Is Your Smartphone Stopping You from Becoming a Millionaire?

What you are really giving up by wasting 3 hours a day on your phone like the average American during your working life.

Tyler Harris
Oct 18 · 6 min read
Man zoning out looking at a smartphone
Man zoning out looking at a smartphone
Photo by Eddy Billard on Unsplash

Introduction

To many people, the idea of getting rid of their smartphone seems preposterous. Well, I tried the idea of not using a smartphone, and it turns out that he is completely right about every point he makes here.

Over the last couple years, I have transitioned my life to be independent of my smartphone. I even went so far as to buy a GPS unit so I would not have to even use the phone for driving directions. I got my text and phone communications routed through a web-based platform to avoid the phone. I went cold turkey on social media. I turned off my notifications. The only thing I use it for is a hot spot in a pinch when I need to work on the road with my laptop without readily available, secure Wi-Fi and will soon be getting a mobile pay-as-I-go dedicated hot spot device to finally get rid of the phone when it breaks for good.

Personally, I don’t know about you, but it’s super annoying to try to talk to someone when all they do is check their phone the whole time a conversation is trying to happen. It’s pretty clear that they value your time at 0, and a very high percentage of “important” notifications that need their immediate attention are a bunch of junk that doesn’t matter from people not making their lives any better.

Over all time frames, my productivity level and the size of my bank account are inversely proportional to the time wasted staring at a smartphone screen paying attention to people who do not value their time and do not add value to my life, just like Anton said would happen.

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true. Let’s explore this idea and figure out the real story about whether or not your phone is keeping you from becoming rich.

The Data

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in the US earned a wage of $24.82 per hour as of March 2020 [4]. For our purposes and easy math, I am going to round this to saying that the average person in the US earns $25 per hour. Fair enough, right?

Next, let’s break down the average person’s time spent each day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people work roughly 8 hours per day with some types of people working a little more and others a little less [5]. For a back-of-the-napkin number, 8 hours a day of work is pretty close.

We will call it 2.25 hours per day that the average person spends on “household activities” like cooking, cleaning, mowing the yard, etc. [5]. On average, women spend 2.5 hours and men spend 1.9 hours, so 2.25 hours is a reasonable middle ground [5].

People with children spend between 1 and 3 hours a day providing child care, and we can all understand that everybody’s number is a little different here [5].

Here’s the kicker for our project:

The average American spends 4.9–5.5 hours on leisure activities, with 2.8 hours per day of that just being watching TV [5].

Of course, everyone is a little different, but I find it important to corroborate data sources. I will give people the benefit of the doubt and say that 2 hours of their leisure is something like talking with friends, sports, or something like that not involving being a zombie in front of a screen. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reputable market research are saying the same thing here.

The average American is spending about 3 hours every day on junk that doesn’t matter on their phone or TV [3][5].

The only major part of someone’s day that is left is sleep. Depending on a few variables, you’re getting 6–8 hours of sleep a night, which aligns with the findings of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention [6].

Opportunity Cost of the Smartphone

The average American values the time they spend doing nothing on their phone at $525 per week, which is a little over $27,000 per year using the numbers above [1][2][3][4][5].

This is going off of people wasting 3 hours a day every single day when they value their time at $25 per hour. Assuming the average person works 40 hours per week for 50 weeks (holidays/vacation/sick days/etc.), $50,000 is a pretty reasonable figure for the average salary from a job in the US [2][3][4][5].

The $27,000 figure is saying that rather than work 8 hours a day and be normal, work 8 hours at your job as normal and 3 hours on a side hustle during the time you would be zoning out on your phone anyway along with 6 hours total between Saturday and Sunday. That still leaves time to spend a couple hours doing other leisure activities with the family, doing work at home, and sleeping during the week as well as life on the weekends.

Compounding Effect

Next, let’s assume that the interest rate that you get paid on that money yearly is 6.8%, which is the interest rate you would have to pay for the highest tier of student loans [7].

Finally, let’s assume you have a 30 year time horizon, which is a common and perfectly reasonable investment assumption.

Under these conditions, you could have earned a whopping $1,474,885.94 over 30 years [8].

I recommend checking out the calculator on Investor.gov to look at compound interest and play around with the numbers [8]. Experiment with the interest rate being 10%, which will be worth $2,729,151.37 in 30 years [8]. Experiment with the amount you add monthly, time horizon, etc. to get as many answers as you want to be satisfied that what I am saying makes sense.

Conclusion

Again, none of this has anything to do with income from your primary job, other savings, a 401k with a company match, an IRA, or anything like that. This is purely conservatively saving and investing money earned from time that would have otherwise been wasted.

I hope that this has inspired you to give a serious look at your smartphone habits and evaluate whether the memes and lulz are worth being a millionaire 20 or 30 years down the line.

References

[1] A. Kreil. Ditch the Smart Phone (2018). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N8XTUUGYhc&t=62s

[2] Pew Research. Mobile Fact Sheet (2019). https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/

[3] Y. Wurmser. US Time Spent with Mobile 2019: Smartphones Gain Minutes, but New Challengers Emerge (2019). https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-time-spent-with-mobile-2019

[4] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compensation costs in private industry averaged $35.34 per hour worked in March 2020 (2020). https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/compensation-costs-in-private-industry-averaged-35-point-34-per-hour-worked-in-march-2020.htm

[5] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. American Time Use Survey Summary (2020). https://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm

[6]. U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep: A good night’s sleep is critical for good health (2016). https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

[7] U.S. Department of Education. Understand how interest is calculated and what fees are associated with your federal student loan (2020). https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans/interest-rates

[8] U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Compound Interest Calculator (2020). https://www.investor.gov/financial-tools-calculators/calculators/compound-interest-calculator

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Tyler Harris

Written by

I write about technology and business. Working on a PhD in IT. Have a MS in IT & a BS in Economics with CompTIA Security+, Network+, and A+ certifications.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Tyler Harris

Written by

I write about technology and business. Working on a PhD in IT. Have a MS in IT & a BS in Economics with CompTIA Security+, Network+, and A+ certifications.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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