Posted by Tim Stobbs on April 12, 2013
So I’m currently taking an online course at Coursera.org on behavioral economics and last night I watched a lecture that has stuck in my head. It was a guest lecture by Mike Norton from Harvard on money, time and happiness (a wee bit of an obvious hint on why I’m taking the class, eh?).
Now what struck me about his work was he first confirmed what I’ve know for a while. Making more money doesn’t make people much happier (each additional amount has a declining increase to your happiness). That first job earning less than $10,000 feels really good, you feel a bit better when you get your first career job after university, but after a decade of work the next $10,000 is sort of what ever. Yet he also commented that making more money tends to make people more selfish, which had not occured to me. He argues when you win money what is the first thing you think about: what you can spend the money on, not giving it away or spending it on other people. Yet to combat this, they also ran some experiments that if you give money away or spend it on others you feel happier than if you spent it on yourself.
Interesting results, but what really blew my mind was the idea that exact same results apply to time as well. What the #@$?! How could spending your time on others make you more happy? Won’t that cause you to feel ever more stressed about your time? Apparently, what happens is if you spend either resource on others it causes you to feel a sense of abundance, so you feel better about your time even if you actually have less of it.
So while this sounds good, I want to actually try this out. So here is my plan, from April 15 to May 15 I will spend more of my time and money on others. To be exact I’ll put half of my spending cash or $100 towards spending on others and I will spend at least five hours a week on others. I will then track my happiness daily on a five point scale and then sum of the results and present it back to you guys. I’ll spend the next few days before that constructing a baseline of my current happiness.
Insane? Perhaps, but let’s field test this idea prior to writing off the idea either. Anyone want to join me?
Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 30, 2012
If you have read the book, Free at 45, you might recall the first question I ask the reader in the book is: why do you want to retire? At the time I made the distinction between running away from something (work, stress, etc) or running towards something (new business, helping others, more family time). You need something to aim towards otherwise early retirement may be the wrong choice for you. I’ve come to realize that answer to ‘why’ is actually even more important than I give it credit for.
The answer to why is really your moral compass on your journey to financial independence and the more you understand where you want to end up the more your life can start looking that way right now. You might find that statement somewhat obvious, but it is important to know your ‘why’, since along the path you will have many options and opportunities in your life which you need to judge: am I doing this to get closer to my why answer or is this a financial based decision?
Sometimes that answer is really the same, a new job with more money can also gives you more time with your family. Then there are those difficult split decisions where its more money, but requires more time away from my family. Are you willing to do that to get closer to financial independence if it takes you further away from your why answer?
In life I think we would all prefer the answer to be ‘keep to the why’ and forgot about the money. Yet what if you only had to do it for a few years, would that change the answer? Would two year of sacrifice be worth another year of freedom? If so, how about three to one ratio? Or what if the work was very interesting to you on a personal level? There isn’t a right answer to these questions, but rather your answers to them.
In the end we all have to find our own moral compass that lets us pick and choose how we sell our time now and in the future. Just keep in mind, the relative value of these times are not equal. An hour at age 30 is not the same as an hour at age 70 and some days an extra hour would be worth $10,000 to you (that perfect Sunday afternoon) and others only $1 (filing at home). Choose your times by your why answer and you will rarely regret them, but if you always choose the money you may find yourself going down a dark path that you regret.
It is possible to lose your way on this path to freedom, sometimes we get so obsessed with cutting expense we cut too much. We forget you need to spend some money on the joy of today as well. This is well known, just don’t forget about the other side of earning the money too. You can’t have it all, but you can keep it in balance, just ask yourself: tell me why again.
Posted by Tim Stobbs on June 21, 2012
Have you every been in one of those soul sucking routines where you are so busy you barely have time to think? I know since for the last several weeks my life has been a blur.
My life has been reduced to a Groundhog Day existence which looks like: day job, eat supper quick, evening event (typically soccer game with kids or school board related), get a few things done once kids are in bed, then fall into bed myself and repeat. Over and over again. So when on Monday I finally had a free evening I looked back and realized it had been my first one in about three weeks. I realized that something was very wrong with my life.
It was time to take back my time. While it is possible to push yourself hard for a while, the payment for doing so will accumulate fairly damn quick. So for the summer I’ve lined up a very light schedule: every Friday off and no school board work for most of July and Aug. I need to balance myself out again.
What is sort of sad about my tale isn’t that fact this happened, but rather the fact that most people don’t have the ability to put their lives back into balance by taking some time off. Even if they take the time off from their job their other obligations eat up the extra time like a vulture finding some road kill. How how do you break this sad state of affairs?
- Less Kid Stuff – I’m always floored by tales of other parents that have two kids in three activities all at the same time. They live my Groundhog Day existence for months at a time. Stop the insanity and keep it to one activity at a time for each kid (even that can be nuts as soccer for our boys meant at least three games a week for a six week season). Ok, some overlap is allowed if it is only a week or two. Otherwise just say NO.
- Less Sainthood – Looking after everyone else is considered at the expense of yourself is noble for some people, to me they are idiots. You are not any good to everyone in your life if you are acting like a zombie. Take back some time and relax once in a while let some things wait like laundry, cleaning, and skip helping others for a while.
- Hire Help – Ok, here is the deal. You can cheat. Yes I give you permission to cheat. Exchange some of your hard earned cash back to time once in a while. Hire a cleaner for one week or the summer if you want. Buy cupcakes instead of making them for the school event. Hire someone else to cut the lawn for the summer. Hire a babysitter for date night. This isn’t a cheap thing to do (heck I gave up 10% of my salary for more time off), but if you really need to break you need to get serious about making one. Accept you can’t do it all yourself and book some time for you. Just keep it reasonable.
So how do you take back your time? What do you stop doing or how do you buy back some time?