Dad, Why Do People Say That Time is Money?

“Dad, why do people say time is money?”  I, too, asked the same question when I was younger. 

The better question might be, “What is money?”  Seriously, what is money?

I've often heard answers, such as that it's the thing you can use to get what you want, or that it's what you pay bills with, or that it's what you buy the things you need with, but is that really true?

The other day, I was talking to some young children about this.  It was an interesting conversation.  Kids have a lot of ideas about a lot of things, including money.  Many kids don't make the connection between work and money.  They know their parents go somewhere to do something, but to them, while they haven't necessarily thought it through, they likely have a vague sense that it's grown up play or something like that.

Many children think that money is something the bank gives grownups!  When I told them that money means time, they were shocked.  But sadly, many adults don't get this.  Perhaps at least part of the problem, today, is the lottery mentality that is so prevalent in our western society.  A lot of people, maybe even the majority, dream of winning the lottery and suddenly being rich.  The reality is, you have a much, much better chance of being struck by lightning.

When I told them money represents time, they said, “No! No! Money is what you buy things with!”

Let's go back to the kids I was chatting with.  When I told them money represents time,   they said, “No!  No!  Money is what you buy things with!”

I told them that it may look like that, but the reality is that you buy things with time.  You trade your time for a cart full of groceries from the store.  You trade your time for the gasoline you put into your car.  You trade time for a trip to Disneyland.  Money is nothing more than a convenient way to trade your time for goods or services.

The kids thought that was interesting, but still protested a bit.  I then asked if they thought their mother could trade a few minutes looking after the cash register for a tank of gas in her car.  They thought about it a bit and decided, yes, that was a possibility... But what if the people with the gas didn't need her to do that work?

This is where the idea of money comes in.  It represents the time you have put in at your place of work so that you can trade it for something you need at another place where you don't work.

There is no question that time is valuable, but so many people cheapen the value of their time by wasting their money (time) on useless things (like lottery tickets).  When you begin to realize that time is money, or better, that money represents time, something every human being only has so much of, it might make you decide to be a bit more careful of how you handle your money.

After all, if you're actually spending a part of your life when you casually buy something you really don't need, isn't that worth thinking about a bit more carefully?