We have often said that time is our most precious resource. More valuable than money, more fleeting than wealth, nothing can be done to stop the expenditure of our time. But like money and possessions, having too much time can be a bad thing.
I am a big proponent of having an abundance mindset, an approach to the world that believes at its core that there is an endless supply of almost everything for people to create, create, share, and grow in. But with that belief comes an unexpected need, understanding how much is enough. It’s easy to fall into the trap of always going after more: more money, more time, more friends, etc. But when is enough, enough?
Few months back, we explored that topic in detail as it relates to money. But what about other abstractions like time? Can we have too much time, and is it bad if we do?
A recent study by the American Psychological Association concluded, “As a person’s free time increases, so does that person’s sense of well-being—but only up to a point.” The survey of nearly 22,000 participants found that while free time increases happiness, it does so for only about five hours per day. After that point, participants reported no additional improvement in their happiness or quality of life. The sweet spot of free time existed between two and five hours per day.
The results of this study seem to contradict most people’s expectations of what retirement will look like: namely, endless free time. So, think about it: What would your ideal retirement look like? Yes, there are probably beaches and soft drinks, but what about the next day? the day after that? Are you sure you want to spend the rest of your life sitting on the beach gazing at the water?
Even though it sounds tempting, the reality is that boredom strikes much faster than most realize. Without challenge, without difficulty, we never have the opportunity to grow. I suggest that our muscles atrophy without resistance and exercise; Similarly, if you are not exercising your mind, it will also atrophy. Ask yourself, what am I retiring for? It’s easy to look in the rearview mirror and see what you’re retiring from, but what does your destination look like? Will it be a bigger future than your past?
Another study followed thousands of retirees from shale oil for several years. It found that those who retired at age 55 were twice as likely to die before age 65 than those who retired after age 65. In short, those who retired early died prematurely. You would believe that early retirement would lead to less stress and a more relaxed lifestyle, ultimately promoting longevity. But the opposite happened. Conversely, the mortality rate improves with later retirement age.
I no longer believe that early retirement causes premature death, but boredom and the lack of self-worth gained from not working can be contributing factors. Too often, people move from the height of their careers, when they are considered most valuable to a company or employer, with nowhere to go in their living room and no work. It’s a difficult change for a lot of people, even if it’s what they think they’ve always wanted.
As with travel, chocolate, wine, and money, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Finding balance is the key. In fact, no one has a complete understanding of life. Some workaholics have a miserable personal life; Likewise, there are people with exceptionally social lives who hate their jobs. People who take too many risks put themselves in a position to lose everything one day; Those who do not take enough risk are missing out on the power of compounding.
The mindset of abundance is a beautiful thing. It encourages a focus on gratitude, growth, and sharing. But abundance should not be confused with excess, which instead focuses on endless accumulation or uninterrupted enjoyment. It is your job to understand the difference and draw your line between the two. Even our most valuable resource (time) can contribute to early death if we look for it too much.
Just a few days after Thanksgiving, I encourage you to adopt an attitude of gratitude, to be grateful for all the good we have in our lives. But also being grateful for things that challenge us, take us out of our comfort zones, and inspire us to be better than we were yesterday. I believe that balance is where true happiness exists.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy Dhanteras.
Steve Buren is the founder of Prosperian Financial Advisors in Greenwood Village. He is the author of “Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income.” He has been named by Forbes as the 2021 Best-in-State Wealth Advisor and Barron’s 2021 Top Advisor. This column is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations.