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Your Most Valuable Asset

June 8, 2022

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What is your most valuable asset? Let’s try to figure it out together.

“Time is money,” they say. They, the hypothetical people hypothetically saying this, would have you believe that time equals money every time they utter this phrase.

This makes no sense to me. I really don’t like that concept, and I think it’s mighty wrong.

“Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance).”
― Charles T. Munger

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I prefer “money is time.” I think time is valuable. I also think money is valuable when it can buy time. But mostly, it is my experience that money is used as a crotch to mask character flaws more often than not, especially after a certain point.

“A healthy person has a thousand wishes, a sick person only one” Agnes Karll*

So what are the characteristics of valuable things? 

Let’s use the most simple of definitions. Let’s ask an economist, and they’ll tell you that the value of a good or service is the price that a free-willed agent is willing to pay for it. So, basically, they’ll tell you that “value=price.” Which well might be in a perfect model with perfect competition, perfect information, perfectly rational agents, and zero transaction cost.

I disagree with this premise and real world application of this but let’s talk about it another time. Value can never be strictly equal to price as everything involves non-zero transaction costs.

Even the most minor of purchases requires action to be taken. If you ever had to convince a teenager to stand up from the dinner table and go grab ketchup from the fridge to put on their french fries, you’ll understand that any amount of effort is going to be a detractor for some people. By the way, the tennager in question loves ketchup… just not as much as they love doing nothing. But I digress.

Action has a time and energy cost that is non-zero, but I digress.

For this time, let’s assume it’s true. Let’s assume that value=price.

Now, let’s imagine (god forbid) that we are dying of a mysterious illness that doesn’t affect anything else but we have one day left to live–just one day. Twenty-four hours. After that it’s hasta la vista.

How much money would we pay to have an extra day thus doubling the amount of net days we have left?

The answer is probably “all we have and all we can borrow,” provided we find anyone to lend money to a dying person (looking at your life insurance companies).

So then, it follows that time has a value that is infinite compared to money.

Because time is perishable, money is not. 

Also, time has the property that no healthy person has 1 million times more time than another healthy person. You can have 1 million times more money than another healthy person, or even billions of times more money than other people. You can’t have 1 million times more time, or even just 10x more time.

The average healthy person lives about 30,000 days (roughly). Nobody has had 300,000 days, and I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.

Yet, in some sense, money is valuable because it allows you to “buy time.” 

You can pay kids to mow your lawn (and you should not rob kids of the $10 an hour it takes to mow lawns and wash cars or clean windows). You can pay people to read your emails. You can pay people to write your emails. You can pay people to cook your food (highly advisable). You can also pay people to open and read your letters, and so on.

To me, and this is quite personal, you don’t need to agree; the other things that money acquires that are not directly related to increasing the time you can consume doing the things you want to do are just little trinkets used to mask the anxiety of existence. 

It’s tricky to see. But once you see it, it’s hard to unsee.

In some sense, we all know that we’re going to die sooner than we’d like and that it won’t take long until we are forgotten. And because we know it, we try to mask the inevitable end and the very real fact that, given enough time, nobody will remember us with little trinkets. Somehow these goods and services are supposed to make us feel important and relevant.

I know.

Sounds brutal. But how many of your great grand-parents do you remember? What about their first names? That’s my point. That wasn’t that long ago. 

You might think this is a merciless and colorless way to see life. I don’t think it is. It’s really freeing: you can try anything because nothing matters. You can fail as many times as necessary. Because nothing matters.

To get back to time: the use of money that is not linked with time increase is, for me, void of meaning (and I’d argue it should be to you too).

If I look at where I spend money.

There are two huge allocations. The first one is supplements, sports, and general health and performance–big surprise. This also included everything related to sports and work from standing desk to max-specced Macbooks)!

The second one is, as we discussed, buying “time” in the sense that if there’s a task that I can employ and train someone else to do in my stead, then I would do it.

But they won’t do it as well as you do it? Arguably. Some might do it better, and some might do it worse. Does it matter how well letters are opened or how precisely the lawn is mowed? Are there more important things you would like your attention to be committed to? This is for you to know.

Here’s the same question again: how much is an extra day of life worth at the end of the journey?

Why is today not as valuable? Are we all just using a way too high discount rate to compute the present value of time?

These are tough questions. I know. I also think you should guard your time as fiercely as a dragon guards a treasure.

You simply cannot multiply it. Gone is gone. 

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Do you think you’d ever reach the end of your life wishing you had spent more time looking at your phone, paying bills, or opening and sorting letters?

If the answer is anything other than “yes”, here are short examples of ways to reclaim your time:

Say No

The more you say no to the things you don’t want or do to please others, the more time you have for the ones you want.

No Notifications

Dogs react to whistles, should you? I’m sure there are many reasons to receive notifications. That doesn’t mean you should be the one receiving them one by one. You could ask people to do this for you and send you summaries at times of your choosing when your attention is directed to processing those messages/phone calls.

Replace Yourself

Hire people to do things for you, ranging from writing your emails, paying your bills, calling and booking appointments/hotels/flights, washing your car, etc. The list is endless. My favorite thing to automate when I used to date was swiping and collecting phone numbers on dating apps (this takes a lot of time and can easily be taught to someone else)

Do One Thing

Multitasking is a great way to waste time. Doing one thing at a time until it’s done or you’ve reached the point where you need input is a great way to deal with workflows.

Digitalize & Automate

Can you divert your mail to a scanning center so that they open it for you and send a PDF to some mailbox? Bonus points if they open invoices and preload them onto a banking portal that just requires you to batch approve them.

Can you set automation to send copies of every invoice incoming to your accountant and sort them by date? That will probably save a bunch of time at the end of the year.

Always shop the same stuff from the same store? Make a one-time shopping list that you’d save and order online. Better yet, order recurring refills that would take zero of your time). I’d advise you to purchase our supplements on a subscription basis too, but I don’t write these blog posts to increase sales. I write them to give you potentially useful insights.

Those are just examples of reclaiming your time, examples of acting instead of reacting. The possibilities are quite endless. Your imagination is the limit.

As always, I hope this brings new perspectives into your lives. I’m always happy to discuss.

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