Time and Money

Quoting from one of my favourite weekly reads, “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” on ESPN.com:

“The Progress Paradox” first argues that nearly every aspects of Western life is improving, then speculates about why “life gets better but people feel worse.” A recent study by researchers including Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, and Alan Kruger, one of the leading names in behavior economics, adds new detail on that question. The study found that the well-off are no happier than others; that as income rises, so does tension and anger; that “people exaggerate the contribution of income to happiness.”

Kahneman, Krueger and their collaborators also offer a vital insight — that happiness comes from choosing time over money, but most Americans choose money over time. “Leisure is better for happiness than increased income,” they argue, supposing that time spent in travel, having new experiences, relaxing, hiking, reading, or simply looking up at the stars is more important to our sense of well-being than a new car or impressive house. Unless you are in a bad financial situation, Kahneman and Krueger recommend you spend less time working, accept somewhat lower income, and use your freed hours to experience life. Barbara Bush memorably said that no one on his or her deathbed has ever regretted not staying later at the office, while many regret failing to spend more time with family and friends.

I’ll add another suggestion on why time is more important to happiness than money: Because time is far more precious. Money that has been used up can be replaced; you can always get at least some additional money, and in principle can get huge amounts of additional money. Your time on Earth, on the other hand, is limited and irreplaceable. You might add somewhat to your time on Earth by taking care of your health — and that’s an excellent idea, but there are no guarantees you won’t be hit by a bus anyway. We all must surrender some of our time for work to acquire income. But those who obsessively chase maximum material possessions give up something precious and fleeting, namely time, in order to acquire something that cannot make them happy, namely money.

I’d like to think I’ve chosen time over money. Perhaps that’s why I’m so satisfied with my life to date.


One Comment

  1. Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.  ~Carl Sandberg

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