have already been with my sweetie for nearly an hour. When he has been on the road for twenty minutes in the morning I am just starting my pleasant morning walk and reading time, something I would like to do every morning anyway. If he gets to work at the exact same time I do, his total commute is almost 105 minutes one way and my effective commute is thirty minutes round trip. Telecommuting for both of us would get us back to 25.00 an hour.

Now, let’s talk about my time off. I think my free time is worth more than 23.53 an hour or even 25.00 an hour. To me it is worth more than getting paid 37.50 overtime.

Another friend of mine spent 10 hours looking for a new flat-screen TV by checking online and driving around town to various stores and making phone calls to find the best price. He saved almost 200.00 this way. Or did he? 25.00 an hour*10 hours is 250.00 in time. So his research cost him 50.00 over buying the TV full price.

If I spend 10 hours running back and forth to home depot to avoid a 150.00 bill from the plumber, am I really coming out ahead? If I learn something about plumbing in the process and can fix it quicker next time, or if I take a particular satisfaction from doing it myself, then I have come out ahead. If I have to miss a day of work waiting on the plumber to show up, then maybe doing it myself was cheaper after all.

If I could live on half my current salary, and would only have to work 20 hours a week to earn it, would I do it? You bet I would! What if I earned the same salary but only worked 20 hours. Now my time is twice as valuable because I am earning 50.00 an hour. My free time is more valuable because I have more of it and it is still worth more than working to me even at my new higher hourly rate.

I think you understand where this is going.

Time is a form of currency. Using my time to benefit me, rather than my employer, or the plumber, or anyone other than me and my friends is a waste, and a waste of criminal proportions.

Think about that next time you turn on the TV, or check the news online, or….

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