Are You Unknowingly a Time Billionaire?

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The 2021 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting is streaming live on Yahoo Finance this weekend, and I am reminded of a lesser known quote from Warren Buffett about what is truly valuable. I believe he has said this elsewhere, but I found it repeated in a 2020 commencement speech (YouTube link) at the University of Nebraska:

There is nobody I would rather be than a young person graduating from the University of Nebraska today. […] I would say this to the current year’s class: ‘I would love to trade places with any of them.’ They feel they’re going out into an uncertain world and all of that, but there’s never been a better time.

During a Tim Ferriss podcast, investor Graham Duncan discussed the concept of a “time billionaire” and how it is hard to understand the magnitude difference between a billion and a million.

Graham Duncan: I was listening to a guy introduced a speaker a while ago. And he was saying people don’t really understand the difference between billionaires and millionaires. He said a million seconds is like 11 days. A billion seconds is 31 years.

This means a 20-year old is technically a time multi-billionaire. If you’re in your 40s or even early 50s, the odds are likely that you still have a billion seconds left as well. Have you considered how valuable that is? One of the richest people in the world would gladly trade places with you. I’m betting that nearly anyone with a billion dollars would trade it for a billion more seconds.

This Pomp Letter article and Wealest article both expand upon this idea of appreciating the value of time, including how young people should use this time to their advantage. Don’t take for granted the ability to throw yourself at something nonstop. I think short periods of crazy 100-hours-a-week focus is underrated. Take your shot. If you fail, so what?

If you fail, you have nothing, which is the same position you’re in right now.

You have no mortgage to pay, no family to support, and nothing to lose.

This makes you powerful. Your upside is many times greater than your downside.

Also mentioned is the Life in Weeks calendar from WaitButWhy.

Time is a limited resource, and just like with money, you have to spend it wisely and consciously. Don’t waste it without intention. Look at how many hours we spend on consuming media, via Visual Capitalist.

Bottom line. We can look up to certain wealthy people for knowledge and wisdom, but there are other important resources beyond money. Yes, it’s a cliché, but it is still so easily forgotten in this busy, competitive, stressful world. Many of us are extraordinarily wealthy in time, wealthy in love and relationships, and/or wealthy with a healthy mind and body. Someone out there would pay billions of dollars for what you have. I must remind myself to appreciate my wealth in all forms, and use it intentionally. I worry about running of out money, but also running out of time.

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  1. This is a tangent topic, .. but I’m very sure that the ‘media consumption’ shown in the value is for overlapping activities. In other words people aren’t spending a solid 10 hr a day doing nothing but playing on their phone watching TV and such. Instead people have the TV on while they work or make dinner. I think proof of this is the 1.5hr+ of daily radio consumption. I know nobody and never have known anyone who sits down and simply listens to radio while doing nothing else. I’d bet that at least half that radio time is counting for people listening to the radio while commuting to work.

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