Time Rich, Cash Poor?

Is it better to be rich in time but poor in money or rich in money but poor in time? This is something I’ve thought a lot about recently, what with my impending change in lifestyle, and I want to discuss it today. I intend on moving over to a time rich, cash poor lifestyle in early 2022 and so this post represents me codifying the thoughts I’ve been having. You might also say it’s me convincing myself that what I’m doing is the right thing.

Also here I’ve stayed away from the obvious. Obviously it’s better to be time rich and cash rich. Obviously it’s worse to be time poor and cash poor. The latter you wouldn’t choose. And the former is reserved for the very wealthy.

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Most people with professional jobs are time poor, cash rich. They earn a lot of money but don’t have enough time to enjoy it fully. Right now this applies to me. I start work around 8:30 in the morning and log off around 5:45pm. If I was still going into the office I would need to leave my flat at 8am and I would return around 6:15pm. If you factor in making food and resting a little bit after returning from work that leaves me with about three hours for whatever I want to do, plus I have the weekend. I’ve tried to reduce my time at work by arriving slightly late and leaving slightly early and buying as many holiday days as I can, but it’s a drop in the ocean. If someone could wave a wand and cut my working week in half in exchange for half the salary, I’d take it. At least I can say I don’t have it as bad as others who stay at work until 7pm each day and travel for an hour.

But why does anyone need to stay in this state? If you’re time poor, cash rich, then the opportunity is always there to jump ship and take a job with fewer hours. You’ll still need to sacrifice something for it though: the amount of luxury you get in your life. And the drive for luxury is everywhere: in adverts, music videos, pretty much all the media. If you’re going to transition to a life of being time rich, cash poor then you have to resist the call to be a baller. Then you’ll have family and friends who will – with good intentions or not – tell you you’re doing the wrong thing.

I was going to say your standard of living is better under the time poor, cash rich lifetsyle but the effect is ambiguous. Maybe the quality of the products you buy will be lower, but what about these benefits to being time rich, cash poor?

  • Being healthier: you can sleep more, exercise more, spend more time making healthy food, walk places rather than public transport or drive
  • You can devote more time to hobbies
  • The type of jobs you’ll work may be more manual, or physically intensive, but you won’t need to take stress home with you. Then if you’re running your own business, at least it’s your own stress and not one hoisted upon you
  • Can see your friends more
  • Can look after your family
  • On an ideological level, the less you earn the less you pay in tax, which contributes to welfare programs. The government can’t tax your time.

As an anecdote: in preparation for this post I Googled “time rich, cash poor” and read a story by an older man, I believe, who always paid his taxes in person rather than via bank transfer. That meant he had to walk five miles to the nearest post office to do so. But rather than seeing that as a chore he took the opportunity to take pictures of the fields he walked through on his way there and posted them online, detailing all the flowers and crops which were growing. Sure, he used more time than was necessary, but he has that in bundles, and he used that time to find something pleasant in his life.

Let’s think of a typical time poor, cash rich job:

  • In one location
  • You’re in the rat race
  • As a man there will be pressure to strive for promotion and if you don’t you’ll be suspected. It’s considered morally wrong to make a hobby the main thing you enjoy
  • Very time consuming but also socially consuming; these jobs try to take up all your physical and mental energy because it makes you easier to control
  • Take stress home
  • Pointless busy work to fill dead time (because productivity is not the goal of the employer, instead it’s control)
  • You need to overstate workloads to seem needed
  • The job is a competition of who can make the most noise
  • Hard to do less work (if you want more time than cash)

And in return you get more money. You could also say you get greater security but it’s arguable that in this state you’re more fragile. What if you’re a company man and the company let’s you go?

Now a typical time rich, cash poor job:

  • Can be in many locations (even if you were part time you could spend three days a week working in one place and four days elsewhere)
  • Not integrated into the system as much and will face less SJW demands
  • It’s easier to move between jobs; you’re more antifragile
  • Less take home stress
  • Less “security” (remember, it’s arguable)
  • You have to think before you spend
  • You have to accept the fact that you’ll be “poor”
  • It’s easier to take on more work if you’d like more cash

When it comes to me, I’ve never had high expenses. The things I like in life are cheap: food, alcohol, coffee, books, the gym. These aren’t liabilities or big ticket items. In fact one of the biggest traps I see people of my age falling into is getting a huge mortgage. They save up their pennies and amass a nice pot, but then decide to convert that into a huge liability.

“But I can sell the house and make money,” they’ll tell me.

“But what if the price of the house goes down,” I ask.

“Yeah, but it won’t,” they’ll reply.

They’re literally taking their money and taking a blind leap of faith that the housing market will always go up. Even if it does forever and they make money (on paper) then they just move to a bigger house which they can fill with more liabilities and big ticket items. Then comes the argument that you’ll pay more in rent. What they never seem to account for is the fact that renting gives you freedom to move. You’re not a slave to your employer if you don’t have a mortgage.

The time poor, cash rich lifestyle, is all about the rat race. Make as much as you can and amass more and more status. I see why they’re playing it: they’re betas. And I don’t mean that in an insulting way. It’s just that most guys are betas and therefore they need to try and outstatus other guys to get the girl they want. It’s why I think most guys can’t transition to a time rich, cash poor lifestyle because they don’t have the looks or charisma to succeed in it. Obviously people with good looks and charisma can succeed in either sport. The point I’m making is they have more options.

But which is better objectively?

The way I see it you can use time to make your money go further, but it’s harder to use money to gain more time. Money can get you faster delivery, faster travel, etc. Or you might live longer because you can afford better healthcare (this is arguable because of the health benefits of being time rich, cash poor). Alternatively you can use your time to make your money go further, for example, by cooking at home rather than eating out.

It’s also just expensive to have a full time job. You have to pay more for travel, food, clothing, social events and all the random crap like secret santa. In a time rich, cash poor lifestyle you don’t need to spend much on these things just because of your job. Also it lets you take advantage of off peak prices and deals.

Then there’s this: what’s better, a unit of free time now or when you’re 65? I’m certain that I can get more out of an hour now than in 40 years time. Just as there’s a time value of money – £1 today will buy less in the future – there’s also a time value of time.

Plus there’s the point that humans work better and are happier with structure. For both lifestyles there are still only 24 hours in a day. The problem is that you can earn infinite amounts of money and there’s that rat race again. There’s always more to strive for. For those that are time rich, cash poor your problem is to optimise your 24 hours the best you can.

But is the grass always greener?

I think that the lockdown and working from home is opening people’s eyes to the benefits of having more time. They’re getting healthier and enjoying their lives more and when they return to the office it will come as a shock. Companies are losing their influence over their employees. I think soon that we’ll see more companies using more WFH schemes and/or there will be greater evidence that they are not run for profit and instead for control.

Yours unfaithfully,

Thomas Crown

 

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11 thoughts on “Time Rich, Cash Poor?

  1. Do you intend spending more time in Eastern Europe? what about working over the winter then spending the spring and summer out there?

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  2. Great post. I’ve been hthinking through this very question for several years now. As a single man with no kids, we have options like this to design the life we want.

    But I think there is a middle way between the choices you laid out, and that’s working from home. I’ve been doing this 6 years now and it’s more common now with the China virus.

    For my self I would find retiring and not working at all to be a big negative. I’d be bored and have less needed structure in my life. I think the science backs this up as the year of retirement has the highest mortality rates for adults of any year in life.

    If I lost my remote job I know I’d find myself ramping up a side business where I would continue to work from home.

    You get several benefits this way…income, flexibility of time, and some structure.

    Every one is different and has to make their own trade offs.

    But for me right now (mid 40s) I like this middle way the best.

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    1. As far as my plan goes right now, there will be a lot of “working from home”: writing posts and books, recording videos and podcasts, Skype calls. Then there’ll be infield coaching too. But the important thing is that I can manage what times I work and can optimise the income against the level of work I want to do. While I think that working from home – as I’ve found in the past months – is a step up from office working it still doesn’t get away from the corporate effect on your energy such as waking up at a certain time, attending pointless meetings and taking stress away from the job. If I do ever go back to working for someone else I’ll have these points at the forefront of my mind.

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      1. I’ll be very curious to hear how you’d make the finances work with this approach. I think US corporate salaries are generally higher than the rest of the world, so saving early and investing can lead to early retirement (see FIRE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIRE_movement), making one cash rich and time rich by their early 40’s.
        This is an idea I’ve been thinking about quite a bit. With regards to money and quality of life, I think it’s also important to consider location. In our lifetimes, the US was the land of prosperity, but I’m not so sure that’s going to stick (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/chapter-4-big-cycle-united-states-dollar-part-1-ray-dalio).
        Beyond finances and quality of life, there’s also the quality of girls to consider. The girls I’ve dated born outside of the US have generally been more pleasant. I need to travel outside of the US to confirm this is a general trend.

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      2. Re salaries: I’ve been saving money for the past two years now. By the time I quit I’ll have multiple years money to live off of. That’s the “seed investment” for my own business.

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  3. Do it. You’ve already convinced yourself intellectually. Once you start the new lifestyle, you’ll feel it deep in your bones.

    Hit up TD Daygame. He did it recently but didn’t quite pull it off. So, he can also give you insight to the downside risk in a way I can’t (I got lucky with Mastery). It sounds like he’s glad he did it and he’s planning on s second attempt soon.

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  4. I was time rich on savings for like 3 years. My game was so fuckin tight..Geeeziz. Now I’m paying off my conversion van, working 10 hr days in construction and it really makes me look forward to being time rich (and vibe rich, if I may) again. Godspeed

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  5. I fully support your plans to escape exploitation at the hands of employers who do indeed see the value in domination as well as profit. However, I think your analysis of working life (in the UK) is myopic because it only considers the perspective of someone who is somewhat better off than the average worker yet is written in a generalised fashion.
    The majority of working people, including those with “professional jobs”, are time poor and cash poor. Let’s look at some UK averages:
    UK salary: £30,420 (https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/average-uk-salary)
    Working hours: 39 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/280749/monthly-full-time-weekly-hours-of-work-in-the-uk-by-gender-year-on-year/)
    Commute length (both ways): 1 hour (+20 mins for London) (https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/annual-commuting-time-21-hours-compared-decade-ago-finds-tuc)
    Rent p/m: £959 (London £1,673) (https://www.statista.com/statistics/752203/average-cost-of-rent-by-region-uk/)
    Utilities p/m: £144 (https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/blog/what-is-the-average-cost-of-utility-bills-per-month)
    So the average worker is receiving about £2,000 p/m after tax. They’re spending about 170 hours at work p/m, plus 44 hours commuting. They probably leave home around 8 and get home around 6. For those in London the commute time is extended. The average worker spends half their monthly earnings on rent. Average cost of travel is hard to calculate given the various modes, but London’s monthly travel is the most expensive in the world, with a monthly travel card costing £237. The average monthly food shop costs about £260 (https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/blog/how-does-your-household-food-spend-compare). Thus, the average UK worker is left with approximately £350 p/m after rent, utilities, travel, and food. When one considers the normal additional expenditures of adult life (outside of pandemic times), I’d posit that a disposable income of just £350 p/m would make someone feel cash poor.
    I present this outline because, in your example, you posit a professional who commutes/works 8-6 (time poor), yet presumably earns far more than the average UK worker as cutting their working hours and wages in half doesn’t seem to phase the person in your example (making them cash rich). Yet this is not the case for the average UK worker, who is both time poor and cash poor. In the case of the average UK worker, who spends ~£1,000 p/m on rent, a halving of their salary would make them homeless.
    You seem to think that people who are time rich/cash poor work manual jobs. However, construction workers have some of the longest hours in the UK, with the average construction worker, including those that work part time, putting in 41 hours p/w (https://www.building.co.uk/focus/should-we-work-all-hours/5039631.article). Labourers earn about £9 p/h, and they often work an hour earlier than most (i.e. 8-4). It is unlikely they have the superior sleep patterns you allude to.
    Someone who is time rich/cash poor can only see their friends more often if they too are time rich. Most friends will still be working full time. In addition, many workers engage in social activities with their colleagues. One could argue that someone working part-time or self-employed will have a smaller pool of friends to see as they will lack the social aspect of conventional work.
    On the topic of tax: If you’re running your own business you still need to pay tax. Or are you anticipating that your business won’t be particularly lucrative?
    “Let’s think of a typical time poor, cash rich job”: It is not automatically true that all workers are in the “rat race”. Many are content with their jobs and will often stay in one position for many years, even decades – particularly in the public sector. Do you have any evidence for the claim that men in particular are pressured to “strive for promotion” and that “it’s considered morally wrong to make a hobby the main thing you enjoy”? Perhaps if one’s hobby is being a sociopath…
    “You’re not a slave to your employer if you don’t have a mortgage”. 25.95% of people in the UK have less than £1,000 in savings (https://www.raisin.co.uk/newsroom/articles/better-saving-money/). They probably rent and are very much enslaved by their employer and their landlord. Millions of people live in such precarity.
    I don’t disagree entirely with all the points made in your article. It is abundantly clear that middle-class office workers, currently working remotely, are realising the benefits of such a lifestyle and all the hours spent commuting, and pounds spent at Pret, were wasted. It is unfortunate that, over the years, many workers – particularly those with accessibility issues – have been denied the opportunity to work remotely because bosses want to exert control over their employees rather than maximise productivity (UK productivity is amongst the worst, and its working hours amongst the highest in Europe). Yet now, when the bourgeois office workers have to work remotely, many commentators sing the praises of remote working. In the summertime one might recall having to commute on a packed sweaty train to an office with no air conditioning, and the realisation that one was only there because bosses wanted to exercise domination over workers, rather than letting them work from home, becomes readily apparent. Soon, bad bosses will try to force office workers back in, likely with the government’s blessing, even when risk of infection remains high and workers have rediscovered productivity under remote working. Workers would do well to join their Trade Union and educate themselves on the Health and Safety at Work Regulations Act 1974 in anticipation of this. Otherwise, they will be forced to return or face the sack.

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    1. – I’ve cut my expenses down quite heavily. In fact they are much lower than the averages you gave.
      – in terms of the social side I have enough out of work anyway
      – tax: I’ll pay what’s legally required, duh
      – do you actually need a study to see human nature and that men compete?

      In terms of what you wrote about the “average worker” I’d stick to writing comments on the guardian. It’s just not worth your time here.

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