Is the Stuff You Buy Over 20 Years Worth 40,000 Hours of Time?

I really didn’t feel like writing about money after the events of this past week. It felt hollow.

But there has been a big question on my mind for a while about this stuff we call money. Maybe this is as good a time as any for me to see if I can make sense of it by sharing it with you. Think of it as a therapy session for me. You can send me a bill at the end!

This stuff we call money is just a medium of exchange. We use it to trade. The biggest trade in the world is the one where each of us swaps a bit of our lives, in the form of time, for money, in the form of wages.

The equation looks like this:

[Life] = [Money]

Then we take that money, and we trade it for what I am going to call stuff. That can be food, bills, unnecessary plastic crap and experience with loved ones. Beyond funding the necessities of life, I’m assuming that we buy stuff because we think it will add value to our lives. We believe all this stuff will make us happy.

So back to the equation I’m building. If life equals time, and time equals money, and money equals stuff, we can reduce that equation down to:

[Life] = [Stuff]

For example, let’s assume I’ve worked 40 hours a week over 50 weeks a year for the last 20 years. I’ve traded 40,000 hours of my life for all the stuff I have bought (including experiences).

The question that won’t leave me alone is this: Was it a fair trade? On one side of the trade, I have 40,000 hours of my life.

On the other, there is all the stuff I have bought in the last 20 years.

Do those two things equal each other?

As instructive as it can be to look back, the real power of a question like this one is using it as a guide going forward. If I’m going to spend another 40,000 hours of my life over the next 20 years, what should I spend it on?

How can I make sure that the micro-trades I’m making with each minute, add up to a macro-trade that will make me proud?

Now doesn’t feel like the time for answers, and the reality is I don’t have the answers. I’m just humbly suggesting that we think about the question of how we spend (and trade) our time in this particular way.

This article was written by Carl Richards from The New York Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.