The time value of time

Clock going into a piggy bank

Would you rather have $100 today or in 30 years?

Understanding the Time Value of Money is Personal Finance 101.

But would you rather have 100 hours today or in 30 years?

You make that decision every time you stay late at the office.

Every time you skip a family gathering.

And every time you put off your hobby.

The Time Value of Time is a troubling conundrum for ambitious professionals.

1. Not all hours are created equally

Unlike money, time is not a fungible commodity.

You can’t box it up. You can’t store it.

As I approach the mature age of 44, I’ve had my bouts with pre-hypertension and pre-diabetes.

But I’m still pretty healthy and active.

My kids still think mom and dad are the “coolest people on earth” (aka in the Magic Window).

And all four grandparents still dote on them regularly.

In 30 years, this picture looks nothing like it does today.

Heck in 5 years, it looks pretty damn different.

(And crap, in 3 years we’ll have a teenager.)

Yup, an hour today – might never look the same.

2. So we should just YOLO it?

Herein lies the conundrum.

You bust your ass today.

You invest in your career.

You delay spending money.

You optimize for the Time Value of Money.

You make your time and money work for you.

But you’re trading a guaranteed today, for an uncertain tomorrow.

Tomorrow could absolutely look better.

But one thing’s certain – it will look different.

3. And there’s one more trap

If you’ve ever said to yourself:

Once I save for college, THEN I’ll be less stressed.

Once I run a triathlon, THEN I’ll have more confidence.

Once I get promoted, THEN I’ll feel like a human being worthy of love.

You know how the when-then trap plays out.

And that’s yet another reason that those future hours may not deliver on their promise.

4. So now what?

I’m constantly battling enjoying today versus investing in tomorrow.

It helps me to recall the advice from the spiritual teacher Frank Ostaseski:

“Have a plan, hold it lightly.”

We can get too attached to our plans.

Too attached to our outcomes.

And too attached to our future hours.

That we miss the beautiful hour staring us in the face.

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