Between 2 kids, 2 busy practices, exercise, continuing medical education and the prairie-dog style pop-up items that keep my to-do list at around 10-15 long, I have about 10 discretionary hours per week. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, these are preciousssssssss to me. They are fungible like money. I can do, well, whatever I want with them. I choose luxury.Inspired by a recent post on virtual assistants from Passive Income MD, I started thinking about how much money I would pay to keep my few weekly discretionary hours. I don’t really have a number, but it would be in the several hundred dollars per hour, if not more. These are the hours that prevent burnout, keep my enjoying family and maintain my work-life balance.
Normally, I go downstairs and play guitar for about a hour before bed. I play acoustic blues because I can play a full song without a band and I’m from Louisiana, birthplace of many bluemen and women. I just can’t get enough of the life songs written and performed by people who had it a hell of a lot harder than me.
I go to bed around 9 to get enough sleep to support my running habit.
What I could do that might be considered more “productive”?
- Work from home and have less stressful days
- Start a business and do some things on that
- Own some real estate do some things on that
- Travel hack credit cards
- Search for the absolute best deals on little things we buy
- Search for the absolute best deals on big things we buy
- Search for a new house, obsessing over price per sq ft
- Find cheaper recipes for things we eat often
- Moonlight or do locums
- Have another kid : )
Many of these things would lead to immediate money and many would/could eventually lead to lots on money. I say no to all of the above. Why? I don’t find the trade-off between these valuable hours worth almost any amount of money they would bring, and I do mean any.
I figure with enough time not spent on these productive tasks, I could be costing myself tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of my life by keeping the 10 precious hours to myself. Those are some expensive guitar lessons I give myself.
So what? I figure I’ve completed just under half my trips around the sun and my oldest daughter is looking more like a young lady these day, it’s time to make time.
I wasn’t always this way. About 7-8 years ago a good friend who works for GE as a PhD propulsion engineer (rocket scientist) called me and told me he gave his boss a firm “No” when asked to conduct wind tunnel experiments in the middle of the night. He was offered substantially more money. At the time, he had been working for a few years and I was coming to the end of my residency I thought he was crazy for turning down a trade of his time for GE money.
I think about that old conversation a lot these days and how I’ve changed. I understand his decision. Point is: Being financially independent helps keep me from trading my time for money I don’t need.
Maybe it’s being a Radiation Oncologist and facing mortality at work? Perhaps it’s all those blues I listen to? Or maybe I am finally reaching a point where I have enough money/stuff……
As a corollary, what I got to thinking though was that trading these hours for absolutely nothing is perhaps the ultimate luxury. Extending that logic, perhaps retirement is a luxury and therefore, early retirement is a great luxury. Think of all those millions of dollars at 4-5% real return that the early retiree is missing out on. Put that way, early retirement is perhaps the most expensive and luxurious thing one can do!
What do you think? Got some precious hours or do you squeeze every drop of productivity from that lemon?