Time or Money? Your Answer May Determine Your Happiness

July 2, 2019
What do you do with your time? Are you really using it wisely? What do you think your time is worth? These are questions that we answer often with our behavior but don't reflect upon.

Which do you think makes you happier: time or money? Author Marc Levy, in his novel, If Only It Were True, answers that question in a curious way. In the book, the author proposes a curious thought experiment. Imagine that you have a bank account which gives you $86,400 every morning when you wake up. Whatever you don’t use up during the day gets taken back. Question: what would you do with the money?

At some point, the account will stop replenishing itself. You don’t know when it’ll happen, there’ll be no notice or warning. So what would you do? Would you spend the money every day? I’m positive that everyone would take advantage of that incredible opportunity if it came along.

Well, it turns out that every one of us here on Earth does have an account like that. We’re all clients of that bank from the moment we’re born. The bank is called life and the savings account is your time. The first second of the day, the bank deposits 86,400 seconds into your account that you can spend in the next 24 hours. Every night, whatever is leftover will be erased. Your balance goes back to zero.

You can’t carry your balance over to the next day. There’s no going back. You can invest your time in what makes you the happiest: family, success, friends, hobbies, etc. Just remember, you only have one life. The important thing isn’t how much time you have but how you spend it.

A happy woman in a field.

Does Time or Money Make You Happier?

If you could choose between a shorter work day and more personal time or a long workday with a better salary which would you choose? Do you want more time with family and friends or do you prefer to be more financially stable?

This question was the inspiration for a research study published in the academic journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Researchers asked 4500 people in the United States if time or money was more important for happiness. 64% said that they preferred to have more money. Nevertheless, the study showed that those who valued time over money tended to be more satisfied with their lives, which translates to greater happiness.

Spending free time doing things that you enjoy gives you a much higher level of satisfaction in the long-term. Data shows that investing in experiences makes you much happier than investing in material things. 

Humans are social creatures. You live for and feed off of your relationships, social life, laughter with friends, time with your significant other and family, and doing what you love most. It’s easy to forget that your time will run out. The day will come when you don’t have any left, and unfortunately, you can’t know when that’ll happen. You convince yourself that you’ll be around forever and you miss opportunities to invest those seconds. Time passes, life happens. Make sure you live it!

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

-William Penn-

Two friends hugging each other.

The Older You Get, The More You Value Time

In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, researchers discovered that valuing time over money is associated with higher levels of happiness. That’s especially true when getting more money means working longer hours. The study also shows that, as you age, time becomes a bigger priority.

As time passes, you’re more aware of how valuable it is. Money, on the other hand, becomes less and less valuable. Time is something you can’t get back. It belongs to you and you’re the only one who can decide how to invest it. Don’t let others decide how you use it and don’t let it slip through your fingers. Live your life in such a way that you won’t look back with regret. If you want to be happier, spend your time wisely and take full advantage of the 86,400 seconds you have every day.