Finding balance between time and money

Lately my personal focus has been on finding balance in my life. I’m trying to discover the proper place for money — and for time. Over the past few years, I’ve allowed money to become too important. I’ve worked too much, and that has hurt other aspects of my life. I don’t have time for anything else.

As part of this process, I’ve been reading the new edition of Your Money or Your Life, the classic book that influenced so many of us here at Get Rich Slowly. One of the authors’ main points is that time really is money. Or, approaching it from the other direction, money is time. They write:

Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for. Our life energy is our allotment of time here on earth, the hours of precious life available to us. When we go to our jobs we are trading our life energy for money. […]

Our life energy is more real in our actual experience than money. You could even say money equals life energy. So, while money has no intrinsic reality, our life energy does — at least to us. It’s tangible, and it’s finite. Life energy is all we have. It is precious because it is limited and irretrievable and because our choices about how we use it express the meaning and purpose of our time here on Earth.

I know this sounds a little New Age-y, but it’s a profound concept. As it did for many GRS readers, this notion changed my life. But in some ways, it’s an abstraction. I can talk about trading my life energy for money, but I don’t know what this actually means in practice. I met somebody the other night who understands all too well.

Time is Greater Than Money

When my friend Sparky died in January, a group of his friends met after the memorial service to share our memories of him and to reconnect. Most of us hadn’t seen each other since high school graduation, over 20 years ago. That first meeting was fruitful, and we’ve continued to meet once a month ever since.

We got together again last Friday, and this time Jonathan made an appearance. Jonathan was a good friend in junior high and high school, but I haven’t seen him since we graduated. He’s one of those people who just seemed to fall off the face of the earth. We spent some time Friday catching up.

I told him my story, about my struggles with debt and my current career as a professional blogger. “I don’t even know what that is,” Jonathan laughed. I explained that my goal was to turn my former problems with debt into something good, and to help others avoid similar mistakes (or to recover from them) in the future.

“What about you?” I asked. “What have you done with your life?”

Jonathan took a deep breath. “Well, after graduation I got a good job,” he said. “I didn’t go to college, but I learned a trade. I’m an electrician. I got married right after high school to a wonderful woman. We had a daughter and had another one on the way. We were married for almost eight years — but then they both died during childbirth.”

“Oh my god, Jonathan,” I said. My heart ached for him.

“Yeah,” he said. “We were deeply in love, and when I lost her, I was no good for a long time. I’ve managed to turn things around in the last ten years, but for a while it was a real struggle.”

He paused for a moment, and then added, “Earlier, you were talking about money. Here’s the thing about money: I’m not willing to sell my life anymore. When I was young, I was willing to work 60 hours a week. Or more. I was making gobs of money. We had a house and all the stuff that went along with it. I wanted more. I had plans and dreams.”

“But that ended in an instant. All of that vanished when my wife died. It just didn’t matter anymore. I’ve often thought that if there were some way I could buy back time with her, I would. I’d go deep into debt. I think anybody would. And that’s what people don’t understand. I could work 60 hours a week now, too, but I refuse to do it. I’m offered promotions, but I turn them down. These aren’t the things that are important to me. Time is important. Family is important. Life is important.”

“That’s a fantastic point,” I said, “but it can be so difficult to remember. I write a lot about working hard to earn money now so that you can essentially buy time in the future.”

“Yeah, J.D., but what about today? When you reach the end of your life, you’re not going to say, ‘I wish I had more money.’ You’re going to wish you had more time, and that you’d spent more time with your loved ones while you could. If you had a magical credit card and you could buy back the days of your life, how far in debt would you go and not even care?

“That’s an interesting question,” I said. “I guess ultimately we each need to find a balance between time and money. That’s what’s tough.”

Choosing Time

Jonathan has lived through the sort of thing that many of us only have nightmares about. He now has an innate understanding of the “life energy” concept described in Your Money or Your Life. His story affected me deeply. In fact, his words changed my behavior later that very night.

As our group moved from restaurant to bowling alley to karaoke bar, I was tempted to go home. I needed to write. I needed to work. I didn’t have anything ready for Get Rich Slowly. I was about ready to say my good-nights then I thought of what Jonathan had said earlier about the importance of time over money. When I was on my deathbed, which memory would I treasure? That I had gone home to write about money? Or that I had watched Jonathan belt out Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”? That question was easy to answer.

I stayed out late, watching my friends laugh and sing.

A couple of geeky friends grown older…
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There are 102 comments to "Finding balance between time and money".

  1. Writer's Coin says 06 April 2009 at 05:10

    New Age-y or not, this is a fantastic point. Turning promotions down sounds like career suicide, but it’s definitely an option we need to keep open to ourselves.

    Great story JD, thanks for sharing.

  2. Henrik Wist says 06 April 2009 at 05:14

    thanks for sharing this story. As Randy Pausch ( wrote in his “Last Lecture”: “Always trade money for time”. After reading his book, I try to follow that advice…

  3. Adam Baker says 06 April 2009 at 05:22

    Nothing like a story like this to put everything in perspective. Thanks for the wake-up call!

  4. Yaryna says 06 April 2009 at 05:24

    Amen! Now if only we could eliminate the guilt that comes with decisions like these, life would improve exponentially!

  5. Emily@remodelingthislife says 06 April 2009 at 05:27

    This post brought me to tears. Thanks for sharing a powerful story to make your fantastic point.

  6. fanf says 06 April 2009 at 05:43

    Thank you for the reminder man.
    And thanks to Jonathan too.

  7. Rodney says 06 April 2009 at 05:44

    Excellent story. I would guess your post wouldn’t be as good as it is if you went home early to give yourself more time to write it.

    A balance if we could achieve it, is definitely the goal in life.

  8. Alison says 06 April 2009 at 05:51

    I just requested that I be laid off so I can collect my severance and unemployment. This will give me enough time to figure out what to do next so we have more time as a family, more flexibility, and more time to do the things we love. We worked for years to become financially secure and now is the time to reap those benefits while we have a young child.

  9. Miss M says 06 April 2009 at 06:09

    Many of us are trying to achieve the balance you describe. On Friday my boss stopped by and offered me overtime, which I’ve done plenty of in the past. I told him no, that my time was more important to me than the money. I’m still working hard and saving for the retirement I want, but I’m not forgetting to live along the way. I’ve reclaimed my weekends and now we make an effort to make the most of that time – day trips, walks in the park and time spent together. By the way, the only reason I am comfortable turning down the extra work is because I paid off my credit cards and car loan. The ability to say no is one part of the freedom from debt.

  10. Kate F. says 06 April 2009 at 06:20

    It sounds like part of the balance is also time management. I know that for you – extra time writing really could equate more money. For somebody on a salary though overtime pay doesn’t exist and extra time put into work really just means that you’re letting your worth be diminished.

    One way I attempt to find balance is to keep my attention focused. When I’m at work, I try to really just focus on work and productively get one with it. But when I’m at home my attention is truly focused on who I’m spending time with – my dog, my fiance, my friends. They get all my attention. That way whatever I’m doing feels more fulfilling.

  11. Kelly says 06 April 2009 at 06:21

    The story of your friend’s heartbreak brought tears to my eyes.

    As a mom of 4 kids it is always a balancing act for me.

    I have made the choice to be home with them for many reasons, but this is the main one, no amount of money is worth missing out on them growing up.

    We are working hard to pay off our debts right now, but I try to balance the need to pay off debt with living our lives.

    Thanks for the reminder about what it’s really all about, J.D.

  12. Beth @ Smart Family Tips says 06 April 2009 at 06:22

    What a moving post, J.D. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    It’s really hard to remember that making more money (whether for spending or saving) isn’t the most important thing. It’s easy for those of us with kids to think we can provide more for them if we make more money, when what they really need is our time.

    There’s a small lake near our house and my husband and I took our 3 year old twins over there yesterday to play on “the beach.” It cost nothing but a couple of hours of our time. I’m betting they enjoyed that little adventure more than any gym or soccer class we’ve paid for them to take.

    You’re right that finding a balance is the key. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Adam @ Checkbook Diaries says 06 April 2009 at 06:34

    Ever since I got married I’ve felt this way. I feel fortunate to have come to this “discovery” earlier in life than most people. I believe that it is a result of my work environment. I see too many people that I work closely with keep climbing the corporate ladder at the expense of their life. They spend endless hours working, and are constantly complaining about the hours they put in on the job, and the lack of time they have to watch their children grow up. They have teetering marriages, but continue to work more, earn more, and spend more. None of that makes any sense to me, especially when they say that it’s not worth what they are going through.

    At the expense of my career progression (which was going very quickly), I decided to dial it back a few years ago after 9 months of almost solid business travel. I was missing precious time with the person that would eventually become my wife, as well as the rest of my family and friends.

    I realized that I can always get another job, but finding other people that I love as much as I do would be impossible.

    Great article J.D. I think this reminder needs to be put out there every so often to keep things in perspective.

  14. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad says 06 April 2009 at 06:34

    Great perspectives!

    Many people underestimate the value of their time . . . it is much more valuable than money.

    Once time is gone it truly is gone . . .

    I have written on this topic myself:
    What’s More Valuable? Time or Money?–time-or-money.aspx

  15. Beth says 06 April 2009 at 06:39

    Thank you J.D. and Jonathan for sharing this touching story. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to tell, but very much worth the effort 🙂

    Money is a balancing act for me, and I have been tempted to get a second job for the summer since I’m single and don’t have a husband or kids whose time I’d be sacrificing. I think I need to be open to new adventures and meeting new people instead, rather than taking on freelance work that will chain me to my computer.

    The difference may mean not being able to meet my retirement savings goals this year, so it’s a tough choice. But I think I need to invest in other areas of my life instead.

  16. Bre says 06 April 2009 at 06:40

    Really great post. Thank you for this reminder.

  17. Elizabeth says 06 April 2009 at 06:53

    Thank you so much for sharing that experience with us, J.D. It is something everyone needs to hear from time to time, to remind us of what true success is.

    I want to be financially free and independent, and I think if you are more financially secure you are sometimes more free to focus on the more important things.

    However, your friend Jonathan made a very good point. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. And in the end, it won’t be our finances that make the difference. Our connection to people and living is what will evoke our most intense emotions, and that is what our focus in life should be on.

    On that note, it’s important to remember that avoiding major financial mistakes can help us retain the freedom to spend our time in a way that truly gives us joy. Avoid the tempation to both over-spend or over-earn, and you can achieve that blissful balance, enabling you to live a life with the least regret possible.

  18. Thomas says 06 April 2009 at 06:59

    Thank you. I really need to re-evaluate my priorities.

  19. Doug says 06 April 2009 at 07:05

    When I use to work on a transfer ambulance we often transported terminally ill patients. Many of them regretted missing out on time spent with their family. I never once heard anyone wish they spent more time making money.

    Recently a former coworker was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer the prognosis is not promising. She is only 26. This past weekend we had a 22 year old die in a car accident and 26 year old pass away.

    We don’t have an expiration date stamped on us. I think it is important to enjoy life, you don’t know when it is going to be over.

    It may take a little bit longer to pay off my car (my last bit of consumer debt), but I’d rather have time with friends and family. You never know when and if you will see them again.

  20. Chris Gammell says 06 April 2009 at 07:12

    This is a concept one of my family members has mastered and I have been in awe of him ever since I realized it. In fact, when I made my New Years Resolutions a few years back, this was one of the main things I focused on. Coming out of a job that honored time spent at work instead of quality work really started messing with my life. I think your friend Jonathon is a great role model in this regard and I would encourage everyone to find someone in their own life who is similar and model your life after them.

    ~Chris Gammell

  21. Brian says 06 April 2009 at 07:19

    Damn JD. This is a great post.

  22. Jimbo says 06 April 2009 at 07:23

    This post assumes that a person’s “job” is not their ultimate calling or what really brings the most happiness. A classic case of YMMV.

  23. Jessica the hedgehog says 06 April 2009 at 07:26

    This is a beautiful post and, like a few folks mentioned above, I definitely have tears in my eyes too. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  24. t says 06 April 2009 at 07:31

    you can always make more money, you cannot make more time.

  25. KF says 06 April 2009 at 07:33

    The whole “life energy for time” thing is a great reason to spend as much of your working life as possible doing something that is also your passion. Most of my working life hasn’t felt like a “trade” because I am doing work (women’s rights and human rights in my case) that is intertwined with my identity, passions, and what I’d be doing anyway even if it weren’t a paying job. Long-term, find ways to earn money doing what you love. Scale back your lifestyle if needed to make this happen. And learn to give. While I work on human rights issues, I also care deeply about animal-related issues. So, most of my philanthropy goes toward animal organizations. It makes me happy to think I’m working to earn money in part to help animals. That makes it less of a “trade” of life energy for money since I would regardless want my life energy to go toward helping animals.

    Also, my primary problem with this posting is that toward the end of it, you seem to be veering toward saying that debt is okay because memories and time with people now is more important. I would never use that excuse to go into debt. If someone values time more, simply choose to consume less and spend less so that you can earn less and have more time. Debt is not a good way to live or a good “trade.”

  26. Mark Smith says 06 April 2009 at 07:33

    “Over the past few years, I’ve allowed money to become too important. I’ve worked too much, and that has hurt other aspects of my life. I don’t have time for anything else.”

    I can *so* understand this one. What I’ve been struggling with lately is a situation where when I “move the energy” with my company (i.e. work on a marketing campaign, improve our software product, etc)., the money flows – and when I step back it dries up.

    Keep in mind my software company does *not* require me to do service work (I’m a programmer and marketer, not a plumber).

    Lately, though, it seems that if I take a day off, so do the customers.


    Thanks for posting!

  27. Colin says 06 April 2009 at 07:52

    I find it sad that this is such a revelation to a lot of people. Not because I think lowly of people but because the degree in which this workalholicism is ingrained in society.

    I know people who have maxed out their vacation because they simply don’t take it and it. absolutely. baffles. me.

  28. clayton says 06 April 2009 at 08:04

    I totally agree and love your article.

    Even though I consider myself fairly young (27), I have recently come to a lot of realizations and one of which is that money isn’t everything. When I got my first(& current) job and made decent money (and gotten big raises), I blew a lot of my money on materialistic things like new computer, flat screen tv, laptops, furniture, etc. However within the last couple of year, come to realize, that they only bring limited happiness if that and to enjoy more moments of now with friends, nature, etc. Time is a valuable resource which unfortunately can never be recovered whereas money is something that can be.

    I am working hard to becoming more financially savvy and frugal, but at the same time feel that I don’t need to be all caught up in the rat race of trying to make more money and being happy with what I currently have. I know it is so cliche, but there are soo many people who have it far worse than oneself.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t have dreams, but balancing that with what I have and where I would like to be (which doesn’t include trying to make the huge bucks but obviously would be nice 🙂 ), is now my current thinking philosophy.

    Keep up the great work. I love reading your blog.

    *First post and hope to be commenting more.*


  29. Another Aaron? says 06 April 2009 at 08:06

    I keep reading your stuff because you’re real. Thanks for a great story.

    The dork in me wants to point out that time with family doesn’t have to mean more debt (but it’s a good exercise in trade-offs to see where your values are). It could also mean less junk. I’d choose more time and less junk any day.

  30. Eugene Krabs says 06 April 2009 at 08:08

    What a beautiful anecdote. Thank you for sharing. I think that too will change my behavior, just a little bit.

  31. Moneyblogga says 06 April 2009 at 08:15

    That’s a great story! Life experiences, memories of the times spent with the people I care about, and the fact that once time has passed by I can’t get that time back ~ these are some of the things I think about these days. I wish I had been so enlightened about ten years ago but I guess it’s better than living another ten years into the future in the manner in which I was living. At least, now, my partner has a good chance at early retirement which would not have been the case had things continued the way they were. I’m glad you stayed for the karaoke!

  32. wanzman says 06 April 2009 at 08:19

    This is something I have struggled with recently, as a 24 year old recently married man, also new to the workforce.

    Due to diligence, my wife and I are in the position to be completely debt free in 4 years (including paid off mortgage). At that time I would be 28, and my wife 27.

    The hard part is sticking to this plan, instead of trading up to a nicer house etc.

    Its either chase a better life, or live a modest live and basically be able to choose to do whatever we want to do, instead of needeing to climb the ladder to pay for the “better” life we now desire.

    Perhaps we need to focus energy on redefining our definition of “better life”.

  33. Chett says 06 April 2009 at 08:21

    I think there is an important component that has to be met before you can afford the luxary of choice for more time.

    When people are trying to get out of debt, working more may be the only way to get out of the hole and the impact on time away from family seems secondary. Once a certain comfort level is reached, then the temptation becomes to get more money to be more comfortable. This notion can be a trap that has no end. I think YMOYL deals with this very issue as well in their discussion of the “fullfillment curve.” Getting out of debt seems to be survival, paying the bills would be comfort, once you have built an emergency fund, and began to save for retirement you have to realize you have reached “enough.”

    To me the most fulfilling part of becomming stable financially is having the choice and ability to spend more time with family and things I am personally interested in.

  34. kristen says 06 April 2009 at 08:32

    Damn you, J.D.! Now you’ve made me cry.

    Good post.

  35. Shara says 06 April 2009 at 08:38

    I DO know people who reached the end of their life wishing they had worked for more money because they were running out and their last years were spent economizing because their money wasn’t guaranteed to last through their lives.

    That isn’t to counter your point because I think it is a great one, especially where you are right now. But whenever I hear platitudes like “Live each day as if it were your last” I have to scratch my head and ask, but what if it isn’t? That is how ants live their lives. Grasshoppers plan on winter coming, if not for them then for their families.

    As you pointed out it is a BALANCE, and it must constantly be weighed. In school a [self identified] socialist assumed I would be studying engineering even if the monetary reward wasn’t as high and I told him I wouldn’t. Why would I work that hard when I could be a professional sofa sitter for the same pay? I like my job, but I don’t love it. I worked hard and sacrificed a lot of *now* and *life force* for the future reward. Now I make pretty good money and I have been offered to go back to school and I don’t want to. The time and energy investment isn’t worth the future reward, at least not at this time.

    I know people who partied away in college and came out regretting that they didn’t trade more life force for grades. I know plenty of people who I think value their life force a little too high and do a little too much karaoke and not quite enough providing for their families.

    I get your point and I know people I pity because they work too much, too. But the trite comment that “people don’t reach the end of their life wishing they had worked more” isn’t the full picture.

  36. CurlyDee says 06 April 2009 at 08:39

    Hi J.D. I read your posts daily and have never felt compelled to write a response until now. Like many, due to irresponsible spending in my 20’s I woke up one day and realized that at 35 I had over $30 000 in consumer debt, and was still renting a tiny apartment. I made a conscious decision to do something about it and haven’t looked back since.

    Since this wake up call I found a second job, started reading your blog, made major lifestyle changes and began living more simply and more frugally. In the past 15 months have managed to pay off $13 000 of debt and save $10 000 which is split between my emergency fund and an account I created for a down payment for a home – I have never had more thatn $500 in my savings account.

    Great you would think – wrong! I am MISERABLE! I am working 70-80 hours per week, I have lost touch with friends who got tired of me turning down plans because I was working or didn’t want to spend the money to go out. When I do have time off to spend with my friends and family I am cranky because I am dead tired and my conversation skills are lacking because I have nothing to talk about besides work! I hate my second job so much that I dread going to it – partially because it feels like the sentence I received for poor choices that I made years ago.

    This post made me cry because I realized that life is too short to be miserable. How do I keep my financial goals in view without losing perspective in the rest of my life?

  37. David says 06 April 2009 at 08:41

    JD – you just keep getting better and better! Thanks for being so transparent in your posts. I too am glad you stayed for Karoke!

    I read all the comments to date and there was one thing I didn’t see mentioned that surprised me. Work is one thing that consumes time/life energy, and as some mentioned so are things (the more you own the more it owns you), but what about all the other often needless commitments I see people make that suck out their life energy.

    I’m so amazed as I hear parent after parent complain about how they have so little time because they shuttle Johnny to soccer practice and Suzy to ballet and Tommy to softball, and, and, AND!!!

    Don’t they hear themselves?? My wife and I refused to commit either ourselves or our kids to a life of such foolishness. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with soccer, ballet, softball, band, etc., etc. But there is something very wrong with having so many commitments that you can’t have dinner together every night. That Johnny has to work on homework until 9pm because of soccer OR even worse, so that no one has any energy (life energy anyone) to simply sit as a family and read a bed time story together.

    Over committing to keeping up with the Jones’ has many evil sides, work, things and waaaaayyyy too many “things” we just have to do! Stop the insanity.

    Trust me, no kid is going to remember soccer as a life changer. But my kids to this day (25, 24, 22) still talk about reading with Dad, fishing with Dad, baking cookies with Mom, playing Marco Polo in the pool with the whole family, etc., etc.

    Spend your time wisely! You will never have this minute to do over again – ever!

    PS – my wife was the brains on this one by the way, early on I worked waaaayyyy too many hours. Fortunately I figured out that was a no go before it affected the kids too much but kudos to my wife on recognizing real time/life energy value!

  38. Randy Haykin says 06 April 2009 at 08:42

    JD! You’ve struck a wonderful chord with your audience on the importance of PEOPLE FIRST. Money and things are ephemeral, but relationships and family are forever. It’s important for us all to find balance in our lives so we don’t lose touch of what’s most important to us. We actually just blogged about this exact issue:

    If anything, the recent economic times give us a BETTER appreciation of what’s truly important, and its certainly not money.

    Keep up the great work JD!

  39. Lady J says 06 April 2009 at 08:44

    I absolutely agree and just wish more people could understand the insanity of working so many hours! I’ve never dealt well with overtime – 40 hours a week is enough for me! And if that means my paycheck is a little less fat, so be it. The time means more to me than the money.

    Also, I work part-time right now, and my fiancee works full time. If I were to work full-time, we could pay off our remaining debt much more quickly. It’s something we’ve discussed, but my health has suffered in the past… for right now, we are willing to make the trade of my health for less money.

  40. PT Money says 06 April 2009 at 08:49

    Great reminder, JD. Nice work.

  41. Urchina says 06 April 2009 at 08:53

    Many stay-at-home parents (and their partners) have consciously made this decision. I quit a promising career I enjoyed to stay home with our kids. The gross financial cost of this decision is, so far, about $200K. But if you factor in childcare, work wardrobes, commuting costs, increased food costs (more convenience foods, more meals out), stress, and taxes, it’s actually much less – probably about $50K. So sometimes the decision is less “expensive” money-wise than you’d expect, and the joy time-wise larger than anticipated.

    On the flip side, my father-in-law recently died unexpectedly and suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was 68 and lived abroad, mostly because he couldn’t afford to live in the U.S. (and he liked living abroad and eventually met a sweet woman and got married in his country of abode.) His life in both places was a good one, filled with friends and love, but if he’d been a bit more diligent about securing his retirement he would have had more choices, and might not have ended up so far from the children and grandchildren he so loved. So I’d say, yes, balance is really important, but being financially secure enough to have choices later on is important, too.

  42. sheri says 06 April 2009 at 08:57

    During the search for my current job our son was being diagnosed with autism. His education and well-being became the priority with paying the bills being secondary.

    I fully expected to make some sacrifices insofar as employment was concerned. I put my cards on the table and (shakily) declared to my future boss that I needed a employer who understood that my little boy came first – the job would get done but I would not travel and if I needed to tend to our ‘special needs matters” I needed that flexibility.

    As karma would have it my boss had already traveled the special needs path with his daughter and understood completely. Once I knew and declared what my priorities were everything fell into place; I even walked into a pay raise. Nice to have but I would have taken the position w/o it. (don’t tell my boss that).

    Will I ever regret not seeking out a better, more career-oriented job…never. Will my son know that my energies went into his future…I hope so. But even if he doesn’t, I do and I can rest assured knowing that his needs are being fought for every step of the way.

  43. becky says 06 April 2009 at 09:06

    Wow JD – that was beautiful : )

    Kudo’s to you for staying for the karoke too.

    I needed that reminder and I wish it wasn’t something that I forgot so often. My father died of cancer at 59 years old. He was able to semi-retire while he was going through his cancer treatments for the 5 years prior to his passing, but I realized that he never got to enjoy all of his efforts and savings towards retirement. It gave me a good perspective that while you should put effort towards saving for retirement and life after work, you’ve also got to enjoy your life now while you’ve got it and while you’ve got your health. I will thank my father eternally for this lesson.

    And I thank you for the wonderful story as my reminder.

  44. Katie says 06 April 2009 at 09:15

    Here’s my dilemma… I have about $75,000 in student loans… and about $10,000 in credit card debt. I have 30 years to pay off the student loans, and can manage the payments pretty well. But here’s the deal… I have a bachelors in social services, and experience in that area… but my passions are anything in the arts, teaching, and writing. I have been afraid to pursue things in these areas though because I’m afraid they won’t pay me enough. I’m trying to be realistic. But a number of people have told me to pursue my passions. I want to do that. I have thought for a long time that I wasn’t anything worth while because I wasn’t making enough money or doing something I love… and I think doing something I love is much more important to me. Sounds like that is what others are saying too.


  45. April Dykman says 06 April 2009 at 09:20

    Um, JD, you need to warn us when you are going to write a post like this! I can’t be sitting in front of my PC at work with my eyes welling up! People are bound to start thinking I’ve lost it.

    Very moving post. Gave me a lump in my throat to read about what your friend went through, and the lesson he shared about what’s most important.

  46. David Safar says 06 April 2009 at 09:23

    Thank you for this post. A couple of years ago I came to this understanding of “time is money” on my own — I guess I’ll have to read Your Money or Your Life to get a deeper understanding. It’s very true, and I can totally relate to Jonathan’s statement, “I’m not willing to sell my life anymore”. That’s part of the reason I quit my job earlier this year to explore other avenues of generating income. I’m glad this idea seems to be gaining traction among people who might otherwise work their lives away, and I’m sorry Jonathan had to go through such a painful experience to discover it.

    All the best to both of you,


  47. guinness416 says 06 April 2009 at 09:33

    Another great post JD. Thanks.

  48. Carla says 06 April 2009 at 09:33

    Thank you for sharing this moving story with us. It brought a lot of tears to my eyes as I read this.

    My wakeup call came recently for me. Having just turned 30, I was hell bent on working hard at my job and my online business to gain financial security. I would spend 45 hours a week at work and many more at home plugging away. Then came my MS diagnosis and that option is no longer open to me. Now, I’m on disability and constantly dealing with symptoms and some physical and emotional setbacks. This time off is really helping me realize what’s most important in life.

  49. Laura says 06 April 2009 at 09:39

    This post made me feel sick to my stomach. Thanks to Jonathan for sharing his story with us–my heart goes out to him and his family.

    Right now, we are making triple house payments in order to have the house paid off by the time our son starts kindergarten next fall. Once the house is paid for, I’ll become a stay-at-home mom. The trade-off is that I don’t get as much time with my son right now. Jonathan’s story made me wish I could quit today.

    Thanks for such thought-provoking stuff.

  50. Grant Baldwin says 06 April 2009 at 10:06

    The difficulty is most people don’t make that change in their life until something tragic happens like with Jonathan.

    Good reminder about how fragile life is and to enjoy each moment with those you love…

  51. getagrip says 06 April 2009 at 10:06

    The points about working for money also doesn’t mean if you spend sixty hours a week at your job or work the occasional weekend because you’ve chosen to (for whatever reason) that you have to miss out on other things. I feel the real problem is focus. Too many people, especially with computer e-mail, text messages, and crackberries, are never separated from their jobs or from others screaming for instant attention leaving them to never feel free to focus on what they are doing now, right infront of them.

    If you’re on vacation, be on vacation and don’t be checking your crackberry every two minutes.
    If you’re helping your kid with a project for scouts, put your cell phone on vibrate and let them leave a voice mail.
    If you’ve set up an evening with the spouse, be in the evening looking at each other and not at the latest text from your friend about the game or asking if you can believe so and so was seen dating you know who.

    Good memories occur when you are focusing in the moment (note: the term is “focusing”, not “forcing” the moment). You can work hard and still have your weekends, your evenings, and your vacations if you plan for them and plan on really being part of them. Being engaged with friends and family, mentally and physically regardless of how much “time” you spend with them, allows the opportunities for the great memories to happen.

  52. J.D. says 06 April 2009 at 10:16

    @getagrip (#51)
    Great comment. I agree entirely. I’ve been very guilty of not keeping my work separate from my play time for the past two years. (And, in fact, I was guilty on this post. As Jonathan was telling us his story, I asked the table, “Does anyone have pen and a paper? I need to write this down.” And then I transcribed parts of the conversation.)

    But I’ve come to the conclusion that I need some separation between my work life and my home life. I thought working from home was going to be fantastic. And many parts of it are. But I’m not capable of walling off work from non-work, so I’ve just rented space in an office building up the street. It seems like an unnecessary expense, but I’m going to give it a go for a year. If I can use that to reclaim my life, it’ll be money well-spent.

  53. KF says 06 April 2009 at 10:17

    @ CurlyDee: The point isn’t to be happy for every single second of your life. I think it’s worth a year or two of the misery you complain about to clean up your mess from spending years living above your means and to then be able to find balance and happiness long-term.

    Financial stress literally kills people. You cannot live every day “as if it’s your last” by using debt. Some sacrifice (either more work to pay off debt or scaling back lifestyle to stay debt free) is worth it in the present to be free of financial stress (and all the benefits that brings) long-term.

  54. Sandy E. says 06 April 2009 at 10:21
    The last few sentences of your article struck a nerve with me, and so this is straight from the horse’s mouth:

    My husband WAS on his deathbed at age 44 (dying from pancreatic cancer).

    And what did he do? Literally. Throughout his late 20’s and 30’s, he played with a group of guys on a softball team. He probably hadn’t seen them for 5 years or so -work commitments. He picked up the phone, from the hospital, and he called each and every one of them, and they all came to his bedside. And what did they talk about? Statistics — from all the softball games and tournaments they had played in together. Amazingly, (or not), they all had so many of the statatics memorized too. There was such commraderie, so much laughter, as they remininsced, play by play from so many of their games. Oh, and one more thing – they ALL showed up wearing their old baseball uniforms. It was a sight in the corrider of the hospital. They gave him a brand new baseball glove, a Wilson A2000 or something, signed with all of their names. That had been his favorite glove at the time and what he had used as a first baseman. Well he died 5 days later, and he wanted that glove in his casket. And that’s where we put it.

    Anyway – it’s been several years later, and I’m blessed to be in another wonderful relationship, but memories of loved ones stay in your heart forever.

  55. Facets of Nature says 06 April 2009 at 10:25

    This article is SO very timely. We now, because of my husband’s job, live in a place where we have no real friends, live far from relatives and we both desperately want to live in the mountains. We decided to give up living to work. So today, my husband is submitting his resigation to accept a postion four hours closer to family, working basically a 9 to 5 job in a city in the mountains (for a lot less money). Our problem is: what is the best way to transition from a working life to a living life? How to we take our current financial situation and scale it back so we can live–and play. We do plan to sell our house and some other property we own. But what do we do in the meantime? I’m also giving up a very mediocre job and hope to create my own business doing something I love to do. We are about ten years from retirement age.

  56. Sam says 06 April 2009 at 10:26

    This is something I struggle with, as I normally work 60+ hours a week (and Mr. Sam generally puts in about the same). This past weekend I didn’t work at all and while I got a lot of great things done on the home front I felt some anxiety about not working and how much I have to do this week, etc. So much anxiety that I woke up this morning at about 3:30 in the a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep.

    I was raised by parents who valued time over money and I had a fantastic childhood in great part to the fact that my family spent the whole summer together and other big chunks of time during the year. But I also always felt poor and as a result I, and my brother too, both have ended up putting greater value on money vs. time. But I’m still very good about making time for and enjoying my family and friends.

    I need and want to work less (I really want to stop putting in weekend time) but its hard to do so. Once people are used to you working 60+ hours a week it becomes nomral and then if you try and cut back they think you are slacking off.

  57. lalakers says 06 April 2009 at 10:35

    Thanks for the post. I love this website just for the wealth of information you can dive into. But this post is infinite for its worth becauce it is the real peace everyone strives for but do not know that for themsleves before it is to late. Nice to be reminded to not to look for it in money.

  58. Cathy says 06 April 2009 at 10:38

    Thanks for sharing the story. My parents are getting older, and it reminds me there things that can only be done while you are young and strong. I keep this as a reminder to live a little now – who knows how long the future will last.

  59. Tyler Karaszewski says 06 April 2009 at 10:39
    Time spent at work, earning money, is still time spent. We are constantly spending time. We don’t have the option of saving it, we only get spend 24 hours every single day.

    And so, you spend time regardless of whether you get money for it. I could have stayed home form work today. I’d still have spent eight hours, but I would have spent it in exchange for another experience. The experience I get from eight hours of work conveniently comes with $300 or so, which is nice. Had I stayed home, would I have experienced something that was worth trading $300 for? Maybe, maybe not.

    The key here is that it’s not time we’re spending for money, it’s experience. You could argue that they’re the same thing, but I don’t think they are. J.D. talks about spending the evening out with his friends, and I agree, that’s a very valuable experience. Probably worth more than the amount of money that could be made in the same amount of time. However, in the same amount of time you could have sat at home and watched TV for four hours. You would have been better off working. Not simply for the money, but because, at the end of your life looking back over your collection of experiences, you’ll feel better for having done something productive than you would have for sitting around watching television.

    And that’s one more thing to note — when you’ve elected to spend your time on an experience that earns money, that doesn’t mean that it’s an otherwise worthless experience. I’ve had a lot of good things come out of work. I’ve met friends at work. I’ve had fun at work. I feel like I accomplish things at work. I’d rather have those experiences than the TV watching experience, and I get paid for them to boot.

    You get maybe 75 years or so of time that you can exchange for a body of experiences. Feeling like you were able to accomplish something, to help other people out (even including things like being able to pay for your family’s medical care), and to know what it’s like to be able to take care of yourself — those are all valuable experiences to add to your body of experience, and they all come from working.

    How do you decide what experiences are worth spending your precious time? Pick the ones that will make you proud of your life, whether you get paid for them or not.

  60. J.D. says 06 April 2009 at 10:44

    I love these sorts of discussions at GRS.


  61. Marie says 06 April 2009 at 11:04

    Shara @35, you mixed up the ant and the grasshopper. The ant is the planner, the grasshopper is the screw-up.

  62. Amy H. says 06 April 2009 at 11:04

    Wonderful post, J.D. Thank you. And wow, what terrific follow-up comments — Tyler @#59 especially.

  63. Kevin says 06 April 2009 at 11:24

    @Doug (#19)

    “I never once heard a [terminally ill patient] wish they spent more time making money.”

    No, but a lot of healthy people facing retirement do.

    This old saying gets trotted out a lot, and there’s a good reason. It’s catchy, and serves to justify an indulgent lifestyle. But how true is it? Of course, someone at death’s door will value “more time” at an enormous premium over “more money.” But what about the other 99% of their life, when their (perceived) available time vastly exceeds their available money? Do people in line at the food bank stand there, reminiscing about all the time they spent with their family on vacations? Does a senior who has to choose which medicine to afford this month say “that’s OK, at least I got to see Paris.”?

    In truth, a lot of people DO wish they’d saved more money for their golden years. Crippled and broke is a horrible, horrible way to spend one’s final few years.

  64. Didi says 06 April 2009 at 11:44

    This is the first time I’m visiting your site and I have to say that for the very first post I read I’m really impressed. I was very lucky in that I was able to build a business working from home when my daughter was born and now that its up and running I’m finding that I just love that it gives me so much flexible time and a good income. I do have to be on call between 9 – 5 but I’ve learned to mentally leave my desk at 5pm and NOT answer the phone. In the beginning I would answer at all hours and realized that it was not helping but hurting my quality of time with my family. So, I adjusted that. Now, I could probably make more money working in an office of my field but I don’t think there could be enough compensation for the time that I would miss with my family. I feel truly blessed and to add to that now I’m going to finally be debt free in a few months!! Thanks for this post and for reminding me why I made the choices that I did…

  65. Steve @ Freedom Education says 06 April 2009 at 12:03

    Hey J.D.,

    I’m a results oriented person and can relate to what you’re saying about creating balance. I’ve left my wife on the back burner a few times in the pursuit of wanting bigger or better results.

    Most of the time I don’t even realize how much time I spend blogging or building my business to acquire these results…

    …. well, I just got back from a week long vacation in Mexico and learned something really valuable about myself.

    I had such an amazing time with friends and with my soul mate and wife Trisha. She’s my best buddy.

    I learned to really love people again; to listen, watch and really connect with the people that matter to me the most.

    I couldn’t put a price tag on that.

  66. Lexy says 06 April 2009 at 12:12

    Interestingly I was reading an academic article this weekend that spoke of this very subject – life-force energy being spent to earn money.

    The author’s point was that it is a misconception that labor is a simple exchange of one commodity for another (the laborer’s effort for money) because the labor is attached to a human being and cannot be extricated from that person. I thought of it in the way that you cannot remove your labor from your personhood to trade it in for money, like you could trade a gold watch or a TV.

    The article was not related to personal finance at all, it was about deviant occupations and the actual cost of engaging in deviant behavior to earn a living. But just as applicable here.

  67. Georgie says 06 April 2009 at 12:28

    I am surprised that there were not more commenters looking at the flip side of this issue. When you are young, you have life energy in spades…my boyfriend and I work overtime now because we are young and healthy with energy to spare…putting in 60 hours/week now is probably equivalent in terms of energy to putting in 40 hours/week when I am in my 50s/60s, and probably 20 hours/week as I get older.

    When you put in extra hours earning money when you are younger, you will are not wasting time in favor of money, you are earning money in order to “bank” that time so you can retire and do what you want. I think all this “live for the now” mentality just justifies the instant gratification nonsense that gets us into financial trouble in the first place. The person on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time with family/friends is a touching image, but a) statistically most people are going to live to retirement age, and b) you can’t spend more time with your family/friends if they aren’t available because they’re working overtime getting ready for their retirement.

    I think the trick is to know exactly what your goal is and then you can decide what the balanced way of reaching that goal is. Also, since we all have a tendency to set a new, higher goal once we’ve reached the original goal then we are never rewarding ourselves with the fruit of our labors. If we rewarded ourselves more for the things we do right instead of assuming that goals always have to be out of reach and setting new ones, we might be a lot happier.

  68. Saver Queen says 06 April 2009 at 12:37

    Very moving and poignant article indeed. Thank you so much for sharing this lesson. I agree with the message and also agree with Kevin. I actually think that somehow a balance can be found between these. Kevin is right – we need to live as though we will live long, full lives. We need to be responsible in order to take care of our families and plan for our futures. A ‘live in the now’ outlook can only be sustainable for so long, especially for someone who has a family.

    However, there are many things we can do now. We can be mindful, appreciating what we have around us. We can aim to pursue what makes us happy and what activities bring meaning to our lives. Rather than throwing caution to the wind, I believe that all we need to do is really be conscious of what brings us joy, and cultivate that as much as possible.

  69. Shara says 06 April 2009 at 12:40


    LOL! That’s what I get for thinking faster than I’m writing. As a Disney child I saw the cartoon version a few hundred times. At least it shows someone actually took the time to read what I had to say!

    Thinking on the Disney cartoon, does the song “The World Owes Me a Livin'” bother anyone else?

  70. Ninna says 06 April 2009 at 12:40

    Why do some people here assume that “living for now” means overspending and living beyond your means? If you want to work yourself in the grave, go ahead — just don’t assume that those who don’t chose to live that way are setting themselves up for debt and poverty.

  71. Corporate Barbarian says 06 April 2009 at 12:41

    Right after our wedding, my wife and I worked overtime whenever it was available in order to pad our nest egg. My mother saw what was happening, and told us to slow down and enjoy life. When I told her that we needed the money, she responded that we needed a vacation. “You’ll never get this time back” she said. When I responded that we didn’t have the money for a vacation, she told me “Borrow the money! Your father and I worked long hours, now he’s dead, and there won’t be any more vacations for us. Enjoy your youth.” We’ve heeded her advice quite often when work became crazy. You can’t recoup lost time.

  72. Sierra Black says 06 April 2009 at 12:54

    What a moving story. My husband and I have both made choices to work less, or stay in more flexible, lower-paying jobs in order to have more time with each other and our kids. It’s a choice that doesn’t get a lot of validation, and this was a vivid reminder that we’re on the right track.

  73. Daisy says 06 April 2009 at 12:55

    Great post, brought me to tears.

    Thank you.

  74. Jeff Ward says 06 April 2009 at 13:02

    Great story – I also think it’s interesting that by choosing quality time over prepping the blog, you were able to find something noteworthy to blog about. That’s the way my life usually rolls. Since I’m in school, if I focus too much on school and learning, I hardly ever have desire to blog about interesting things. If I choose quality activities outside of the library, blogging (and life, of course) becomes so much more enjoyable. Definitely something to think about. Thanks again.

  75. Cathy says 06 April 2009 at 13:03

    Kevin #63: Good counterpoint.

    This is what I call, “Plan for Tomorrow, Plan for Today.” I plan my money for the future, but also plan my money for today and tomorrow. I believe in balance – living and enjoying my youth, and planning as though I will live to 80. I don’t know if I will. If I am to live that long, and faced with the choice of medicine or not (if healthcare stays the same as today), I do indeed think I could say “At least I got to see Barcelona”. If I don’t make it to 80, at least I learned to scuba dive.

    Ninna #70 – I agree. Living for now doesn’t mean overspending to do it. Balance is the keyword in the title. I don’t plan on being broke now, or later. There are some things that I want to do that can only be done now while I’m young and healthy. It is inevitable that I will only be blessed with good health for so long. If we all live long enough, we will become frail.

  76. Jan says 06 April 2009 at 13:45

    Congrats JD, this may well be your best post so far.

  77. Mika says 06 April 2009 at 13:45

    Powerful, powerful, powerful.

    Thank you, J.D.

    (I now remember why I stop by here every day…)

  78. repo2riches says 06 April 2009 at 13:50

    Thanx for sharing this story J.D….when we made a choice to get our financial lives in order in January 2009, I also made a committment to eliminate all of the “things” or “activities” that were taking up my precious time and that weren’t benefiting our entire family. I’ve even gone as far as marking days off on my calendar that are strictly “family days”. Just us…all day! My daughters and my husband are glad to have me back!!!!

  79. mr121mr says 06 April 2009 at 14:29

    Good read…very good stuff. You are great!

  80. Faculties says 06 April 2009 at 16:26

    @63, I don’t think the people coming up on retirement need to have been spending more time making money. I think they need to have spent more time *saving* money. Saving money, handily, can often overlap with spending more time with family and friends — taking the kids camping, playing softball with friends like the husband mentioned in the touching story above. A lot of people say, “I’ll just make a lot more money, and then I’ll have enough to save.” But as this blog has shown, it’s not a matter of making a ton of money, it’s a matter of reordering priorities and looking for better ways to live.

  81. Marcia says 06 April 2009 at 16:40

    This is an interesting post. I’ve been reading GRS for a while now, and one of the things that has struck me is that for the most part, most of my debt hasn’t come from buying stuff, but from sharing experiences with friends. I spent my twenties really involved in building a community of friends with whom I’ve traveled, spent holidays, laughed, grown, and learned. I’m pretty non-traditional in a lot of ways, and these people are my family of choice. From a strictly financial point of view, I shouldn’t have done a lot of the things that I’ve done. For example: going to Bali last year for my friends’ wedding (even with the free plane tickets) because I really couldn’t “afford” to take two weeks off plus the other expenses. But spending two weeks with 25 of my favorite people in a beautiful place and celebrating my friends marriage was worth every single penny in credit card interest I’ll ever have to pay for it.

    A new pair of shoes on the other hand? Oh hell no!

    My priorities are shifting now, and I’m about three months into a radical shift in how I approach my money. I don’t have a lot of “Stuff” but I do have a decent amount of debt. I also have a lot of amazing stories, pictures, experiences and relationships from that debt. It’s time (for a number of reasons) to do things differently, but I think, on the whole, I wouldn’t change much about the past or how I got into the debt.

    The happy memories make it easier to change my money practices now, and I know that after a few years of doing things differently, there will be plenty of resources to keep building community and traveling and sharing with friends without going into debt or dipping into long-term savings.

    Thanks for the perspective.

  82. Jacqueline says 06 April 2009 at 16:43

    “If you had a magical credit card and you could buy back the days of your life, how far in debt would you go and not even care?”

    But you would have the pay the money back eventually, plus interest, unless you plan to die in debt and screw over your creditors.

    So all you would be doing is trading your future time (and probably MORE of your future time, unless you expect your hourly rate to increase more than inflation plus the interest) for your past time.

    This story only works for people who feel morally comfortable with dying in debt and screwing their creditors.

  83. The Arabic Student says 06 April 2009 at 17:15

    This is exactly how I think about money. Money = time. You have to spend your time doing something you don’t want to do in order to survive. From the first job I got I realize that in no way did I want to work until I was 65 years old. I started saving every little bit that I could. Every time I buy something I think about the time that the product costs. I don’t think of it as money. You’re really giving away part of your life every time you buy something because if you had enough money, say $1 million, you could stop working and all your time would be yours. I think about money retirement all the time and I’m only 22 years old. Some may say this is not a good way to live, always thinking about every purchase you make, but I would rather do that than work my life away. The plan is to retire at 40 and I have worked out the numbers and seen that it is very possible.

  84. Jen says 06 April 2009 at 18:10

    I think you have to find a balance. Like, my husband and I both work. I could technically stay home with our young kids, but we’d be barely scraping by. With me working, we are comfortable and have insurance and savings. But, I am in the fortunate position of being able to work only 30 hours a week. My employer would let me work 40 if I wanted to, and I think sometimes the $$ would be nice, but I like the time with the kids more. I think it’s rather short-sighted to say time is more important though. Like another poster basically said, people in a food line aren’t happily reminiscing over vacations to Paris!

  85. Patrick says 06 April 2009 at 18:30

    I think this is a great post. This is exactly what I’m trying to do as of right now, trying to find a balance.. I’m twenty and for the past 2 years, money and frugality is what I’ve been too concerned about. I’ve been missing way too many moments that I could have shared with my friends and family.

  86. Anne says 06 April 2009 at 19:42

    I don’t know if anyone will read this but I had to comment. I will say “Amen” to this post. Let me start by sharing something I stood up to say at my cousin’s funeral in 1999. He died from a rare blood disorder at the age of 35. He had been sick for only six months. He left a wife and 3-month old son. I told the family gathered there, “Take the time to spend with family. We will take out our credit cards to buy all kinds of junk, why not take it out occasionally to spend some time with those we love.”

    I had learned that lesson the hard way only 18 months before my cousin died when my brother was killed by a drunk driver. He was only 37. It absolutely devastated my life. When my cousin became ill (he entered the hospital on the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death) I took a week out and spent it with him in a hospital room in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I couldn’t afford the airfare, meals, etc. So what. I would never trade those precious moments with a guy I had grown up with, who was as close to me as my own brother.

    This Saturday will be two years since my 19-year old niece was killed in a traffic accident. I couldn’t afford the hotel bills and rental car bills that we incurred during the week I spent at my sister’s helping to take care of her family throughout the days before and following the funeral. But I wouldn’t have done it one bit differently.

    I get frustrated at times with all the emphasis on saving for retirement. I have nowhere near the amount of money the experts say I should have with my husband now 53 and me at 47, but I have learned too well that we do not know what tomorrow brings so I will spend money on vacations with my family and on other events because I know that the memories I make today may be the only ones my family has tomorrow.

  87. Kevin says 06 April 2009 at 20:59

    @David (37)

    Actually, I remember soccer as a life changer. Not only do I have amazing memories of playing organized and schoolyard pickup soccer as a kid, but I also met a lot of cool people in college because of soccer.

    My point is that a sport like soccer and other “family” activities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. My family ate dinner together every night. We took vacations. There was plenty of lazy time. But I also worked hard at school, honored my commitments, and spent a lot of time playing a game I loved.

    I agree you shouldn’t overbook yourself with commitments. That’s silly. Just be careful when you claim a sport shouldn’t ever be remembered as significant!

  88. Caridad123 says 06 April 2009 at 22:23

    There’s a very important word in this discussion that has only come up once: WORKAHOLIC

    Funny as it sounds, I am a workaholic, and there are many reasons for it, including the fear of not having enough money and also the protective bubble you create by not being available for relationships. Our culture encourages over-working to an unhealthy degree, in my opinion. I was lucky to figure this out about myself before the age of 30, but there was a lot of pain and a lot of needlessly long work weeks that came before it.

    I have no idea about JD or Jonathan’s work habits, but many of the comments posted here reminded me very much of my workaholic self. I see people here looking for ways to change their relationship to work and money. If you feel like work is taking over your life, Workaholics Anonymous is a real thing and it has been very helpful for me in the last year.

    Here is a link to a quick assessment to see if you fit the workaholic profile:

    Since I started attending Workaholics Anonymous meetings I have found the clarity to pursue a new career path (one that’s more personally AND financially rewarding) and I have found the peace to take a new part-time job as a transition into that career. I will have free time that I haven’t had in years, and I am realizing more and more how valuable that time will be.

  89. Michelle says 07 April 2009 at 00:17

    This post reminded me a lot about my bro-in-law–who is a recently divorced single dad with 3 young kids. He has a ton of debt from some issues before the divorce, but he’s made a vow not to let that keep him from making memories with his kids NOW. I remember him telling me, “If I wait to do special stuff with my kids until I’m out of debt, all my kids will be out of the house already.” Sometimes I see him blowing money on stuff that to me just seems dumb, but it is NOT my place to be deciding what is a wise use of his precious little money right now.

    On a more personal note–as a nurse, with the economy down and every hospital being ridiculously short-staffed I could pick up all the overtime I want right now. Would it help us pay off debt more quickly? absolutely. Is it worth never seeing my husband or dog and letting all my personal relationships go to pot? Not on your life.

  90. Becky says 07 April 2009 at 00:24

    I think that JD was reflecting a poor balance in his earlier posts (like last year) with every single thing he did seeming to focus on money or “saving money” with “retirement” in mind. Some people objected and said that there had to be a balance since you have to live “now” as well and we are not promised a wonderful retirement with good health where we can travel and use up all that money we’ve saved. 🙂

    I think that it took the unexpected death of his friend to help him come to a balance. I’m glad. I’m relieved.

    There is a time to save and a time to spend.

    For those who have gotten themselves deep in debt it’s time to save ‘cuz you’ve already spent!

    I think the ultimate question is, “Is this how I want to spend my life?” I’ve been esp. concerned when I see obsessive types compulsively shop for great bargains. (like me!)

    Usually it involves hours and hours of “working to save money”, hunting out bargains and searching for the best price. I’m reminding myself, “If that is what you enjoy and how you want to spend your life”, that is great, Otherwise, at the end of the week, or month, or year, you can look back and see “all I did was search for bargains” and never really “lived.”

    For some, like my mom, searching for bargains IS her fun, so it is great. Others want time to quilt, read, fish, hunt, play sports, go on walks, etc.

    There has to be a balance.

    I was delighted to read this type of post here. It is what makes me like GRS more than the other PF blogs I’ve got on my RSS feed.

  91. mhb says 07 April 2009 at 11:14

    JD, this post makes me want to go home right now and hug my husband… my heart hurts for your friend.

    For me, this is a tough balance to strike. I know none of us has a guarantee on life, but we’re also saving like crazy so we can both live our dream of working from home together in the (hopefully not too far off) future.

    I think I’m definitely going to consider this the next time I’m staying late at the office on a Friday evening, though…

  92. La BellaDonna says 07 April 2009 at 14:08

    I will read this in-depth when I can do so properly – and when I can do it without getting dreadfully upset. This is a MAJOR issue in my life, with someone who regards money earned as a marker of success; I, on the other hand, can think only of time that has slipped irreparably, irreclaimably by, never to return. All the money he earns cannot buy back a single day not spent together, and it breaks my heart.

  93. Associate Money says 07 April 2009 at 17:30

    Most families these days require duo income, so when both parties return from work, there is only about 3-4 hours of quality time to spend with each other and our kids. Unfortunately, that is pretty hectic too if we include the house work to be done.

    You have written a touching article and timely too as most of us are so engrossed with earning money and becoming financially secure and forgotten about the value of time. We no longer take time out to appreciate the people we hold dear in our heart.

  94. Nic says 07 April 2009 at 17:37
    You know, reading this story reminded me of something that happened while I was still in high school.
    A girl in my class, she would always go home to an empty house with her parents not showing up until dinner time and then leaving again to do their sociable things. Her parents always told her that they would spend more time with her after they retired.
    A few months into our school year, her father died while jogging. Never had time to spend properly with his daughter…
  95. Joey says 07 April 2009 at 18:06

    I’ve been reading your blog for the past few weeks, and these are the kinds of entries that keep me coming back. In the end, money’s for security, but life’s for relationships. Enough time can replenish any debt, but no amount of money can buy back lost time.

  96. Kristy @ Master Your Card says 07 April 2009 at 19:48

    My heart dropped the minute I got to the part where Jonathan’s wife died. How incredibly sad!

    But, his story does illustrate your point completely. It’s so hard to make that choice. Ultimately, you’d like to say you’d choose your friends and family over the money, but sometimes you feel as though the work responsibilities are overbearing and you just need to focus on that.

    It’s been my personal mission to try and find a balance for the last year – honestly, since I read Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. When my time comes, I want to remember that I lived, not that I worked every day for 12 hours or more. But, that balance has been elusive. I need money to pay the bills, I need money to enjoy the things I do, I need money to take my trips to L.A. for my writing. It all comes back to money.

    So, here’s my question. I know I need to find the balance. How do you make yourself do it?

  97. Ben says 07 April 2009 at 22:59

    Thanks for sharing the sad wake-up call. I’ve been thinking a lot about the time vs money topic this week. Nothing as dire as Johnathon, just figuring how to make the best use of the time I have:

    “Our time in this world is finite so we have to spend it wisely.”

    “What I’ve learned is that although you do save money when you do everything yourself, you are instead spending another equally valuable resource, your time.”

  98. David says 08 April 2009 at 14:45

    Nickelback release the song, “If Today Was Your Last Day,” on 10/11/08. It was written by Chad Kroeger from Nickelback. I thought that these simple lyrics captured the sentiment of JD’s post quite well:

    If Today Was Your Last Day Lyrics

    My best friend gave me the best advice
    He said each day’s a gift and not a given right
    Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
    And try to take the path less traveled by
    That first step you take is the longest stride

    If today was your last day
    and tomorrow was too late
    Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
    Would you live each moment like your last?
    Leave old pictures in the past
    Donate every dime you have?
    If today was your last day

    Against the grain should be a way of life
    What’s worth the prize is always worth the fight
    Every second counts ’cause there’s no second try
    So live like you’ll never live it twice
    Don’t take the free ride in your own life

    If today was your last day
    and tomorrow was too late
    Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
    Would you live each moment like your last?
    Leave old pictures in the past
    Donate every dime you have?
    Would you call old friends you never see?
    Reminisce of memories
    Would you forgive your enemies?
    Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?
    Swear up and down to God above
    That you finally fall in love
    If today was your last day

    If today was your last day
    Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
    You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars
    Regardless of who you are
    So do whatever it takes
    ‘Cause you can’t rewind a moment in this life
    Let nothin’ stand in your way
    Cause the hands of time are never on your side

    If today was your last day
    and tomorrow was too late
    Could you say goodbye to yesterday?

    Would you live each moment like your last?
    Leave old pictures in the past
    Donate every dime you have?
    Would you call old friends you never see?
    Reminisce of memories
    Would you forgive your enemies?
    Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?
    Swear up and down to God above
    That you finally fall in love
    If today was your last day

  99. Becky@FamilyandFinances says 08 April 2009 at 18:56


  100. Faith says 13 April 2009 at 18:56

    Thank you for sharing this story. It really, really touched me.

  101. Claire says 14 April 2009 at 10:32

    Excellent post, JD. I have been feeling for awhile that I am spending too much time worrying with $ issues. I’m going to start concentrating on budgeting in time for fun as well as budgeting for our expenses. 🙂

  102. JMK says 27 September 2012 at 12:45

    I constantly struggle with finding balance between when I’ve made enough effort and when I should do more just because I can.

    We have only our mortgage remaining and should have it paid off in about 3 years. We live on ~55-60% of our take home pay. This is a result of a very frugal lifestyle and two good salaries. Unless an unexpected expense comes up which was not included on the annual spending plan, then all excess cash goes on a weekly basis to extra mortgage payments, retirement savings and once a year we let it pile up for a few weeks and take a trip. We don’t feel we are deprived because everything we’ve cut from what our friends/family/coworkers consider normal is stuff that’s unimportant to us. We have opted to keep the annual trip and do it knowing that it results in a ~3yr delay in our early retirement. We’ve decided it’s worthwhile to indulge in our love of travel while our kids are still at home and we’re in good health. Who knows what retirement will bring? Occasionally I toy with getting a PT job on the side, or skipping the trip for one year. So far I haven’t done either. As the lower salary earner (83% of his income) I still make more on my own than some couples we know. Does that automatically mean I’m doing enough? One day I feel like I should get a PT job and put all of it toward our retirement savings so we can retire even earlier. The next day I figure I earn enough, I should be home evenings and weekends while our kids are at home, and we’re still going to retire at 57/60 following the current plan and I should just cut myself some slack. We didn’t get our financial act together and commit to retirement before 65 until about 6 years ago. I can’t change the fact that we got started late, but a PT job now would allow me to accelerate even more the extra mortgage payments and retirement savings which would have the effect of having started this frugal, focus lifestyle earlier. I guess I struggle with giving myself permission to say I’m doing enough and retiring at 57 is the best I can do without missing out on having the life I have now. If getting a PT job would move up retirement to 55, is it worth it the the price I’d pay today? What about 53? When would it be worth it? All good questions, and still no good answers. Maybe the fact that I haven’t picked up a side job after thinking about it for at least 2 years is my answer after all.

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