Borrowed Time

The Clock
Out of time

The Clock Man

“How much will you pay for an extra day?”

The clock man asked the child.

“Not one penny,” the answer came,

“For my days are as many as smiles.”


“How much will you pay for an extra day?”

He asked when the child was grown.

“Maybe a dollar or maybe less,

For I’ve plenty of days of my own.”


“How much will you pay for an extra day?”

He asked when the time came to die.

“All of the pearls in all of the seas,

And all of the stars in the sky.”

-Shel Silverstein

My grandfather passed away last week and his passing has made me pretty introspective recently.  Thinking about family, my own mortality, and what is truly important in my life.  Of course, we all know what’s important.  People.

No one cares about their $100k car when they die.  They don’t care about their million dollar home.  They care about seeing their loved ones one last time.

I’ll miss my grandfather.  He was a good man, and I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time around him in my formative years.

The road to financial independence can be characterized by a single question: “If you could forgo some material possessions in your lifetime in exchange for more time with your friends and family would you make that trade?”

I bet if you asked a stranger this question, it’s likely they would respond with an immediate yes.  The issue is that people DON’T think about their spending in this way.  They don’t consider the fact that every dollar in their possession was earned by exchanging time.

Similarly, if you ask a random stranger, “What is more valuable: time or money?” most people over 40 would respond “time.”  But those same people trade their time for money, and they trade their money for trinkets.  There are stories all over the blogosphere about bloggers who are met with incredulity when they tell friends and family about their plan to retire early.

“Why deprive yourself?  You’re young, you’ve got plenty of time to earn money.”

“I could never do that.  I love eating out too much!”

“Yeah, that’d be cool.  But I reaaaally want this new winged chariot!”

I wonder if their responses would change if they thought about those dollars as days of their lives?  After the introspection, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m more dedicated than ever to staying on the path to financial independence.

This may surprise you but sometimes people get confused by information on the internet.  Shocking, I know.  Here’s a big one when it comes to wanting to retire early.  It’s not about money.  It’s about many things to many different people, but rarely is it about wanting to be “rich.”  It’s about time.  It’s about freedom.  It’s about having options and security.

We are all on borrowed time.  I’m trying my best to make good use of mine while I’m here.  And, call me crazy, but I don’t think the best use for my time is working 9-5 for a paycheck every day.

At what age do you think people stop viewing money as more valuable than time?  I put 40 in this post, but I have no idea where the real tipping point is.


Expenses: March 2015
The Dream of the 90's is Alive in Portland

2 thoughts on “Borrowed Time

  1. Sorry to hear about your grandfather, that’s tough.

    I’m not sure what age people change their minds about what’s more valuable. I think it depends on what that person has experienced in their lives. If you’ve always had great working environments where you get along well with your coworkers then maybe those people enjoy going into work. I’ve always wanted to retire…. even in Jr High School I made it known. My parents knew, it was just something I never understood. But I didn’t think I could make it a reality until I was around 28. At the time I was saving more than the average person, probably like 20% of my income and I really hated my boss/job. The only thing good about that job was that because I hated it so much I somehow stumbled across early FI blogs and something clicked. If I could save 20% without thinking or caring then why couldn’t I ratchet up my savings like these other people. That was my turning point where I easily upped my saving to close to 40% without much thought. Since then I’ve probably gotten it up to maybe 60% income.

    So I think it really depends on what someone has been through to prioritize time over money. While I’m sure I’ll have lifestyle inflation in the future since I don’t want to have roommates my entire life I know that the longer I maintain this now while I can bear it the better position I’ll be in in the future.

    • That’s a really good point about experience determining value. Not just time vs money, but in all things.

      I also started thinking that early retirement might be a possibility around 28. But, unlike you, I was saving basically nothing because I was in graduate school (but at least I wasn’t going into debt). The timing ended up being pretty good though. I got to read a lot about it and develop a plan before earning a decent salary, so I didn’t have to cut back anything. I just went straight into save mode.

      I think a little lifestyle inflation is pretty much inevitable for most people who are sub 40. The key is to keep it contained and focused in areas that make a difference in your life. Like getting rid of roommates vs leasing a new SUV. Cheers to the high saving rate! I’ll be interested to see what mine and Mrs. Dragon’s ends up being after our expenses normalize now that we are in the new house.

Leave a Comment

Read previous post:
Expenses: March 2015

Expense report!  Since I'm a total voyeur for finance, these types of details are exactly the kind that I love...