Do Time and Money Get Less Valuable the Older You Get?

*This assumes we all live to the average life expectancy age of 79 yrs old (in the US)*

I came across this exercise that Jordan Peterson does with his students (You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/w84uRYq0Uc8?t=5631), but if you don’t want to or don’t have headphones at the moment, I’ll give a brief summary.

He asked his undergraduate students how much time they waste every day. Most of them say roughly 4–6 hours a day. Watching videos, scrolling through social media, procrastinating, and other things. 4–6 hours a day is roughly 25 hours a week, 25 hours a week is roughly 100 hours a month (2.5 full work weeks), which is half a year of work weeks per year.

He then asks what your time is worth. Most students say it’s worth $20/hr, but this is an underestimate if you’re young. It’s more like $50/hr given deferred wages which is about $50,000 per year.

But what stuck out to me is what he said next. “Because you’re young, wasting $50,000 a year is a way bigger catastrophe than it is for me, because I’m not going to live as long.”

Think about that. It assumes that time and money get less valuable the longer you live. Is this true?

Objectively? No. A dollar in an elderly man’s hand isn’t less valuable than a dollar in mine. Neither is my time waiting in a lunch line more valuable than his.

Objectively? No. Personally? Yes.

When I compare my time and money at this moment to someone else’s, they are equal in value. However, when I compare my time and money to myself in the future, they are not equal in value.

Let’s take money as an example. If I take $100 and bury it and check it in 50 years it will have lost value. We call it inflation.

If I take $100 and put it in a savings account (of 2%, compounded annually, for 50 years) it turns into about $269. We call that compounding interest.

Even crazier, If I use $10 to buy a book in 2019 compared to if I use $10 to buy the same book in 2029. The $10 I spent in 2019 was more valuable because it gave me 10 more years to practice the knowledge that I gained from that book. Now we’re getting into the value of time.

Are you still tracking? Ok cool, me neither. I’m just putting this all on paper so I don’t have to have it in my head anymore 🙂

Ok. Time.

The things you learn and the habits you start are more valuable when you are young because they affect more of your life.

If I start a habit of working out 90 days before I die, that habit is not nearly as valuable as if I started the same habit in my 20s. Both take 90 days, but the second one is more valuable because it affects more of my life.

If I learn something in my 20s, like how to cook, sewing, budgeting, how to play chess, or anything else, I’ll know how to do those things for the rest of my life. Compared to if I wait until I’m forced to learn them. Therefore, those habits are more valuable in my early years.

If you want to be even more confused, think about the opposite. If the above is true then that means that the bad habits you start in your younger years are way worse than the ones in your later years.

It’s all about perspective and having the right perspective will change your life. Longterm thinking is crucial the younger you are. Does that mean your thoughts are more valuable the younger you are? Probably not, but I do think learning to think and how to view things correctly can be.

Ok, why did I just type all this out? Because I’d like for everyone to donate to my new cause…It’s because I’m lazy. One of my strongest tendencies is towards passivity.

I would want nothing more than to have zero responsibility in life and just be a golden retriever in a wealthy family’s home. I know deep down that’s not actually what I want, but I still lean towards that mentality on a daily basis and I think I’m not the only one who feels like that.

The other reason is that the people who this matters to most, understand it the least. Your later years can be exponentially better if you stop doing the things that hurt and start doing the things that help, now.

I totally believe your early years are designed for you to gain as much knowledge and as many skill as possible so that your later years are even more impactful.

So I wanted this to be a reminder, no matter your age, that time is only decreasing in value for you. Don’t waste it.