20 years ago I was interning at a startup called Freemerchant.com. It was like Shopify, but the 1996 version. One morning I walked into the CFO’s office and we started talking about wealth. I told him I wanted to be rich, the kind of rich that meant I’d never concern myself with money again.
He asked me what the reason for having money was? At the age of 20 I thought it was primarily for buying things like Mcmansions, Ferraris, 1000 dollar dinners, and Ferragamo dress shoes (just a few things on a very long list). At the age of 37, the perspective is a bit different and what that CFO said to me suddenly made a hell of a lot more sense.
And why did I suddenly remember that conversation 20 years later?
Maybe it’s because I’d just finished writing my first book. Maybe it’s because I was talking to my business partner Brian Koehn about feeling like the clock was racing towards me turning 40, and I’d given up a good amount of my 30’s to build a company, to write books and do all these other things that weren’t part of my original plan. I felt a bit old and kind of tired, which seems to happen every time I finish a project. Of course I’ve had a blast doing all these things, and the entire journey has come with its own set of roadblocks and challenges.
The CFO said that money gives you time.
What it gives you is not the ability to buy things, but the time to spend your life on things you care about.
And when I told Brian, he said “maybe what you’ll get with your 40’s is exactly that, time, and plenty of it to do a lot of amazing things”
This sentiment about wealth and time seems to be echoed in many of the conversations I’ve had over the last few years.
In his essay on wealth, Paul Graham said you condense your working life into a few years when you build a startup. If you haven’t read it,it’s one of the best things you’ll ever read on wealth. (linked below)
It only took 20 years, but I guess I finally have learned that what money gives you is time.
So are you spending your time on things that don’t fulfill you and you could pay someone else to do, or on things that actually matter?