I buy $500 per hour guitar lessons: Discretionary time vs money

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.

Check out Mr. Son House and his National Resonator Guitar play Death Letter Blues.

Father of the Delta Blues

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?

8 Replies to “I buy $500 per hour guitar lessons: Discretionary time vs money”

  1. I think Warren Buffett’s lifestyle is awesome. He spends most of the day reading apparently! I would add running into my day as you have though.

    I love my days when I just ignore my to do list.

    1. The Seer of Omaha has it figured out. Between him and John Bogle there is a lot to learn about having enough money.

      What I learning is that my to do list will never be complete until I die. Such is being ambitious (but not overly).

      Also, thanks for the tip via email of Feedly. I can follow you now!

  2. “prairie-dog style pop-up items” – haha yes! There are so many of these.

    I like to think of being productive as not only doing activities that generate income or save money, but also those that keep me healthy (mentally or physically), help others, or even just lead to a greater level of happiness in my life.

    1. Hi Sylvie,
      Your classification of these healthy activities as productive is a good work around for us restless types that cant stand not to be doing something productive. I struggle with this, as I’m sure others do. I usually define productive as making money, advancing career, ie moving forward all the time. My parents use to tell me “you need to learn how to sit still or you’ll go crazy”. They were right. Just call what you are doing productive and problem solved! So now I am productive spending time with kids, writing this blog, playing guitar or even binge watching Netflix if that’s what I need to stay mentally healthy. Thanks for the creative comment.
      ~ GLMD

  3. I hate to put a dollar amount on my time, although I realize it’s a popular notion. For me, though, I don’t want to be continually asking myself if what I’m doing is a valuable use of my time. Like you say, it’s great to be able to enjoy that free time, and if I thought of it in terms of opportunity cost, I would probably enjoy my free time less. In this case, I think ignorance truly is blissful.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  4. PoF,
    I’m with you that thinking about it takes away from the point of enjoying it in the first place. I guess thinking about time vs money is something I do occasionally, maybe every few months. I re-evaluate as something comes up that I could spend my time on differently and also see if I’m stagnating in using the free time I have. Housekeeping.
    ~GLMD

  5. My taxes used to take me weeks to finish. It would be up to the last day I’d be farting around tying to shave another $50 off that bugger. I’d have K-1 filings and investment bla bla bla strewn all over the place and my constant refrain: “where the F is that schedule D!”

    This is my first year filing as a retired person. I was done on Feb 14th and it took 3 hours stem to stern and I even got a couple thousand back. The difference? No distraction. I specifically told myself: “you have no excuse to become distracted because you have nothing else you need to do” and so I didn’t become distracted. This is the difference between the “Human Doing” my work life required of me, and the “Human Being” my retired life requires of me.

    Here’s a song for you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e7DKQuRX9A

    This song was actually written about Shorty Medlocke, Ricky Medlocke’s Grandpa, written in the 70’s. The blues are timeless

    1. Curtis Lowe was the finest picker to ever play the blues. This song was on my study playlist for years. Great cover too, thanks for that. I love slide and that guy has a good touch.

      Your old tax sitch sounds awful. Human Doing vs Being, I like that. The Doing sounds like the mundane mandatory motions we go through, many self inflicted. I am content losing money to keep my life simple, well to a degree. That’s the reason I don’t do crowdfunding real estate, late K1. Plus the tax drag in The high brackets.

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