Time, money, or door #3

My dad recently sent me an article about early retirees- folks in their 20s and 30s who live on as small a percentage of their income as they can, buy brown bananas, never travel, and save aggressively so they can retire by age 40.

Let me say that there is nothing wrong with this lifestyle. I personally love saving money, and regardless, I support all people in living how they choose, and making empowered choices that align with their values.

What struck me about this article is that after many of these people did retire, after they finally “won” the game, they had no idea what to do with themselves. Their focus had been solely on the tactics - the smallest grocery bills, the best life hacks, the most strategic use of public transport. They got really really good at spending very little, and when they achieved their long-term aim, many of them felt despondent and lost. Some of them went right back to working, just to have something to do.

I think most of us can agree that money is a means to an end—whether that end is a sports car, or a nest egg and the feeling of security. And trading money for time, as these early retirees are doing, can be a good strategy. But the idea that kept on me after I read the article, was that these folks thought they were trading time now, to get money for time later, but actually they lost something more valuable. In their singular focus on saving money, they forgot to pause, and set their internal compass. What is this money for? Time? OK, then what is the time for? What values, what life purpose am I trying to get closer to with all of this hard work?

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the tactics of the game, and being the best at playing. Thousands of books, blogs, and methodologies exist that help us get better at productivity, personal finance, and a host of other tactics. When we take our eyes off the prize, or worse yet, forgot to set a prize to begin with, then the game is playing us.

When are you trading time for money?

When are you trading money for time?

In either case, is it in service of playing the game? Or is it in service of something meaningful to you?

Gillian BenAry