How much are the hours of your life worth to you?

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Here's an interesting question to ponder: If you were paid $35 an hour, and could work as many or few hours per week as you wished, how many hours a week would you work?

Most of us have spent our lives working under the standard employment system; 40 hours a week for a set salary or hourly wage. For years, I spent what I made, regardless of how much or little my 40 hours brought in, all the while chaffing at the thought my life was passing me by.

Recently, though, I've had the chance to look at income in a different way, and found it very enlightening. This exercise might be worthwhile for you, too.If you were paid $35 per hour to do a job you didn't hate and could work as many or as few hours a week as you wished, how many hours would you work?

Implicit in this question is another; how much is free time worth to you? How much of your time are you willing to exchange for that sports car, those golf clubs, that private school, liposuction?

  • 10 hours/week = $350
  • 20 hours/week = $700
  • 30 hours/week = $1,050
  • 40 hours/week = $1,400
  • 50 hours/week = $1,750

The first thing I realized as I considered this question is that I work partly out of fear, fear that next month or next year I won't be able to work, fear that some reversal of fortunes will wipe out my savings. It's very, very hard to leave money on the table when you have the pessimistic nature I have. People like me die with most of their money still in the bank, untapped.

The question also caused me to look differently at my purchases. When I began to view each item in terms of hours sacrificed, I found it easy to pass on that magazine subscription, those new athletic shoes, or a dinner at the most tony spot in town. Each expenditure I put aside buys me more hours of my life back.

With my new perspective came an understanding of how I've locked myself into the need for a substantial income; a house larger and in a better neighborhood than we need, less retirement savings that I should have been funding all along. Others might add educational, insurance, and other costs. The notion that I can buy myself free time by reducing these persistent expenses has inspired me to work on these as well.

The question also caused me to consider how well I was equipped to make use of free time. I've known many people who were lost without a job, not because of the money issue, but because they had few interests with which to fill idle hours. Check out your neighborhood bar mid-afternoon and you'll see some of them nursing beers.

Knowing that I could be earning $35 an hour has led me to try to my free time fruitful. I don't want to pass on working in the afternoon just to buy myself time to sit on the couch watching daytime television.

What would you do if you had the chance to work as much or as little as you like? What does that say about your life?

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