Are You a Time Millionaire?

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“Should time now be our greatest aspiration?” –The Guardian

Warren Buffett is currently worth $100 Billion dollars. To put that in perspective, if you bought a Tesla Model S every day of your life, it would take you 2740 years to use up all his money. Given the average North American lifespan of 81 years, that would take you 34 lifetimes!

But Buffett is 91 years old. And since we haven’t figured out immortality, it’s a safe beat that most of you reading this will likely outlive him.

So, would you trade places with Warren Buffett?

The correct answer is no. Time is our greatest asset. It’s the only thing that no amount of money can buy no matter how rich you are.

So, why do we continue living our lives like there’s an endless supply of time?

Because society tells us it’s a “good thing” to trade our time for money. The busier you are, we’re told, the better your life is, and therefore the more important you are.

Elon Musk works 120 hours a week. Jack Ma worked 12-hour days and came up with the punishing work schedule of “996” (9 AM to 9 PM, 6 days a week). Sheryl Sandberg worked from her hospital bed, the day after giving birth.

The Japanese even have a specific word for “working yourself to death” called “Karoshi”.

Why is working yourself into an early grave a badge of honor? Why are we killing ourselves for work?

If time is our greatest resource, why are we happily trading it for money and prestige?

Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath, step back, and re-evaluate how much time we are willing to give up for money.

One of the few bright spots of the pandemic is that it forced workers to do exactly that.

In April 2021, more than 4 million workers quit their jobs in the United States, a historical record, in what’s been dubbed by economists as “The Great Resignation.”

The reasons for quitting vary. Some switched to fully remote jobs to get rid of the dreaded commute, others chose to become stay-at-home parents, and some were disgusted by how their employers treated them during the pandemic.

When your employer doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your health and continues pressuring you to pick up the slack for other employee who quit, you start to wonder “why the Hell am I here? What’s the point of all this?” I get it. I’ve been there.

As Buffett said, you can’t buy love and you can’t buy health, so what’s the point of money if you’re killing yourself for your employers and spending time away from your family?

Because workers have realized this, companies can no longer exploit them by paying them as little as possible for maximum output. Workers simply won’t put up with that kind of crap anymore. And after two years of rising prices and stagnant wages, companies are finally getting the message. Target and Best Buy have raised salaries, and Amazon is offering hiring bonuses ranging from $200-$1000. Even with these incentives, 94% of retailers are still having trouble filling roles.

This has fueled labor shortages and supply chain issues across the board. Workers have started to become protective of their greatest asset: time. And rather than trade it for money, they’ve decided to protect it—like an investment.

This is why the Great Resignation has introduced the concept of the “Time Millionaire”. First coined by writer Nilanjana Roy in the Financial Times, the idea of a time millionaire is someone who measures their worth not in money but in terms of personal time clawed back from their employers to enjoy life. Because after all, money gives you security but according to Roy, “how you spend your hours and your days is how you spend your life.” If only we were taught to value our time the same way we’ve been taught to value our paychecks.

I spent the first 8.5 years of my professional life striving to become a millionaire. As a result of that, I was able to buy my freedom and will spend the rest of my life as a time millionaire.

But what I’ve realized is that you don’t need a million dollars to be a time millionaire. Simply having just one year of living expenses saved gives you the courage to quit a hateful job in exchange for a less stressful one. Especially given how desperate employers are right now, going to the extent of even paying people just to show up to interviews.

The pandemic has upended our lives and forced us to re-evaluate our priorities. But with every crisis, there’s a silver lining. Workers are no longer only focused on the financial rewards of a job, but rather on how they’re being treated by their employers. As a result, there are more opportunities than ever for workers to restructure their priorities to value time over money.

Becoming financially independent protects you from lay-offs, hateful jobs, and lets you buy back your freedom so you can spend your time doing what makes you happy.

But even if you’re not 100% financially independent, by having an emergency fund, 1 year of your expenses saved, and/or a partial FI portfolio with passive income that covers a portion of your expenses, these financial safety nets gives you options so you can become a time millionaire.

What do you think? Are you a time millionaire? Should we be prioritizing our time over money?


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31 thoughts on “Are You a Time Millionaire?”

  1. Time is definitely more valuable though I do think CERB and whatever they had in the US played a big role in people not working during the pandemic. Which is why Canada suddenly had a surge in employment when we started winding the payments down.

  2. “Elon Musk works 120 hours a week.”
    ———————————————

    I doubt Elon Trump works that many hours. Items like that are just click bait and nothing more.

    If true, that equates to 17.1 hours a day. Where does he find time to eat, sh!t, shower, sleep, and host SNL?

    If he indeed works that many hours, his cars would at least be of better quality instead of being ranked third from last, according to JD Power.

  3. I’m a time millionaire, otherwise known as unemployed, a housewife/full-time mum, or according to my government, a ‘skiver’. I’m completely broke since I’m not prepared to give up my time millionaire status in order to work some bullshit job, and I can’t think of a decent job I want to train for. I follow your financial advice, have a Vanguard stocks and shares ISA which is destined to stay too tiny to live off forevermore, and wistfully read FIRE blogs dreaming of having a bit more cash, but in the end I’m happier the way I am.

  4. This is what FI is all about. Reclaiming your time. So then your life can be structured however you see fit.

    Options. Choices. Freedom.

    We now are in the extremely privileged situation to be able to unschool / worldschool our kids because we have the time to do so.

    1. ^^^ THIS…

      It would literally take employers a significant amount of “incentives” just to be able to entice or lure us out of our current status.

      You now have the absolute power, control as well as capabilities to do whatever and whenever you like without the added pressures of being anchored down by a heavily consumerism-driven society. And instead, you now have been afforded a golden opportunity to leave a positive imprint in the communities you visit/live and make a difference!

      Personally, this is the true essence of being FI.

      ImmigrantOnFIRE

  5. FU** the Joneses. Experiences > STUFF. Couldn’t agree more, time is significantly more important than amassing wealth…

  6. I am not a time millionaire. The time disappears even without full-time employment. Seems like I find things to do and they take up all my time.
    Anyway, I think that’s ideal. I get to do what I want, mostly.
    Having a lot of time and nothing to do is the recipe for depression.
    I don’t want to be a time millionaire. That can wait until I’m in a nursing home.

    1. I think a fair number of us fall in that category… our family hit FI in 2015 and I tried not working for a while but I went back to work so we could live in a smaller house in a HCOLA …. now I don’t wish for early retirement, but I do wish for a bigger house … and to be able to help my kids out with housing costs later on, if need be. Different strokes!

  7. Time freedom is good, FI is is good ….. it gives job choice freedom and or time for personal projects you love …be it travel, hobbies, writing or starting your billionaire business you love like Buffett or Musk …. I think TESLA and SpaceX are cool … I would consider buying a Tesla car and solar panels .. Starlink … going to Mars etc etc Grin … the Wanderer enjoys the computer business world … so he has choice too . ! 😀

  8. What should I do if I can’t work with my manager?

    I can endure but everyday seems to be unhappy. Some people mentioned, you will be even more depressed if you are jobless without a salary

    Should i just change my mindset? I did save aggressively for the past 11 years but it seems never enough –

    in Singapore, 40% of our savings are tied up in our retirement account and these can only be withdrawn at 65;

  9. Just so you know…

    Although Warren Buffett is 93 years old, every second of his life…
    is living with such passion that for most people it will take a year worth…
    of living.

    Don’t sell yourself short with the “RE” in “FIRE”!

    You have yet reached your full potential!

  10. The powers-that-be will fill in the blanks with robotics. It’ll be an interesting Dynamic wants a lot of people start staying home more. I wonder if Washington will Jack prices up in force everybody back to work. It’s interesting. Thank you so much for the article.

  11. I very much agree that saving 1 year of expenses is something everyone should try to do – it feels far more achievable than FI, and has many of the benefits.

    I started saving after I recovered from an episode of depression and anxiety triggered by changes at work and made much worse by my inability to walk away from that horrid job, to ensure I’d never be in the latter situation ever again. It was really hard at first because I’m not naturally frugal, but once I got into the habit it was easy. And whilst researching how to save I discovered MMM and FI, then realised FI was achievable for me.

    Am I a time millionaire? No, I still work full time and will have to work for quite a few more years if this never-ending pandemic rules out living in South East Asia for the foreseeable future. But I’m pretty close to being a peace-of-mind millionaire, at least regarding my financial situation.

  12. Having lots of time is important but what we do with our time is even far more important.

    Most people (including the rich and wealthy) focus their time on making more money than they ever need in their entire lifetime, so much so that before they die they express to donate away over 90% of their wealth to charity, proving the point that they never need the > 90% of wealth they currently have.

    Let’s get this straight to a point that 99.99% of people willfully ignore. Our time on earth is not long. What we do now will determine our future/destiny. If we regularly do crime and sin, our future will be in a world of crime and sin (simply because that’s what we appeal to, as the law of attraction/universe dictates). If we regularly do aping, monkeying, and clowning around (social media is populated with such contents), then our future will be the same for the same reason as I previously mentioned.

    With the limited time that we have, the best use of it is actually on pursuing spiritual cultivation. Life on earth realm is mainly a life of illusion and delusion. To some religious teaching, it is a Maya. Our prime objective is to seek ascension beyond this realm to a much higher and much better realm of existence. Only fools would want to stay on in this realm of Maya. And in a period/age of Kali/end of time, the world is full of fools. Make sure you the one reading this, is not one of such fools.

  13. I don’t think time spent working is at all lost. Some of my life’s best moments were on the job. Some of my biggest wins. I worked until 60 though I had long since passed needing more money, but work was a favorite hobby until then. When it stopped being fun I retired but I’ll never regret working those last few years. And I always felt overpaid. Now retirement is great but I still work, I just don’t get paid for it. Volunteering is the same thing, exchanging my time for things I can give to others, the gifts of education and healthcare to those who could not otherwise afford them. So I still have meetings to go to and projects to complete and even deadlines sometimes. Humans definitely were not built just for leisure, they need some structure and need to have purpose. Or at least I do.

  14. Because workers have realized this, companies can no longer exploit them by paying them as little as possible for maximum output. Workers simply won’t put up with that kind of crap anymore. And after two years of rising prices and stagnant wages, companies are finally getting the message. Target and Best Buy have raised salaries, and Amazon is offering hiring bonuses ranging from $200-$1000. Even with these incentives, 94% of retailers are still having trouble filling roles.

    ———

    Here’s a dollar more an hour. Now you’re back to being my bitch. Work hard.

    As an early retiree, shareholder, accumulator of wealth, master of my time and future, I praise the lack of foresight and thought of most people. It’s profitable! Does anyone still remember the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011? From what I hear, the 99% still exist and continue to feed my dividends and stock capital growth. I guess the new catch-phrase marketing is The Great Resignation. Lots of talk, little action. The pendulum will swing back in favour of the employer soon enough and the employees will be squeezed back down. Gotta give employees the feeling they’re getting a bit of the upper hand. It’s a lie and you’re the sucker.

    For the few of you who actually have made it out, I salute you.

  15. Hmm . No am not a time millionaire..FI is too late for me. Not the end of the world at all for me. I have no regrets. I agree with steveark’s earlier comment in this comment thread: some of my time at paid work was not all lost. There are certain required job roles that demanded I step up in certain skills development on the job.

    While every job, even the jobs you like the most, has some patches/facet of dullness, I have been lucky since I’ve enjoyed most of my jobs, didn’t feel exploited and the jobs (9 of them) dovetailed with my formal training and work experience. In some cases I just outgrew the role, supplanted by another situation or I had to move to a different city for personal, not career reasons.

    Covid is making it much more challenging to plan time use, for retirement especially if one’s plans include some foreign travel. At least given the vastness of Canada’s land mass, there is still a great deal to see and experience that’s new ..for Canadians.

  16. I should add, while covid and being at home, might have inspired folks to leave a job they disliked for a long time prior to covid and into covid, covid also has caused some folks to delay their retirement by several months /1-3 yrs.

    For instance, it’s harder to take art courses or any in-person course comfortably. Choices are more limited. No, not all learning can be done easily remotely/digitally. think of learn ing something where you must handle physical equipment, materials, paints, art supplies.

    1. This is my issue. I have more than enough saved for normal bills, but so many countries I’d be interested in visiting aren’t admitting tourists, and dances and other activities don’t really work on Zoom.

      Effectively I’m working to extend American health insurance. Without group rates (contract work), health insurance in this state would cost more than all my other expenses combined.

  17. For sure. I quit two high-paying but round-the-clock jobs for a lower-paying but truly 9-to-5 job without a second thought. It was totally worth it, and the only thing that will be better is fully retiring. Even then, I can think of so many things I want to do with my time. The difference is I’ll be doing those things because I want to, not because I have to.

  18. Agree with Dividend Power and others, FI allows you to become a time millionaire, but before that we have to use our time to create assets that then give us more time in the future right? Otherwise, the only time millionaires would be trustifarians and trophy spouses, and we don’t need any more of those!

  19. I tend to believe the reason 4 million workers in the US quit their jobs is because the government was paying them more to sit on their behinds than they were making at their jobs. I dont believe this is a long term situation, as it is evident the economy cannot support so many people who believe “they are worth more than their wages”.

    1. Agreed. Once the free money to sit on your ass is gone, so will be the bluster. Here in Canada, right after CRB benefits were cut, by a miracle (sarc), employment figures rose by 150,000 in a month.

  20. I went part-time as a university ESL teacher in China after 12 years of full-time teaching (8 years in the U.S., four abroad) and found it interesting to read about people killing themselves to FIRE when I was working a few hours 2-3 days a week for $1600/month plus free housing and utilities. The whole package easily equates to or exceeds what I made as a full-time teacher with a master’s degree in Florida schools, but at least teachers everywhere have summers off and more vacation than the typical employee. On top of that, while it can be exhausting full-time, teaching is a fulfilling, purposeful career with a lot of creative aspects that I enjoy.

    After a year and a half, I am heading back to the classroom full-time and making a killing since the borders are mostly closed. I know China is controversial, but you can replicate this in international private schools all over the world. ESL teaching at universities in many countries also a better way to “Barista FIRE” in my opinion than taking a job in the US where someone who can’t take advantage of geo-arbitrage could use the gig. All that to say, I found it intriguing to read the blogs of many young people desperate to have the kind of freedom I already enjoy as a “low-paid” teacher. It made me wonder how necessary such rapid FIRE is. What if people actually chose careers they enjoyed and slowed their roll a little bit? What if people chose careers that grant meaning, not just torment? I am reading Quit Like a Millionaire now, and I admire Kristy’s way to calculate how profitable a college major is. My tuition was covered by a scholarship at a major state school and I could be making $80K+ if I’d stayed in Vegas, where I actually liked teaching. But my unique career choice also enabled me to move abroad when I decided I would like teaching overseas more.

    TL, DR: FIRE is great. Choosing a career you don’t despise and can do almost anywhere is a great way to get there while enjoying the richness of free vacation time and sense of purpose that those in less fulfilling careers don’t get until they actually FIRE.

    (I don’t really care what other people do, but I definitely relished the freedom I had as a part-time ESL teacher, even with debt. Now that I have my priorities in order and had a chance to recharge, I am headed back into the classroom with a renewed sense of purpose and a drive to pay off the debt and FIRE eventually–but am also grateful that I will STILL have over two months of paid vacation! In my “full time” job! Life, and prioritizing free time while pursuing financial independence, is awesome. 🙂 )

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