According to the Population Reference Bureau, the average life expectancy for those born in the US is 76 for men and 81 for women. A healthy 65-year-old can expect to live (on average) until their mid-eighties. No one denies the value of time — or that it flies by. My oldest child just started middle school. Plus, after 11 years, my wife and I are on the verge of moving beyond the “diaper changing” phase. In reflecting on this, these words from the Book of James resonate with me now more than ever:
“What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
We so often trade our time for money, but is that best?
While attending a conference in San Diego, I was able to hear a powerful presentation from Burt White — the chief investment officer with LPL Financial. He spoke about the value of time. We tend to focus on trading our time for money, especially during our peak income-earning years. As we age and accumulate more wealth, we then trade our money for time and the convenience to do what we value most. Borrowing from one of Mr. White’s illustrations: We certainly would all be willing to trade bank accounts with Warren Buffett — who at age 87, is the third wealthiest person in the world. His estimated net worth is $82.5 billion as of June 13th. But, how many of us would make the trade if we were required to switch ages with Mr. Buffett? Excepting the nonagenarians — virtually nobody would be likely to take the deal. This demonstrates how we value time more than money.
Rethinking ROI and the value of time
You may be familiar with the term ROI or “Return on Investment.” I want to encourage you to think more about ROT: “Return on Time.”
Until a few years ago, I maintained my lawn. Days after moving into our new home in 2013, my amazing father-in-law showed up on a new riding mower — how could I not honor him with a great-looking yard? I performed admirably for a while, but eventually I came to dread being greeted by a jungle. Thankfully, I have a wise friend who finally said to me as we were driving: “I’m calling my yard guy.” I weakly protested until he handed me the phone. Three minutes later, he was hired. Three years later, I have no regrets. The extra time I purchased with my family is priceless. A return beyond what numbers could express.
Remember the why of wealth acquisition
It’s true that it is both wise and fulfilling to acquire wealth. You may use it for things such as security, retirement, charitable donations, children, travel, convenience, and your personal legacy. However, don’t tip the scale too far. Remember why you are accumulating wealth to begin with. Don’t spend so much time accumulating wealth for the purpose of spending more time with your family and traveling that there is no time left to spend with your family or travel.
We often don’t realize the value of time until it is too late. It is precious. Use it wisely.