I’ve dedicated the last few years of my writing toward showing how money doesn’t really buy happiness.
Sure, you need a roof over your head. Food in your belly. And the ability to live your life with a reasonable amount of comfort.
The chasm between homeless and sheltered is large.
Likewise, the gulf between starving and full is huge.
However, filling these gaps in this modern era of abundance isn’t as difficult – or expensive – as it used to be.
It simply doesn’t take that much money to afford many of the basics in life – basics which will account for the bulk of your overall sense of well-being.
Past that point is mostly the domain of the superfluous. More money does not result in more happiness at some kind of 1:1 ratio. It doesn’t work like that.
We’re able to reinforce these basic concepts about money and happiness when we realize the three most important things in life cannot be bought.
Or can they?
Time is the most important thing in this life.
It’s our most precious resource, ye we have very little of it. Not only that, but what little of it we have is dwindling away every single second.
The crazy thing about it is, most people sell their time away for almost nothing. A few bucks. A title at work. A bigger house than necessary. A newer chunk of metal and wheels to move one’s body around. A collection of trinkets that will turn to dust one day.
If some alien race were to visit us, they’d be bewildered.
They say time is money, but the former is worth far more than the latter. You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time.
We know we can’t physically buy time: there’s no store you can go to and pick up a bottle or box of time. If it were available as a product, it’d surely be the most expensive and in-demand product in the world (which is why that alien race would be so bewildered).
However, I’d argue that financial freedom allows us, in a way, to buy back some of our time.
We only have so many hours per day to spend. Whether or not you want to, you will be spending that time. Your bank of money can stay intact as long as you don’t withdraw, but you’re forced, every day, to withdraw from your bank of seconds. That’s a fact.
Well, if most people are busy spending most of their waking hours at a job they don’t like, financial freedom allows us to allocate our time more enjoyably by spending it in a way that best suits us and our passions.
You might usually be spending 10+ hours per day getting ready for work, traveling to work, working, breaking from work, going back to work, traveling home from work, and then relaxing after work.
But if you could instead spend that 10+ hours per day on whatever passions and pursuits are in line with what drives you and gives you purpose, you’re essentially buying back your time.
We might be forced to withdraw from our bank of seconds, but we can at least do it on our terms.
And this process of buying back our time and allocating it more effectively feeds into the next two areas of discussion…
Love might be the second-most important thing in life.
Without it, life doesn’t seem much worth living, in my opinion.
And if there’s one other thing (besides time) that surely cannot be bought, it’s love. Can’t buy love. The Beatles figured that out a long time ago.
Love is this powerful, mysterious force that can make us more than us. It’s more than the sum of the parts. It’s not perfect; nothing is. But it’s worth the effort.
Just like time, there’s no store that will sell you love. You can maybe buy something resembling lust in this world, but true love cannot be purchased.
However, financial freedom comes to the rescue once more.
Now, financial freedom will not allow you to buy love.
But what it can do is allow for the lifestyle – via that aforementioned extra time – that provides fertile ground for love to flourish.
The US is one of the busiest and hardest-working nations in the entire world. It also has one of the highest divorce rates out there (at 50%+).
I doubt it.
If you have the time to design a lifestyle that prioritizes happiness and purpose over a job and money, you’re creating a better world for yourself and your partner. Spending more meaningful time together is better than spending less time together, less meaningfully.
After all, love is more than quickly catching up over dinner and the evening news because you’re exhausted. It’s more than spending just your Saturday evening together.
Love needs time and attention on an ongoing basis. If flowers need sun and water, love needs time and attention. And the person who isn’t spending most of their time at a job they don’t want should have a far greater ability to dedicate both to the cause.
Furthermore, being as how money/finances is one of the biggest causes of relationship breakdowns, even just one person being financially independent can reduce overall stress and alleviate certain financial issues within the relationship on the whole.
My girlfriend, Oh, accompanies me at the coffee shop (my “happy place”) many days. I’ll write content, waste moments, listen to music, and tell her what’s on my mind. She’ll share ideas with me, show me something interesting that she’s looking at, and relay a joke to me. Then we’ll just smile at each other, enjoying the time.
That’s love. It’s really quite simple. It’s the little things that count. And when you have the big things already taken care of (via financial freedom), you have many more opportunities for the little things.
I wouldn’t be able to cultivate love nearly as well if I were busy spending most of my waking hours not cultivating it.
Adding that time and love together leads us to the final element of discussion.
Health is wealth.
Without good health, it doesn’t really matter how much wealth you have.
Health is something you could argue can be bought in a roundabout way – richer countries tend to have access to higher-quality medical care, healthier food, and greater longevity.
However, as I’ve shown not once but twice with my experiences with the Thai healthcare system, my personal access to high-quality healthcare is actually greater over here in Thailand (a poorer country) relative to the US (due to no health insurance labyrinth or high cost structure to deal with). And medications are substantially cheaper.
Since many countries, including Thailand, have some form of nationalized healthcare, it’s kind of a moot point. And just as well, America (one of the wealthiest countries to ever exist) is overwhelmed by obesity and poor health choices.
Furthermore, health is just like time and love: you cannot just go down to some store and buy better health. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t.
It’s a complicated matter that requires a holistic approach (managing one’s diet, exercise, lifestyle, sleep, stress, etc.). And genetics, which can impact one’s health to a great degree, is something we can’t control (yet).
But I think financial freedom can, once again, play a huge part in “buying” something that cannot otherwise be physically purchased.
That’s because financial freedom allows us to build a right-sized, balanced, customized, and healthy lifestyle that lays down the foundation for good habits as they relate to one’s physical and mental health. And the additional time and love in one’s life no doubt improves one’s mental health and happiness.
I’ve never been in better physical or mental shape than I am right now. There’s no doubt about it.
I have very little stress in my life because, frankly, there’s nothing to stress about. Limiting stress has a massive positive impact on the rest of my life – both on the physical and mental sides.
And my diet is much better these days. I used to watch co-workers down 12-inch subs over lunch while they complained about work. I only eat two meals per day, during an eight-hour window, as part of my intermittent fasting, which is far more realistic and enjoyable because I don’t have to stress eat.
I can’t imagine that one’s mental health isn’t much better when they have more time and love, all while dealing with less stress and physical limitations. How depressed I might be if I were instead spending 50+ hours of my week stressed out a job I hated, while also overweight due to the myriad of issues that can cascade from that.
You might not be able to walk into a store and buy time, love, or health on aisle 3.
But I do believe financial freedom can allow us to “buy” the three most important things in life, even if we’re not directly purchasing them in the literal sense.
I have the time, love, and health that would absolutely not be possible if I were miserably back at my old job, working 50-60 hours per week.
There is nothing more important, or worth more money, than time, love, and health.
We might not be able to directly buy them, but financial freedom can allow for much more of all three.
And that’s why financial freedom is so incredibly important and worthwhile.
While I achieved FIRE in my early 30s, as I lay out in my most recent best-selling book on the matter, getting there even just a few years earlier than most can still serve to greatly benefit one’s access to more time, love, and health.
What do you think? Do you believe financial freedom can buy time, love, and health? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in achieving financial freedom, which could allow you to buy more time, love, and health, check out some amazing resources that I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at 33!