Scarcity is an ally of appreciation

Derek Thompson posted this amazing chart from Our World in Data about who Americans spend time with, based on age:

These are average numbers but based on this graph the time spent with:

  • Your family peaks around age 15.
  • Your friends peak around 18.
  • Your colleagues peak around the age of 30.
  • Your kids peak around the age of 40.
  • Your spouse peaks around 70 years old.
  • Increase yourself to death.

Maybe I’m getting sentimental with age, but just looking at this graph causes all sorts of feelings.

The children’s one really got me.

When I was young, I never thought much about time management.

I am now much more attentive to how I spend my time, mainly out of necessity. Responsibilities tend to increase with age, so juggling work, family, friends, health, and hobbies is no easy feat.

Nobody has it all figured out when it comes to balancing your time allocation, but here are some thoughts from my experience:

I’ve come to love routine when it comes to time management. I have an exercise routine. I have a diet routine. I have a writing routine. I try to go to sleep at the same time every night.

It may sound boring, but I find the discipline and routine structure refreshing.

There is still room for chaos and spontaneity at times, especially when you have kids, but it’s nice to have a regime you can rely on for some stability in an unstable world.

Downtime in middle age is harder to find. When the kids arrive, one of the biggest things that goes by the wayside is the downtime.

There are no more lazy Saturdays. The TV mainly waits for the children to be in bed. I no longer read as I used to. Watching an entire game of basketball or football is practically out of the question.1

I don’t mind as much as I would have thought.

Weekend football matches, bike rides, and family workouts keep you busy, but I don’t mind having a full schedule.

When you have kids you can worry more about them, which is a relief in many ways. The great thing about being busy is that it leaves little time to take care of yourself so much.

Spending money on time is a good investment. One of the unknown reasons many people choose to work with a financial advisor is because they value their time.

Managing a comprehensive financial plan that includes portfolio management, estate planning, insurance, taxes, budgeting, and all the decisions that occur when life intervenes can be time-consuming.

Some people don’t mind doing everything on their own, but others prefer to spend their time doing things they really care about.

Time is the most precious asset.

Each year I find it more beneficial to outsource to experts whether it is to help with my financial decisions or house maintenance or pretty much anything that requires manual labor as I am useless in that department.

Paying for quality and the ability to save time is an investment that pays the best dividends.

Spending time with people is more important than spending money. I’ve always been great at buying experiences, but the pandemic has cemented the benefits of investing in memories even more.

Sometimes you have to spend money to create memories like going on vacation, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot to create quality time.

Many of my favorite memories come during the junk time. Playing cards. Go to the park or the beach. Go cycling. Play kickball in the backyard.

Money is not a prerequisite for having fun.

Exchanging too much time for money will probably not pay off. It has probably been 9 or 10 years since I read 30 life lessons: tried and true advice from the wisest Americans by Karl Pillemer.

For the book, he interviewed thousands of people aged 65 and over to gather some life lessons. This list of things not mentioned is the one I come back to occasionally:

Nobody – not even one in a thousand people – said that to be happy you should try to work as hard as possible to make money to buy the things you want.

Nobody, not even a single person, has said that it is important to be at least as rich as the people around you, and if you have more of them it is a real success.

Nobody, not even a single person, said you should choose your job based on your desired future earning capacity.

It is almost impossible to get these thoughts out of your mind when you are young. Sometimes I still have these crazy worries.

The perfect amount of balance in life is probably unattainable, but too much time spent chasing money is generally not a good investment.

Scarcity can add meaning and clarity. When I was young I always went out. I’ve drunk too much. I never looked at what I ate. And when you are young you can get away with it.

But too good a thing can dampen your enjoyment.

I have been practicing intermittent fasting during the week for a couple of years. I try to limit carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol on weekends or holidays.2

Scarcity is an ally of appreciation.

Perhaps knowing that the time you have to spend with loved ones is fleeting can help you appreciate it even more while you have it.

Further reading:
Be in control of your time

1The DVR helps with this. I am always amazed at how much downtime there is once you quickly advance through commercials and intermission shows.

2I am not always successful and it has taken me several years to get to the point where I can regularly approach. I did it in small steps. It took a while for my body to get used to it, but once I got over the hump I never felt better. I feel healthier at 40 than at 30 (not to brag).

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