WHEN is it justified to reverse a well-known adage? Perhaps when doing so unveils steps to improve and expand our lives.
One down, fifty-one to go! In case you’re wondering, I’m counting down the weeks we have left in 2018. We’ve used up 1.9 per cent of this year. I began writing this column on New Year’s Day to help you gain a better handle on both your money and your time on Jan 7 (assuming you first read this particular column on the day it’s published).
While its title is Money is Time, most readers are significantly more familiar with the well-known adage Time is Money. I inverted that more familiar aphorism because of a specific financial planning lesson I wish to share with you:
Life is precious and, against the vast backdrop of cosmic time, life is also short; this is true even if we live beyond our 100th birthday. Most of the people in the world live by a simple, linear economic principle. They trade their time (on the job) for money (income earned actively from said job).
It was this realisation that led the Greek educator and biographer Plutarch, who lived in the first and second centuries AD (46-120), to write: “...time is the most costly outlay.” That appears to be the earliest version of our now common saying ‘time is money’. Plutarch wrote that line while referring to Antiphon, an Athenian political figure who lived in the 5th century BC.
Millennia after Antiphon and Plutarch had turned to dust, in 1748 Benjamin Franklin wrote a short essay titled Advice to a Young Tradesman. You may access it for yourself at https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-03-02-0130. Franklin began his essay with these five potent words: “Remember that TIME is Money.”
Franklin applied this principle so well that although he lived till 84 (a grand old age for the 18th century), he retired from his printing business at 42. After that, he devoted his time to scientific research and public service. He used the second half of his life so effectively he became a co-signatory of the new-born USA’s Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. And in case you didn’t know, it is Benjamin Franklin’s face that graces the globally important US$100 bill!
Old Ben Franklin was able to accomplish a lot with his amazing life largely because he not only understood that time is money but that money — when properly channelled and structured — can buy us time to attend to matters of greater value than merely earning a living. In other words: Money is time!
A fine and more recent example of someone who used money to buy time is best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki. Despite multiple early economic setbacks, Kiyosaki was able to retire at 47 in 1994 (temporarily, as it turned out) because of the large inflow of rental income he had put in place from numerous pieces of investment real estate.
But Kiyosaki grew bored in retirement. He then created (ironically) a Board Game (Cashflow)! In 1997 he co-wrote Rich Dad, Poor Dad with Sharon Lechter, which catapulted him into best-selling superstardom (including two books co-authored in 2006 and 2011 with the eventually White House-bound Donald J. Trump).
Towards financial freedom
The reason I’m fixating on the inverted principle Money is Time is because if we acknowledge that Time is Money early enough in our careers, we’ll then be more likely to use our available time wisely and effectively to work very hard and to work very, very smart. As we do so, if we simultaneously exercise delayed gratification, we’ll spend less than we earn, and save and invest the difference.
If we do that for a long time, we will discover that what begins as a trickle of passive income will inexorably expand to flood-like proportions. When a thin stream of passive income dilates to engorged riverine proportions, it means the fortunate individual’s diversified portfolio of wealth — possibly comprising cash, fixed income (bonds), stocks, unit trusts and investment real estate — sees compounding increases in the flow intensity of different forms of yield: interest or profits, coupons, dividends, distributions and rental.
If you’re able to stay the course through passion, focus, discipline and probably mule-headed stubbornness, then after decades of focused wealth building, when your passive income inflow is equal to or greater than your regular expenses, you will have attained financial freedom!
That’s truly a big deal. Most people never achieve financial freedom because they:
1. Never make it a written core life goal; and
2. Never seek professional help to achieve this desirable outcome.
The relatively few people who manage their finances well enough to attain financial freedom will enjoy the substantial subsequent fruits of their toil and labour. More specifically, they’ll be able to harness the cash gushing from passive sources to ‘buy’ time that they may then use to spend with their loved ones and invest on meaningful activities that can expand their personal circle of influence.
Eventually, when our passive income supersedes our active income in size, strength and significance, we’ll realise Money is indeed Time because that’s what it buys us. Therefore, as we’ve already expended 1.9 per cent of this year, I hope you use the 98.1 per cent we have left of 2018 to move closer to financial freedom.
© 2018 Rajen Devadason