Hacking the 3 Stages of Life

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.

3 stages of lifeOf 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:

  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 no time, money, and energy
  3. 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:

  1. give up work for more time and energy (work less)
  2. 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.

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