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Why Time Affluence Beats Material Affluence

By: Brian Kim - March 28, 2011

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So things are going good, you’re making some money, saving, and you find yourself with some disposable income. What do most people do? They buy material goods.

But there’s an inherent trap to that you must look out for.

Most of the time, if you’re not careful, material affluence will strip you of your time. Your possessions will start to own you. You might not be able to buy them in cash so you buy them on credit. They cost more to maintain, repair, and insure, all of which costs you more time as you have spend the time to make more money to cover those additional, hidden, continuous costs and time is a scarce enough resource as it is.

Up to a certain point, buying material goods in exchange for time is NOT a good tradeoff. It’s important to think about the future of going down the road of material affluence and weigh the consequences of it accordingly. You shouldn’t spend more time trying to make more money to buy things because that’s like slowly tightening the noose around your neck.

If you think about it, the average person doesn’t have that much free time. Wakes up at 7, gets ready to go to work, arrives at 8, leaves at 5, fights through traffic, gets home at 6, does some chores, surfs the net, cooks dinner, rewards himself/herself with TV, all the good programs are on at about 8 and 9 so by the time 10 comes, they have to get ready for bed, sleep at 11, wake up at 7 to get the 8 hours needed and it starts all over again.

Not a lot of time left during the weekdays and the weekends are reserved for household chores, errands, socializing, religious service, etc., and then it starts all over again.

You don’t have that much time to begin with and if you go down the road of material affluence, it will only make it worse.

You buy one thing – it can only do so many things. It’s limited. Time however is a blank check. You can “cash” it with anything you want to do.

Compare a person who is time affluent vs. a person who is material affluent but not time affluent, and the time affluent person is better off. The latter person has to work their butt off just to maintain the status quo but the former person doesn’t feel that pressure and can do what he pleases with his free time.

Somebody might say “oh bums have a lot of free time” and of course, we need some level of stable material possession and money to live but after that, material goods prove to provide diminishing returns of utility. We get used to them.

When we were young, we were all seduced by material goods, but as we got older, we realized the brand new car we bought looked and felt outdated a couple years later, yet we were still stuck with payments, the clothes we bought that we thought were cool were out of fashion a couple years later – the whole idea got old. We traded too much of all that stuff for our precious time. We worked longer hours to get more money to buy more things but felt like crap because we didn’t have that much free time in the end.

If you think about it, why do people work? Yes, for the money, to pay bills but isn’t it really so that people can have free time? Money and paying bills - that’s a given and if that’s the ONLY the reason why you work, that’s not a very good place to be in, and what I mean by that is you have to work so many hours just to ONLY survive and not have free time – that’s a pretty rough life.

People don’t admire the rich because they make a lot of money, although that’s part of the reason. They admire them because if they don’t feel like working on a Monday, they can say the hell with it and go to Hawaii for the week to relax.

Would you rather have that opportunity available to you or a BMW and a Mcmansion that will keep you chained to your desk for years of going to a job you hate and having so very little free time for yourself?

The truly rich, and I don’t mean just rich in terms financially – they’re the ones that get to spend the most time doing exactly what they want to do. They understand how precious time is so they make sure to build their lives toward becoming more time affluent and spend it how they want accordingly.

Think next time before you make a big purchase or pursue something that will take away so much time just so you can make a ton of money. Will this reduce my time affluence?

Will that new car along with its high insurance, monthly payment, repairs, gas cost, etc., reduce my time affluence?

Will that house also?

Will that new job, even though it pays a lot more, strip me of my free time in the years to come?

Yes, the urge to make money and show off that you’re all that is there, but when things go your way, you’ll find when you’re not compelled to do all that anymore. You might initially, but you’ll see the material mirage for what it is and you’ll be more keen on making sure you have more free time instead.

I remember when the famous comedian Dave Chappelle was on Inside the Actor’s Studio and he was talking about a time in his life when he was working non stop in TV and movies, making a ton of money, and then his dad died. “At that point in your life, it’s something so real in contrast to what Hollywood is - a very powerful illusion. When your dad dies, it kind of just broke the spell. This is bullshit. I’ve been spending so much time doing this. What about my family? What about my friends? Whatever happened to my friends? I don’t even have any friends. Ugh! So I bounced man.”

In a society where people work too many hours, are connected to work 24/7 with technology, running on the rat race treadmill, the new rich have clearly emerged.

They are the ones who are time affluent and spend it doing whatever it is they truly, deep down inside, want to do.

We don’t envy the material rich.

We envy those who avoid the trap of material affluence and optimize their lives to become time rich instead.

In short, we envy those who are free.

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