I think we can all agree that having time, money, and energy are good things to have (and the more, the better). Well, there’s a wise old adage about the 3 stages of life as it relates to time, energy, and money that is just as telling now as ever:
1. In your child/teen-age (pre-work) years: you have time and energy, but no money
2. In your working age years: you have money & energy, but no time
3. In your old age (post-work) years: you have time and money, but no energy
I’d prefer swapping in “health” for “energy”, as it’s more inclusive, but you get the point.
The brilliance in this quote (of unknown origin) is the implicit cruel irony that we fall short in one of these three essential areas that we strive for at any given stage of life. Having money and energy is great, but if you have no time to enjoy them? The same could be said for money and time, which lose their luster if you don’t have the energy to enjoy them. Yet, we work our asses off for the majority of our lives in the pursuit of more money, never really stopping to enjoy it.
Of course, the reality these days is that many do not have money at any of the 3 stages of life, which points to this being a many decades old proverb. Sure, those in working age years may have a decent income, but with a 5% personal savings rate, very few are achieving a sizable net worth and true wealth. And if millennials/gen X’ers aren’t careful, they won’t have money in their post-work years either, as they will be subsisting off of Social Security, with no pension plans or retirement savings to help them financially thrive.
And even though many in their working age years have energy, isn’t just about every ounce of that energy going towards work, with whatever tiny bit left over being dedicated to chores and other life basics? If we are working, we’re often overworked.
Therefore, an updated modern version of this adage would more accurately be:
- In your child/teen-age (pre-work) years: you have time and energy, but no money
- In your working age years: you have no time, money, and energy
- In your old age (post-work) years: you have time, but no money and energy
No wonder so many of us think fondly upon our childhoods…
What if you could hack the three stages?
I doubt there are many pre working-age readers of this site, and even if there were, I would not advise that they trade their time and energy for money. More candy, toys, clothes, and video games would have been nice, but I was pretty damn happy with the limited amounts I did have and all of the time and energy I had to enjoy them.
Let’s focus on the working age years. The sad part in the modern version (where all three elements are at a minimum for many) is that the working age years are typically the longest stage of life. In order to get more of these elements, one has 2 main options:
- give up work for more time and energy (work less)
- give up time and energy for more money (work more)
There is, however, one major hack that can change everything: saving more of your money. And from that, you can generate many mini-hacks to accelerate the process, i.e.:
- wiping out debt, creating even more positive cash flow
- investing your savings, and enjoying the fruits of compound investment returns
- take more risks, such as starting your own business, to boost your income and savings even further
And if you can accelerate things enough, you have the potential to reach financial independence and eliminate the need to work for income altogether. Any work you do voluntarily take on could be energy-giving passion work, work that you would do even if there was no income attached to it.
If you can get there, you’d tear both adages up into pieces by achieving the rare trifecta of time, money, and energy, with decades left to enjoy all 3.
If that’s not worth striving for, I don’t know what is.
Great post. Everthing about time, energy and money is true. Life would be so much more fulfilling if we didn’t have to go to work everyday!
Yes and no. I’m not anti-work. In fact, I think most people need to stay busy to have satisfied lives. But flexibility in what we do with our time (albeit passion work, volunteering, etc.) is great for the soul, in my opinion.
I enjoy reading your blog and have taken money of your advice to heart, slowly paying off student debt and making my way to financial independence and early retirement. I understand that to retire early, one must invest enough money so that they can live off of the monthly interest. What I realize that many supporters of early retirement have failed to address are large medical bills that one accumulates when they reach a certain age. We can use a concrete scenario to make things more simple to understand. At 78 year old, you slip on water your kitchen floor and require surgery to replace your hip in order to fix it. After your 3 day hospitalization, you are admitted to a skilled nursing facility to strengthen your hip for safe discharge home. After 3 months of staying at the skilled nursing facility, you are then discharged home and require additional home health to safely move around your home. Insurance will take up a good chunk of the tab but you will almost always have a portion that you have to pay. The interest that you live off of from your investment is now no longer enough to live on and pay your debt. Your emergency money for 6 months may not be enough to cover your medical bills. If I am retired and no longer have a paycheck, where do I now get money to pay off my new and large medical bill?
Thank you very much for your time.
At 78, you’d be eligible for Medicare, thank goodness.
You raise an important issue here, a great question worth considering and I’m curious as well. While it is true one may qualify for Medicare at this lifestage … it may not provide for the highest quality of care. There are HSA accounts, life insurance, long-term care coverage etc. but it would be helpful to know the best possible financial planning vehicle to set aside funds for unpredictable healthcare costs so that you know you have access to quality care. The healthcare industry continues to experience many changes with new legislations. Costs and coverage through Medicaid can’t be guaranteed, for example podiatrists where recently excluded. I mean the foot and ankle provide mobility and it’s quite important.