Time, Money and the Paradox of Winning Your Freedom
Time and money
The two most important assets we have in life are time and money. The tricky part is that we end up trading in one for the other.
When we don’t have enough money, we give our time in exchange for more money (going to work)
Once we have enough money, we can start trading in our money for more time (working less or retiring).
Once our basic “needs” like food and shelter and our baseline “wants” like travel are taken care of, the only real use for money is to trade it for time. Of course, we can’t create more time, no matter how rich or poor you are, we all have 24 hours in a day. We can’t create more time, but if we have more money we can obtain more “freedom of time”.
In this article, I am going to discuss financial freedom, freedom of time and the delicate dance of balancing the two, which if done right allows you to win your personal freedom.
The ultimate form of financial freedom is when you have reached "financial independence", the point where you have amassed so much wealth that you no longer need to work for to pay.
Financial independence also provides you freedom of time. When you no longer need to work to fund your lifestyle, you have complete freedom over what you do every day.
If you don’t like your job you can quit.
Feeling over worked but you like what you do? You can scale back your hours.
Do you love to travel? You can spend more time traveling.
If you have a cause that means a lot to you, financial independence allows you to donate your time and your money towards that cause.
Financial Independence is the ultimate form of personal freedom because it gives you financial freedom and some but not all forms of freedom of time (more on that in a minute).
The tricky thing about financial independence is that unless you are born wealthy, it requires a lot of time, hard work and sacrifice to reach financial independence.
For most people, the path to financial independence looks something like this.
You trade your time in exchange for money
You live below your means, which provides you a surplus of money every month.
You make smart investments with your monthly surplus.
Rinse and repeat.
How long it takes to reach financial independence will depend largely on how much income you can make and what your basic living expenses are.
It will likely take years or even decades for most people to reach financial independence. In the meantime, you will continue trading your time for money (having a job). If you have any change of having freedom of time on the path to financial independence, it makes sense to choose a job and a career that you enjoy.
Freedom of time
The other type of freedom is freedom of time. Freedom of time is a bit more tricky to articulate than financial freedom.
The simplest explanation I can think of is having the freedom to choose how you spend your day. That includes both the activities you are doing and the thoughts and emotions you experience during the day. As we will see, having money and achieving financial independence will grant you some forms of freedom of time but it is not a cure-all.
As I already touched upon, it's impossible to have complete freedom of time without financial independence. If you have a job, even a job you like, you won't spend 100% of your time working on the projects that excite you most.
Which is fine.
Being a grown-up means doing jobs from time to time that we would rather not do.
Here are a few questions to determine how much freedom of time you currently have.
Freedom of time is not a binary. It's not as simple as having freedom of time or not having it. Most of us have at least some level of freedom of time, the question is how much?
4 few questions to help determine how much freedom of time you currently have
I’m going to pose four questions that will help you determine if you have freedom of time. If you feel comfortable, let me know your answers in the comments.
Question 1: How many hours do you spend each day, feeling energized and doing what you truly want to be doing?
If everything we do throughout the day is an activity that we enjoy and gives us energy, we have complete freedom of time.
If every activity we do is something that causes stress, we have no freedom of time.
This is not exclusive to work, this includes your personal life too.
Question 2: Do you have the freedom to only work on projects and tasks that you enjoy, you are good at, give you energy and provide you with fulfillment? I would say I am luckier than most in this regard. My day job provides me with constant challenging problems to solve. I would certainly not describe it as boring. I do occasionally find myself doing activities that are stressful and drain me of energy-like taking angry phone calls. However, these draining activities are few and far between. Meanwhile, my side hustle of writing about money and personal finance ticks every box. It is something I am good at, that gives me energy, fills me with purpose and is something I love doing. . Question 3: Do you have the freedom to not feel burnt out, stressed or anxious?
Whether or not we can trade money for feeling less burnout out depends on what is causing us stress. If your feeling burnt out as a result of financial problems or your job, then more money can help us claim back more freedom of our time in this regard.
If your source of stress is something in your family or personal life, money won’t solve the problem. It may, however, allow you the time to work on your personal problems. A luxury those with very little money do not have.
Question 4: Do you have the freedom to not be glued to your phone?
This is a freedom of time that I struggle with immensely at the moment.
My work provides me with a company cell phone. Which is a great perk, but also a huge“time stealer”. When you have a work phone at home, it quite literally means your taking your work home with you. I am the type of person that is likely to reply to an email or take a work call at home rather than waiting until I get back in the office.
In addition to constantly looking at my phone as part of my job, my side hustle is done all online.
To be a successful writer I interact with over a dozen different apps to write, edit and promote my work daily. Technology is an amazing tool, but it is also the biggest thief of our time
While I do not have complete financial freedom or freedom of time I feel pretty happy with the level of freedom I currently have.
When I think back where I was ten years ago it is clear that I have a lot more freedom compared to when I was deeply in debt. When I was living in debt, it felt like every choice I made throughout the day was driven by my desperate need to find more money.
As I continue to progress in my career, grow my side hustle and continue investing wisely, I believe I’ll have the luxury to begin trading in money for more freedom over my time in the near future.
I’d love to hear from you, Do you feel like you have a lot of freedom of time? Do you feel you have a lot of financial freedom? Let me know in the comments.