How to Balance Time and Money

Posted on Posted in Finances

When I was younger, most Americans took the future seriously.  Now, it seems like people are living for today and neglecting the future.  Some people spend more time planning vacations than for their retirement.  The personal savings rate has risen back up from its low-point of this decade, but it’s still less than half of what it was in the 1970s.

Why Balance Matters

My 2000 Ford F-150 XL
For now, the F-150 is my RV

I was talking with my uncle out in the desert last month and he asked me why I hadn’t bought a motor home yet.  I told him that I was saving up and I was a couple years away from getting the motor home I really wanted.  He told me that I need to think more about the present and not be so caught up with the future.  My response was that I keep a balance in my life and it’s important for me to do both.

People often focus on one aspect with money, but I believe all three time-frames are essential.  You can’t forsake the past, the present or the future.  Sure, someone may get run over by a bus and never enjoy their hard-earned savings.  But, they are way more likely to retire broke and struggle through retirement because they didn’t save for the future.  Balance is the key to life and money.  Whenever someone loses this balance, some aspect of their life will usually suffer.

Past, Present & Future

  • Past – Debts & Mortgage
  • Present – Bills & Spending
  • Future – Savings & Investments


I told my uncle that I live comfortably on 70% of my income right now, while I save 30% for the future.  My actual breakdown is probably closer to 20% past, 50% present and 30% future.  When my mortgage is paid off, I will probably reallocate to 60% present and 40% future, depending on my income.  Since I’m used to living like this, I will be able to retire on a fraction of my current income, depending on inflation.  In any case, I think it’s important to maintain a healthy balance.

What is your time & money balance?

Why Time Isn’t Money

There is an old saying that “Time is Money”, but I don’t agree with this.  Sure, you can trade your time for money, but it’s not so easy to trade your money back for time.  The truth is that money comes and goes in our lives, but we can never recover lost time.  So, it’s not an equal trade, nor is one interchangeable for the other.  Each has to be managed carefully so they don’t create a scarcity of the other.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I traded away too much of my time for money.  I skipped vacations, worked weekends, had a side-business and went to night school.  Yes, I got ahead financially, but it came at a high cost to me personally.  On my son’s 9th birthday I realized he was half grown up and that precious time with my kids was quickly slipping away.  I made some career changes to increase my income and restore the time balance in my life.  Now that my kids are both grown, I’m glad I made that choice.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that life is brief.  Spending all of you precious time chasing dollars is just about as sad as being broke and unable to enjoy your time.  A little balance goes a long way.

“If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting”

Ben Franklin – American Inventor and Patriot

Recommended Reading

Yes, I am Cheap – Top 5 Reasons why Baby Boomers are Screwed
Man vs. Debt – The Scarcity Mindset … Beneficial or Poisonous?
Money Cactus – Why your Actions make you Poor

19 thoughts on “How to Balance Time and Money

    1. Any time Shaun.

      I used to travel a lot for business too. It was great when I was single to see all of those places on the company’s dime. Once I got married, my wife put an end to that. She hated me being gone half of the time, so I found a new job. The guy I used to travel with has been married four times. Family is more important than a job.
      Bret recently posted..Investing in things of Lasting ValueMy Profile

  1. “Why Time Isn’t Money” – and, as you mentioned, you usually aren’t getting back the equivalent time. While you were younger and your kids were younger, if you gave up time, you might get it back by hiring household help when you’re older and your kids have moved out… a fair trade?
    PK recently posted..Sports Gambling and Live MarketsMy Profile

    1. Hey Paul,

      Exchanging time for money is never a fair trade. But, it is a reality of modern life.

      One of the reasons I worked so hard when I was young was so that my wife could stay home with the kids. In my opinion, that was a fair trade. Instead of both of us working 8-5, I worked 60+ hours and she spent time with the kids.

      Now, the kids are grown and the pressure is off, so I work my 40 and go home. I am really lucky with the job I have right now. I’m getting hit up by recruiters, but I don’t want to climb back into the grind. I don’t need the money that badly.
      Bret recently posted..Where Would You Invest a Million Dollars?My Profile

  2. You raise I think not so much a money question as an important philosophy of life question. In our family, my wife fears not having saved enough and so spending her last years of life destitute. Meanwhile, I fear not having lived enough and and so becoming a bitter, frustrated old man. In the end and by compromising, we hope neither of our fears will be fulfilled!
    Kurt recently posted..Handling a Money CrisisMy Profile

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kurt.

      I have experienced both of these fears just by myself. When I was young and had very little money, I decided that I didn’t want to be poor when I was old. Now that I am middle-aged, I am starting to see the time fly by and I am spending more for enjoyment. That’s why I use percentages to ensure I take care of both.

      It sounds like you have each other to keep a balance, which is great. I am certain you will meet your goals together.
      Bret recently posted..Where Would You Invest a Million Dollars?My Profile

  3. You’re right it is all about balance in your life. I value time with my children even though they are grown. I am willing to sacrifice by getting work done early so I can spend my time with them. I am just 5 years away from retiring and in semi retirement teaching school. I live 7 miles from work and have a lot less stress. I am a former CFO and business owner.
    krantcents recently posted..Invest Your Tax Refund or Send It to Me!My Profile

    1. You’ve had a lot of interesting jobs Krant.

      Right now, I work 3 miles from home and it’s awesome. I commuted about 20 miles each way for 25 years. I am also hoping to semi-retire early. Once my house is paid off in about 5 years, that may become a reality. I just have to build the side-income up to a realistic level.
      Bret recently posted..What if Everything you Know about Money is Wrong?My Profile

  4. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. As I get older (and presumably wiser), I tend to think that the super intense, driven pursuit of money can be really misguided in many cases. I’m not recommending that people not be ambitious – rather, it’s important to really take stock of what’s important, and how we want to spend our limited time.

    Money is necessary, and it’s way better to have it than not. But at a certain point, we can shift gears and embrace balance and enjoy all parts of our life.
    Squirrelers recently posted..Keep Learning in Order to Keep Making MoneyMy Profile

  5. I so agree. I have ignored both fixing my financial past AND planning for my financial future for years. But now I am finally on track!

  6. Your uncle is right, we can’t live in the past or in the future as we have no control over them, we need to live in the present and live it to the fullest.
    Coco recently posted..hair regrowthMy Profile

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