Time or money?

Do we know the real value of money, asks

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - WELLBEING -

JOSÉ MU­JICA, the for­mer pres­i­dent of Uruguay, drove a 1987 baby blue Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle dur­ing his time in of­fice. He also de­clined to live in the pres­i­den­tial palace, pre­fer­ring the sim­ple pace of the farm on which he cul­ti­vates chrysan­the­mums with his wife. Known as the “world’s poor­est pres­i­dent”, Mu­jica, who stepped down last year, do­nated 90pc of his salary to char­ity and reg­u­larly picked up hitch­hik­ers.

His time in prison shaped his out­look on con­sumerism. Dur­ing the 1960s and 1970s, he was part of the Tu­pa­maros, a guer­rilla group of armed Marx­ist in­sur­gents.

Due to his in­volve­ment with the group, he spent 14 years in prison dur­ing the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, much of it in soli­tary con­fine­ment.

Mu­jica re­flects on his time in jail, and what in­car­cer­a­tion taught him about life, in the doc­u­men­tary, Hu­man, which was re­leased last year.

“I spent over 10 years in a soli­tary con­fine­ment cell... I spent seven years with­out open­ing a book. It left me time to think,” he ex­plains.

“This is what I dis­cov­ered: ei­ther you’re happy with very lit­tle, with­out over­bur­den­ing your­self, be­cause you have hap­pi­ness in­side... Or you’ll get nowhere.

“We in­vented a con­sumer so­ci­ety... which is con­tin­u­ally seek­ing growth...We in­vented a moun­tain of su­per­flu­ous needs. You have to keep buy­ing... throw­ing away.

“It’s our lives we are squan­der­ing. When I buy some­thing, or when you buy it, we’re not pay­ing with money. We’re pay­ing with the time from our lives we had to spend to earn that money. The dif­fer­ence is that you can’t buy life.”

It’s one of those epipha­nies that hits you right be­tween the eyes; a sim­ple, yet pro­found, idea that forces you to re­think your per­spec­tive.

We can eas­ily get be­hind the old adage ‘time is money’, es­pe­cially when we want to pound our chests and feel ter­ri­bly im­por­tant.

Yet the turn­around, ‘money is time’, forces us to con­tem­plate the true value of ev­ery­thing we earn.

Imag­ine pay­ing for a new-sea­son hand­bag with four day’s work (not to men­tion the week of your time spent wait­ing for the next pay cheque).

Imag­ine log­ging into a time ac­count where you could see how many min­utes you have left in a day, af­ter work and sleep.

Money and time will al­ways be in­ter­re­lated — to save one you gen­er­ally have to spend the other — yet we tend to value money over time, when it should be the other way around.

Be­cause time isn’t tan­gi­ble — we can’t feel it coming out of our wal­lets or see it leav­ing our bank ac­counts — we tend to over­es­ti­mate how much of it we ac­tu­ally have. Mean­while, we tend to un­der­es­ti­mate our ca­pac­ity for ac­cu­mu­lat­ing money.

In other words, we spend money as though it’s fi­nite, and time as though it’s infinite.

As Steve Jobs once mused: “My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s re­ally clear that the most pre­cious re­source we all have is time.”

Time is a price­less re­source too. If you squan­der a for­tune, you al­ways have the chance of get­ting it back. If you squan­der your time, it’s gone for­ever. Time is money? Say that to some­one who has very lit­tle time left.

While the for­mer proverb, coined by Ben­jamin Franklin, makes the wheels of cap­i­tal­ism move faster, the per­spec­tive ‘money is time’ makes us slow down enough to won­der if the so­ci­ety we live in is leav­ing us short-changed.

Those who think of time as money rarely even know what their time is worth. When work­ing out your real hourly wage, re­mem­ber to al­low for your com­mute, breaks and any work you do out­side of of­fi­cial hours.

Once you know how many hours you’re re­ally work­ing, you can work out how much of your time an item or ser­vice re­ally costs — or if it’s worth spend­ing three days of your time on a dress you’ll only wear once.

It’s also worth con­sid­er­ing how much time you squan­der when you try to save money. Does a cheap flight re­ally rep­re­sent good value if you have a four-hour lay­over?

As for those plan­ning to travel to the North for a Brexit bar­gain, does the sav­ing jus­tify spend­ing a day of your time trav­el­ling back and forth? The trou­ble is that we’re more in­clined to think of ‘op­por­tu­nity cost’ — the value of the next best thing — in fi­nan­cial terms.

We also over­look what is known as the time-money-en­ergy tri­an­gle. As a gen­eral rule, you’ll only ever have two of these re­sources, at vary­ing stages of your life, so it’s best to plan ac­cord­ingly.

Our re­la­tion­ship with money of­ten mir­rors our re­la­tion­ship with time. As Jo­hann Wolf­gang von Goethe wrote: “Many peo­ple take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and oth­ers do just the same with their time.”

Mean­while, those that man­age their time well tend to man­age their money well too. They spend what poet Carl Sand­burg called ‘the coin of your life’ — “the only coin you have” — pru­dently.

When we think of money as time, and not the other way around, we re­mem­ber that we’re us­ing the very re­source we all want more of to pay for the things of which we’ll never have enough. Spend wisely.

Be­cause time isn’t tan­gi­ble, we tend to over­es­ti­mate how much of it we ac­tu­ally have

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