I just read an article from my friend Mr. 1500 about what “Enough” means in life, and it got me thinking about what is truly valuable in my own life. Once my family is clothed, sheltered and fed, the most valuable resource to me is Time.
We only get a finite amount of time in this life and it keeps ticking away every single second. Once past, that time is never coming back. We’re all so rushed every day, but what are we really accomplishing? Are we savoring the time, or just living out each day on autopilot? Are we working towards fulfilling goals, or just running out the clock?
Maybe it is because my 35th birthday is rapidly approaching next month and I’ve started thinking about our goals and timeline more closely, but I’ve recently become more finely attuned to the ticking of time and what it truly means.
Live a Little, Live a Lot
Even though we live a perfectly lovely middle-class existence, I think on some level people who know us think we’re depriving ourselves because we don’t go out and buy expensive things that we clearly can “afford,” and we’re always focused on saving money and reaching our goals.
We’ve heard the phrase, “Come on, don’t you just want to live a little?” more than a few times, and my response to that is: I don’t want to live a little; I want to live a lot!
Living to me is not buying fancy gadgets, expensive cars, vacation homes, granite countertops and the like. It is controlling your own destiny and taking back your time from the endless grind of the typical 9-5 job that stretches for 40-50 years for most people.
Why do we save money so prodigiously? Because we don’t want our retirement to start at 70 like so many people and look back with regret at a life that passed so quickly.
We want to enjoy our lives for decades prior to the normal retirement age and direct our time, energy and resources where we wish. That likely will mean volunteering, continuing my enjoyable free travel coaching service, learning new things, traveling the world and all sorts of other fun activities.
As Mr. Money Mustache so clearly explains in his life-changing post, The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement, there are no secrets or gimmicks to retiring early. It’s just about saving as much as you can, as quickly as you can and cutting expenses as much as possible.
So when I think about the question, “Why don’t you live a little?” I know that all I have to do to take back 30 years of my life is to not buy stupid things like BMWs or big fancy houses. It makes me smile that it really is that easy.
Time is Money
Time is in fact money, but not in the cliché manner that most people flippantly describe; you are giving up your most valuable resource – your time – to work every Monday through Friday. For that time, your job pays you an agreed upon sum of money.
With every single purchase you make, you are really giving up your time in exchange for whatever you’re buying. So let’s say you make about $25 per hour, or somewhere in the range of a $50,000 per year salary.
Since all your purchases are made with after-tax money, we’ll take out an estimated 25% to your combined tax burden. Now you’re taking home $18.75 per hour.
If you buy a $750 television, you just gave up an entire 40-hour workweek ($18.75 x 40 = $750) in exchange for that new TV! That really puts things in perspective, right?
Looking at it slightly differently, let’s say you actually do save some money each month, but with your best efforts you’re only able to save $3,000 per year. That means in an entire year, all your other money – and therefore the thousands of hours you spent at your job – was consumed, and the only amount that increased your net worth was that $3,000.
One year of your life gone and $3,000 to show for it.
Looking at it this way, would you then turn around and feel comfortable buying a $30,000 car? That’s 10 years of your life. $6,000 granite countertops? Another 2 years of your life gone.
Or would you save that money, invest it and watch it compound? Would you try to cut back on needless, frivolous expenses so that $3,000 turns into $5,000, $10,000 or even $15,000+ per year?
To me this is a simple choice.
Stop spending, start saving, and watch your self-confidence, happiness and control over your life grow by the day. And I think you’ll find in 5-10 years that you’ve amassed more money than you could have imagined, and you just simply don’t want that useless stuff any longer.
And I think it highly likely that you’ll find yourself in a position to take control of your life and retire much earlier that your friends and co-workers who just kept on spending all those years and therefore have absolutely nothing to show for all that time they gave up.
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