Ironies abound. Here I am, blogging about balancing life and money, wrote a book about it (Dream. Invest. Live.), am a case study in another one (Your Money or Your Life), and I’m launching into the last task of the day at 9pm on a Sunday. And yet, as unbalanced as it seems, I suspect that there is and will be a balance precisely because I am working at full speed these days. Sometimes the best way to appreciate a rule is to break it – without doing anything illegal, of course.
Ah, if only I could find the reference; but I’m working at such a pace with so little free time that I’ll have to skip it. But. Evidently, aboriginal cultures typically only require a three hour work day. They’re busy the rest of the day too, but it is socializing and family activities. In medieval times, workers worked from sunrise to sunset; except for holidays, of which there were more than a hundred, and which also meant effectively long vacations during the winter when the nights were long and the candles were precious. Sometime along the line there must have been a peak in the working hours because in the late 1700’s workers were happy to get their workweek cut back to only six days a week and their workdays cut back to ten hours a day. Now, we take the 40 hour work week as a standard even while it is being nudged to 36 hours by people like the French.
“Time is money.” “Time ain’t money when you have nothing but time.” “Money can’t buy you time.” All great sayings, each of which can play off the others; all of which are moot for many. More than 25,000,000 American families live paycheck to paycheck. If they have free time and can make more money, they probably would. If they had extra money, well, they wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck.
I’m currently living that knife edge, making just enough to pay all of my bills, eventually, I think. My optimism builds from the fact that last year was on the bad side of that balance; so maybe next year will be on the other side. I still don’t know because I haven’t heard from my mortgage servicer about whether they are going to offer me a mortgage modification despite having made all of the required trial payments. Put together my three biggest clients and I should be fine; but doubt remains and spare time is spent trying to make spare money – which leads me to writing this post late on a Sunday rather than early on a Saturday.
I am not alone. It is a refrain, so maybe I shouldn’t pass it along, except that many of my less public friends share the feeling and thank me for expressing it. Two, three, even six jobs are stitched together to pay the bills – while hoping nothing big breaks. There is a sub-culture of a quiet community that foregoes parties, potlucks, and plays because it’s too hard to go dancing after standing at a job for eight hours, or there’s not enough time or money to make something for a potluck, or a play is too expensive in money plus time. Take the ticket cost divided by the time spent at a play and compare it to your wages. It’s possible that the time and money must be earned back at a wage that’s lower than the cost for every hour in attendance.
My irony is that my balancing apparently happens over years. Instead of eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest my life seems to be more like work for years at full speed, retire early for several years, work for years at full speed, retire again (I hope). It is not ideal, but having several years or decades off is appealing and may be worth this effort. But, as I say, my balance is moot. Right now, I have to work as much as possible to recover from my financial upset.
I wonder if the ideal we hold for society is also in need of a similar adjustment. We’re in a period of heightened consumption, change, and societal evolution. Everything seems to be in flux, and vast populations are amazingly busy working to resolve innumerable global crises. These last few decades are the first time humanity has been aware of the state of the rest of humanity, and the condition of the rest of the globe. The responsible people are responding, frequently working to resolve issues that seem poised on a knife edge between collapse and resolution. Philanthropists who would’ve focused on the community within a day’s horse ride now can tackle any issue anywhere because everywhere is a plane ride away, or even closer by phone.
This blog is about balancing money and life, investing for dreams that can actually be lived. When in the midst of such determined effort, any reduction in effort can feel like a wasteful indulgence. In some cases that’s right. We are lousy at predicting the future, and that includes being lousy at predicting the tendencies around knife edges. I offer this encouragement that I offer to myself every day. It may be a personal cliche, but my first book’s title is Just Keep Pedaling. If you haven’t reached your goal, but your efforts are pointed in the right direction, trust yourself and keep making progress however you can. Just keep your goal in sight. Keeping your head down and pedaling right by your goal makes for such an embarrassing video.
With that in mind I am going to lift my head, refill my glass of wine, and find a bit of balance in what remains of the day. I hope you, and we can eventually all do the same, and for a lot longer than a day.