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.
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.
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