Published: February 21, 2021

The 57th Edition
57th. Time vs Money: The trade-offs we make can lead us to a happier life.

THE MAIN THING …

Time is money.

You’ve heard that one for sure. It’s an accurate statement. We use our time to work. In return, we make money. (Okay, technically there is such a thing as passive income but nothing is ever really truly passive. And then, there’s lotto.)

The other day, I read another version of that statement in the book Time Smart. The author, Ashley Whillans, wrote, “Money is time.”

Moving the words around changes the value assignment somehow. In the original version, money is the underlying value choice. In the flipped version, it is time.

Of those two resources, one is renewable and one is not. The sad thing is that we often forget which one is which. Perhaps this is understandable given that one is tangible and easier to measure.

Are you a Morgan or a Taylor?

Life is a series of trade-offs between these two scarce resources.

Should you pay more for the direct flight that gets you to your destination sooner? Should you accept the higher-paying job that requires more hours in the office? Should you take on the huge financial burden of receiving the best medical care available for the possibility of extending your life several years? Should you spend more time with your kids or work harder to provide for them?

Whether we tend to value time over money or vice versa is influenced by many factors, including our upbringing, where we grew up, what we saw and experienced in our formative years. But Whillans says that our position about time-money changes many times during our lives.

She suggests we review the following general descriptions and see which one rings truer for us:

Morgan values money more than time. Morgan is willing to sacrifice time to have more money. For example, Morgan would rather work more hours and more money than fewer hours/more time.

Taylor values time more than money. Taylor is willing to sacrifice money to have more time. Taylor would rather work fewer hours and make less money than more hours/more money.

In Whillans’ research, she has found that a time-centric mindset promotes happiness, social connections, relationship satisfaction, and job satisfaction.

In another unrelated study, researchers asked participants which they would rather have: more money or more time.

Most people were practical: Around 64 percent surveyed answered “more money.” But there was something else: The people who said they’d prefer more time were generally happier.

Interestingly, people who tended to choose more time were also older, suggesting perhaps as we age we get more satisfaction from valuing our time.

Is ‘less is more’ the key?

In exploring the time vs money question, the various rabbit holes inevitably led me to consumerism.

Is the answer to all this to want less, to buy less? If we reduce our consumption, logic follows that we will spend less and need less $$$. We may not always have control over how much we earn, but we have control over how we spend it.

In the Netflix documentary Minimalism, Jay Austin, a micro-house enthusiast and an advocate for sustainable, simple living, had this to say:

It’s not so much about financial gain for me as it is about financial freedom. The ability to wake up in the morning and spend one’s day as they see fit.

On eschewing McMansions for tiny houses, Austin said,

I think there’s an element of affordability, simplicity, and sustainability that makes tiny houses seem like the perfect solution to a problem we haven’t yet figured out which is, how do we go from working all throughout our lifetime to enjoying our lifetime with a bit of work here and there?

Bottom Line

It’s a gift to be able to even consider choosing between time and money. For many — people who work multiple jobs at all hours, struggling to make ends meet — there’s never enough of either. Still, there’s an argument to be made that even if we know money is more important, valuing our time could lead us to a happier life.

How we use — and value — our time is unquestionably key to our quest for happiness. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent years working in palliative care, recorded the top 5 regrets of the dying.

Three of those five regrets directly point to how we use our time:

  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself; not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

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INTERESTINGLY…
  • I don’t want friends impressed by fancy stuff. We’ve all heard the quote: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Most use it aspirationally. If you want to be successful in business, surround yourself with people who are successful at business… that kind of thing. Joshua Becker talks about an important counter-principle to consider.
  • The UnAmerican Dream. An interesting side-by-side of the American Dream and what we get in exchange. “You can keep your American Dream: give us back our time, our freedom, and our lives.”
  • “Minimalism is a lifestyle of living with less and being happy with, and more aware of, what you already own.” Enlightened simplicity. I like it. But it’s always good to hear the counterpoint if anything, to catch ourselves when we’re veering toward the absurd. The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism. (Hey: This is a long read.)

MULL IT OVER

“The happiest, most fulfilled moments of my life have been when I was completely aware of being alive with all the hope, pain, and sorrow that that entails for any mortal being. […] The moments were ends in themselves, not steps on a ladder.” — Jenny Odell, American artist, writer, educator


BOOK NOTES ▿

Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life
by Ashley Whillans

How can we escape the time traps that make us feel this way and keep us from living our best lives?

Check out the book here.


REMEMBER THE TIME…

In February, 30 years ago, the film that topped the charts in the US was Silence of the Lambs. Funnily, in the same month 20 years ago, the highest-grossing film was (wait for it)… Hannibal.

The same Anthony Hopkins played the Chianti-drinking, liver-eating serial killer. But Clarice Starling was played instead by Julianne Moore. Sadly, Jodie Foster turned down the role after reading the Thomas Harris sequel. #notsurprised

This leads me to the vital question: What is it about February and Dr. Hannibal Lecter???


WHAT’S PLAYING

The Performative Nature of High Functioning Anxiety

One topic I don’t always talk about is anxiety and depression. Because, why?!🤪 And so, I totally forgot about a chat I had re my experience with this, with Nancy Jane Smith for The Happier Approach podcast.

In the chat (where, for some reason, I was very animated) Nancy and I talked about the Swan effect. This is when you look calm and graceful on the outside but below the surface, you are paddling like crazy. We got into the gender bias that prevented me from addressing my anxiety for a long time and how cultural influences can actually push us to go after the Swan effect.

Nancy released it in two parts (she and I really got into it). Each is about 20 minutes long. In the second part, Nancy also talked about the 3 voices we all have in our heads (the monger, the BFF, and the true fan).

Episode 162: The Performative Nature of High Functioning Anxiety, Part 1
Episode 163: The Performative Nature of High Functioning Anxiety, Part 2


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Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. I love doing this work and your support would mean the world to me. If you like reading or find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊 It helps with the research and the writing!

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LAST WORD

I am a Morgan. I was raised as one and that is how I’ve always been.

But we all have the capacity for change. And I feel that I am slowly but surely, becoming less of a Morgan. To be more of a Taylor is ultimately who I want to be.

Here’s to a week full of meaningful experiences. Also, vaccines are coming. Mask up!

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


ABOUT LOU BLASER

A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.