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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.)