Friday, March 18, 2011

Alligators and Poodles

At a recent meeting the presenter made the poignant comment that “time is money.” Wow, never heard that one before. I rolled my eyes and reached for my smart phone to read some emails. If time really equaled money, then I was wasting a bunch of money listening to something that I don’t believe.

In fact, this “over-in-bred-and-over-cooked-capitalism-gone-wild” idiom is something we’ve yet to hear challenged! Apparently we like the way it sounds, so we go along with it blindly. Trying to make time and money equal variables in life is akin to attempting to cross-breed an alligator with a poodle. It can be done, but it’s goofy with no guarantee of the outcome.

I came to this conclusion when I retired. That’s when the realization sets in; you have a pretty good understanding of the amount of money in the bank, but you have only probability assumptions on the quantity of years of life left. And no matter what you can purchase, time is not on the menu.

We all fantasize about the day that we don’t have to work. We dream about long morning sleep-ins, vacations with fewer worries over work, more fishing and the list goes on. The truth of the matter is that all of this is great, yet retirees spend some amount of time planning and taking their nest egg and divide it into various ‘longevity’ scenarios. This math seems to continue and also is a function of the size of one’s nest egg. The smaller the nest egg, the more math, planning and assumptions; and the converse is true.

The key point here is that the variable “time” is not known or predictable beyond a given point. The unknown (yet very impactful) variable of time would be THE single most important piece of information anyone could ever command if they could only know when it was their time to leave this life an pass into eternity. Yep, if we only knew the answer to that salient question, then we could plan out our lives much easier and with potentially less stress, depending on the answer.

Therefore, how then is ‘time equal to money?’

Money is a variable, which we can easily measure and predict to a large degree, based on our jobs, our risk tolerance and our ability to plan ahead (time reference, sorry). The variable ‘time’ is much more elusive. Sure we can extend the probability of extended life by taking care of our bodies, exercising and eating sensibly, but at the end of the day, we really don’t know if an earthquake will shake our world today or if we’ll be hit by a car after a fishing trip.

Isn’t the ‘unpredictability of time’ referred to as life?

Time is the finite source given, in non-equal portions and in an unpredictable manner.

Consider the axiom Time = Money in a mathematical sense:

If time = money, then money also equals time. With time, we can earn money. But how can we earn or even purchase time? We can purchase items, events, programs, diets, seminars, growth hormones, which may increase the probability of extended longevity, but it can never totally guarantee any freak disaster from snatching our lives.
Given that we cannot use money to purchase time, the relationship is an indirect one, thus negating the axiom time = money.

What we do with our time can influence the amount of money earned, yet it fails to meet the acid test of equality. So the next time you hear this phrase, just realize that it’s not a true statement and only points to a deeper need of mankind to want to control something that is probably less than 50% controllable.

And I hope I never see an Allipoodle in any zoo—ever!