Money Can’t Buy Time

The average human being will be substantially richer in 50 years, just as the average American today has a real income three times what it was in 1955. But the average human being will not have much more time in 50 years than today; and life expectancy has increased by only 10 percent in the U.S. since 1955, so for most people time has become relatively scarce compared to money.

Not surprisingly, we feel more stressed for time than ever before — the opportunity cost of time has risen compared to the opportunity cost of goods. In fact, people with higher incomes usually express more time stress than those with lower incomes.

It’s not only that higher-income people typically work more hours per week; even those who don’t work at all express greater feelings of being rushed than do poorer people. The reason is that it takes time to spend money and consume goods — you can’t inject a vacation in Provence into your bloodstream — you have to go there, lie on the beach at St. Tropez, go to the Picasso museum in Antibes, and tour the perfume factories of Grasse.

So the next time you hear a wealthy person complaining about having no time, tell him/her that there’s a simple alternative — give away money. Of course, a person who does that will then complain that his/her income is insufficient. Time or money: one or the other is always relatively scarce and always generates complaints!

(See full paper here.)

Sylvia Moestl Vasilk

In response to #8, about all part-time jobs being blue collar - they're not. I've worked 3 days a week doing database programming for 4 years, since my first son was born. It's important to have a high demand skill, and be very good at it. That way potential employers are willing to be flexible.

SPC Paul Thornton, MBA

I agree on all points, and am ecstatic that I'm the FIRST POSTER IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.



as my education and experience is process efficiency and quality I've always successfully taught:

You can't "save" time, you can only spent it more wisely.

Personally that means doing whatever it takes to do my job in the hours of 8 AM to 5 PM, and spending the rest of the time enjoying my family and hobbies.


I wonder if you have read any of the recent articles about Ray Kurzweil who discusses the power of exponential growth in technology. I have seen several presentations and articles about why if you look back in history, these growth patterns are hard to predict because they start off so slowly and take a while to grow, but once they do, its incredibly fast. He suggests that within the next 50 years we will infact have a great deal more time to enjoy.


This war will be waged until the end of time.


There are, however, other things you can inject into your bloodstream to make you feel better about the whole situation, if you are wealthy enough to afford them.


Further to my last comment. According to some sources average real wages in the US have actually decreased over the last 50 years.


It can't buy happiness either. And lets be sure, that the things money can buy (house, car, material things) do not equate to happiness.

But that said, there is a saying in Hindu philosophy that one should not give money or knowledge without being asked ... so as not to lower the value in the eyes of the receiver.

If this were followed seriously, then the happiness would double: because you were able to give when asked and you are left with less money (which, by definition, seems to diminish stress).


Firstly can I just point out that the USA makes up approximately 5% of the world population of 'Human Beings'. - Your choice of words, not mine.

So even if there was a 3x increase in real wages in the USA over the last 50 years it doesn't necessarily follow that there was a simlar increase worldwide or for the average 'Human Being'.

Secondly this 3x increase over 50 years seems a very controversial statement to say the least!

Absurd article based on rubbish assumptions and generalisations...

Alex D

Time is a precious commodity and it is often the wealthy, who after years of chasing the all mighty buck, who turn to Botox, silicone, hair implants and Human Growth Hormone as they try to recapture their youth. The financially challenged just enjoy whats around them with no regrets. Great Post!

Alex ~D~


Chris S.

Another reason for feeling a "lack of time" is that with the (historically) falling prices of food and consumer goods, there are not only more goods and activities available to fill our time, but our increased wealth allows us to select form a broader range of those goods and activities.

Driven by a desire to "do it all", we try to see how many of those options we can indulge in and experience. No wonder we feel rushed.

I limit my interests outside work to just a few activities / hobbies. Focusing on just a few things allows me to become better at each one, even if it requires me to forego pursuits I would otherwise find quite enjoyable.

But I am much more relaxed.

Wouter Lievens

Nice post... but your last paragraph contradicts the title. You can buy time if you're willing (and able!) to settle with less income.


We never "have" time and we always "have" time..

In 50 years the average family will value more time with family and friends and learn better ways to balance work and private life

Balance is the key to wealth + health

Establishing priorities is a key factor to successful time management (I hate that term)

In 50 years people will be more aware of how valuable other things are (other than money/consumption that is)this realization will come from the horrendous things that will happen (environmentally speaking)

In 50 years I will be dead..(statisticaly speaking) or 80...

being rich or happy has nothing to do with money..(ok, maybe a little)..


Perhaps it will be more enlightening to look at the concept of time from a different perspective. I would recommend the following book to examine our own (Western industrialized) conception of time.

On a larger scale, you can view economic time in terms of Kondratieff cycles or even in scientific terms using Einstein's theory of relativity. There is no arguing that we are better off today compared to 50 or 100 years ago. The problem we are faced with now is the multiplicity of choices we have.

chris stolz

May I respectfully disagree?

a) In 50 years, post peak oil, we will all be substantially poorer than we are now, because fossil fuels generate the energy which drives most of modern society.

b) Real growth in innovation--outside of the computer realm-- has slowed significantly. Declining rates of return on investment in all technological types are historical fact (the work of Joseph Tainter is worth looking at for more on this point). Real growth in innovation in computing is slowing; as complexity of systems rises, meaningful changes become fewer.

So, in fifty years, the *opposite* will likely be the case-- there will be fewer people, and those few will have a lot less money (or possessions) and a lot more free time.


you can inject heroine in your blood...

Kwan Soo

I feel how rich or poor you are is a matter of your perception of your financial state. True, you do have to be realistic and calculate how much you have to spend a year. I have friends who are clearly richer than me who feel they cannot afford to do what I do. I admit I do not fly around in my private jet or stay only in 4-star hotels. But I have lots fun without short changing myself.
Incidentally the Picasso Museum at the Antibes is still closed for renovation. The beaches at St. Tropez may be warmer now.


SPC Paul Thornton, MBA: comments are delayed because of moderation, IIRC, so you can't assume you would be first based on what you see...


3x is a slight exaggeration, gdp per capita has only increased 2.77 and with income skewing I doubt most have seen more than 2x.

dan p

if you've seen the movie Total Recall, you'd know it is possible to inject a vacation! Unless the movie lied...