So recently, someone listed me as one of the top personal finance sites in Malaysia.
It’s a huge honor. And I’m thankful.
I found it amusing though — because as much as I write about money, and as much as most of my popular posts are about money — I never intended mr-stingy to be a personal finance blog. I wanted it to be about optimization.
That’s why for every “Why Save Money Even When You Earn Just A Little,” you’ll see a “What Playing Basketball Taught Me About Winning At Life” post.
So today, I wanna talk a little bit more about the abstract topics of time and love. And look at their relationships to money while asking an impossible question: time, money or love — which is most important?
You Claim to Not be a Personal Finance Blog, Yet You Always Write About Money. Why?
I write about money because it’s easy.
It’s easy to quantify dollars. That’s why I post articles like: How I Paid Off My 58K Education Loan. There’s no fluff there — because I really had to pay off an RM 58,000 (USD 14,500) loan (in six months). On the contrary, it’s much harder to quantify things like love, happiness, or relationships. (Is the guy who’s slept with 25 girls before settling down happier than the one who married his first love?)
The other thing about money is it’s relatable to everyone. Almost everyone can understand what it’s like to not have enough money. Or worrying if they can support their families. Or wondering how they’re going to pay for their dream vacation.
But mostly, I write about money because it’s a basic necessity in today’s world. Food, shelter, security — everything needs money.
No one is going to listen to my theories of optimizing happiness if they’re hungry tonight and their children have no milk tomorrow.
I’m not saying that poor people have no time or are incapable of loving.
What I’m saying is — if you’re financially stable, you have more time to focus on things you love.
So there lies the first rule of optimization: You take care of the basics first.
And money is the most basic of all.
The Most Precious Resource: Time
“I’m not going… because I don’t think it’s the best use of my time.”
This popped out of my mouth when my friend invited me for a charity event two months ago.
Her: “You asshole.”
Her comment caught me off guard. And I realized, “Yes! I just sounded like a first-class asshole.” But the more I thought about it, I realized I would have never said the above statement if I wasn’t financially secure.
I looked back at when I first graduated — trying to thrive on an RM 2,510 salary. If I didn’t want to go for something, I would give weak excuses: “I need to go somewhere else”; or “I have something to do this weekend.” And then waste the best part of my weekend playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Youth: lots of time, no money
It wasn’t that I was more political when I was younger. I just hadn’t learned that time is a finite quantity. I didn’t even realize that I was gonna die someday.
But over the years something changed. I grew older, went up the ladder and made more money (yawn). But I also stopped living in the virtual world of computer games and Internet women — and started reading blogs like Wait But Why. Blogs that changed how I viewed life.
And somewhere along the way of more work, more money and more stress — I realized that the amount of money one can make is theoretically limitless. But I could never see this when I was poor — when all I could think of was making more money.
It’s a bit of a paradox: It takes someone who has money (and less time) to realize that time is more valuable than money.
Because time is the ultimate resource: Everyone just has 24 hours a day. And if you’re lucky — you get 70 years of it.
The Money Value of Time
“But wait!” you say, “You talk as if you need to choose one over the other. If I have all the time in the world, but no money — I’ll starve!”
By saying that time is more valuable than money I don’t mean you should quit your job and bum on the beach. It’s not an all or nothing deal. What I really meant to ask was this:
Every day — each of us exchanges a portion of our time for money. How much money do you really need, and how much time do you wanna keep for yourself?
Interestingly, people have quantified time in terms of money too: how much is an hour of your time worth?
And they say, your time is worth: (your monthly salary) / (number of hours you work a month)
So if you earn RM 5,000 a month, and you work eight-hour days, your time is worth:
= 5,000 / (8 x 22 days a month)
= 5,000 / 176
= RM 28.41 per hour
Yes, that’s a rather simplistic calculation. Because each one of us is worth a lot more than just his/her day job and monthly salary. So guess what, your time is worth a lot more than RM 28.41 per hour.
But it does give us an interesting baseline for comparison. Let’s say you value your time at RM 30 an hour. Would it make sense to work part-time for a job that pays RM 17.50 / hour? And what if we turned the question around: Is it worthwhile to pay someone RM 17.50 / hour to clean your home, if you hate housework and rather play with your son instead?
If all these numbers are making your head spin, I’ve simplified my thoughts into some simple diagrams.
Here’s what I hope you don’t become:
Sad, old man: lots of money, no time
Instead, I’d rather you become:
Happy: enough money to be comfortable, enough time for yourself
Greed Leads to the Dark Side
“You’re being silly again,” you say, “I don’t want to choose… I want everything.”
“I want all the power and money in the world, and still have twelve hours a day to party with Paris Hilton and friends. I know it’s possible because I saw a website that promises passive income while I sleep. And I know someone who does it…”
No my friend, that’s unrealistic. And it leads to the dark side.
But I do like your idea of trying to game the system. I do like your idea of trying to get lots of money without giving up lots of time. The question is, how do you hack that equation, without losing money to Internet scammers? I see three (legal) options:
- Be born into an outrageously rich family and have an irresponsible father — who gives you money without you having to work. (If you know any rich families who are adopting, please let me know).
- Be in the top 1% of your field — that you make huge money for even short periods of your time. (You will however have to work to reach the top 1%) .
Huh? What does love have to do with any of this?
Everything. Love changes everything.
THE LIGHT SIDE OF THE FORCE: LOVE
The reason I threw love out is because it’s the great modifier to the time-money relationship.
With just time and money, the relationship is usually: Less time (work more), more money. More time (work less), less money.
But suddenly with love, we have a new angle to look at things:
- If I love someone, now I want to spend time and money on her, instead of me.
- If I marry her and have kids, now I have motivation to work hard — so I can give them a good life.
- If I love my job*, the time I spend working is happy and fulfilling. And I get so good at it that people pay me more money.
It’s not that love directly fills your bank account or gives you 28 hours a day. I’m sure you know non-rich people who have to work hard, yet have wonderful, loving families. It’s just that love warps reality — other things don’t matter so much anymore — and it makes you happy.
Sorry for my horrible drawing skills, but the best way I could sum it up looks like this:
The more love you have, the less time and money mean to you
* * * * * * * *
I started this article with an impossible question: time, money or love — which is most important?
You know my answer now, but like you said — you don’t have to choose only one out of the three. After all, they’re interlinked. You need time to create money. More money makes loving easier. And love gives you happiness as you go through the cycle.
I hope you will always have all three.
And as we move into the holiday season, the new year and more Star Wars madness — I wish you the very best ahead: Success in your career with more money; a healthy body that lets you enjoy your life; and enough free time to read mr-stingy.
But mostly, I wish for you love so strong — that you wouldn’t exchange it for all the time and money in the world.
*I’m being romantic here. Nobody loves 100% of their work. Even people who have “dream jobs” dislike certain parts of their jobs. But maybe there’s a lesson here too: When you love something or someone — you accept the good with the bad.
Picture at Pixabay