Virtually everyone has heard the old adage that “time is money,” but how many really analyze what it means?
The truth is that time and money are inversely proportional — the more you have of one, the less you have of the other.
If you’re not working, you have all the time in the world. The problem is that most things cost money and anyone that’s ever been broke can tell you that the days seem long when you don’t have anything to spend. Conversely, work takes up a great deal of our time and, when we finally finish, it’s either too late or we’re too tired to do much.
For the vast majority of us, it takes time to make money and, traditionally, it took more time to make more money (overtime pay is the most basic example of this). The paradox, of course, is that we don’t have time to actually enjoy the money we’re making and are instead just running on the human hamster wheel.
This is why everyone is so obsessed with passive income and why The Four-Hour Workweek continues to sell copies year after year. We want more of our time without giving up our money. We want to keep the same lifestyle that our money affords us — house, car, spending cash — but we want to also have the time to actually enjoy those things.
I’m struck by this when I step outside and look at my beautiful back yard that I don’t get to enjoy nearly enough. I have a beautiful yard but I can’t enjoy it on weekdays because I’m at the office so that I can have enough money to have a beautiful back yard.
Entrepreneurs and pundits like to throw out platitudes like “you can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.” That’s true, but tell that to someone working three jobs to pay their bills or the person still in the office at midnight because they’re trying to provide a better life for their family. We do things like commute two hours each way or pick up a side hustle to try to get over the hump.
This is where that overworked term work-life balance comes into play and it’s something I’ve had to learn the hard way. I’ve left money on the table to get some of my life back, but I’ve also put in tons of extra hours in the past, both in school and work, to get to a place where I’m almost comfortable.
Retirement is the ultimate cruelty. We scratch and claw our way to get to a point where, finally, we have enough time and money to enjoy ourselves. The only problem? We’re at the end our lives.
Time and money are constantly on the scale and it’s up to us to balance them because too much of one will tip the scales and, if we’re not careful, we may never be able to get back in balance.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.