Time Is More Precious Than Money

As the Fed has taught us through the money-printing machine cloaked as quantitative easing, the potential supply of U.S. dollars is limitless. Even for most of us individually, we are capable, to varying degrees, of generating and regenerating money through work, investment and happenstance.

Time, however, is a different story.

Thanks to Emily Rooney for permission to feature her artwork

Thanks to Emily Rooney for permission to feature her artwork

It brings to mind these lyrics: “Where you invest your love, you invest your life,” croons Marcus Mumford in the song “Awake My Soul” on Mumford & Sons’ debut album, “Sigh No More.”

Sure, musicians are notorious for writing lyrics because they sound self-important, or maybe simply because they rhyme, but Mumford has earned a reputation for lyrical brilliance and offers us something deep and meaningful here to apply in our lives and finances.

No matter how much we strive, delegate and engineer for efficiency, there are only 24 hours in each day. We are unable to manufacture more time, and once a moment has passed, it is beyond retrieval.

Of these 24 hours each day, if we assume that we will sleep, work and commute for approximately 17 of them, that leaves us with a measly seven hours to apply ourselves to loftier pursuits. After an hour at the gym, an hour to eat and another hour to decompress with a book or TV show, we’re down to four hours to personally affect those for whom we are presumably working and staying healthy—the people we love.

Our human capacity to love also has its limits.

While not measurable, we can all acknowledge that our capacity to love, in the four hours each day that we have to invest it, is affected by how we’ve invested the other 20 hours. By the “end” of many days, we are just beginning our four hours, and we are already spent. Even if we wanted to, we have nothing left to give—no love left to invest.

I am a chief offender of misallocating my love.

I often allow the four hours I have to give to my wife, Andrea, and two boys, Kieran (10) and Connor (8), to shrink to three, two or even one. In whatever time is allocated, I often serve leftover love, having over-invested myself throughout the day. Then I steal from their time, interrupting it with “important” emails and calls.

I must acknowledge that these are choices I make.

We have the choice to order our loves, to acknowledge the limited nature of time and our own capacity, and to prioritize our work and life.

It’s entirely appropriate to love our work and the people we serve through it. It’s entirely appropriate to love ourselves and to do what is necessary to be physically, fiscally, psychologically and spiritually healthy. It’s entirely appropriate to love our areas of service and civic duty, and to serve well. Therefore, almost paradoxically, it’s entirely appropriate to spend 83 percent of our daily allotment of time in pursuits other than the direct edification of those we love the most.

But what would our lives look like if we engineered our days to make the very most of the other four hours?

Would we have a different job? Would we live in a different house or part of the country? Would we drive a different car? Would we say “no” to some people more and to other people less? Would we invest our time and money differently?

Would you invest your love differently?

I’m excited to be part of a contingent of financial advisors asking these questions of our clients (and ourselves).  We don’t believe that the only way to benefit our clients is through their portfolios, and we believe that asset allocation involves more than mere securities.

This isn’t a particularly new concept.  Indeed, the second phase of the six-step financial planning process, as articulated in the Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) practice standards, is to “determine a client’s personal and financial goals, needs and priorities.”  But thought leaders like Rick Kahler, Ted Klontz, Carol Anderson, George Kinder, Carl Richards and Larry Swedroe are persistently nudging the notoriously left-brained financial realm to reconcile with its creative and intuitive side for the benefit of our clients.

With statistics suggesting that as many as 80% of financial planning recommendations are not implemented by clients, it’s officially time to recognize that personal finance is more personal than it is finance.

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Musical Genius (or Nothing New Under the Sun)

With the close of tax season, we all need a little break from discussions of dollars and cents.  So this week, I’m going entirely off subject to share a post I recently wrote for the Jon Maurer Band’s musical blog.  If that name looks familiar, it’s because it belongs to my brother who’s lent his talents and music to several of my posts and videos, including Making Financial Music.  I’ve had the privilege to bask in Jon’s musical glow as the drummer for the Jon Maurer Band, and here I’m discussing “Musical Genius.”

Music is miraculous, with the ability to well up thoughts, feelings and emotions that otherwise may never surface.  But for a musician, both playing and listening to music can also be a humbling experience.  As one endowed with an arguably broad but decidedly shallow depth of musical talent, I’m often given the opportunity to enjoy this humbling.

You see, every time the Jon Maurer Band performs—or even practices, where some of our best work is often produced, but never consumed—I represent the fourth in a quartet of otherwise extraordinary musicians.  This isn’t false modesty, nor do I believe it to be a hopelessly biased opinion of my co-laborers’ gifts, but an objective assessment of their innate talent—virtuosity even—and well-honed musical craftsmanship.  I really believe these guys—Jon Maurer, Nick Selvi and Dirk Frey—are musical geniuses.

Billy JoelOne of the qualities that seems to be universal among musical geniuses is a voracious appetite for the contributions of other musical phenoms—and not just from a select few genres.  Stravinsky is quoted as saying, “Good musicians borrow, great musicians steal.”  Indeed, the great Billy Joel is famous for ripping Beethoven’s Pathetique (first performed in 1798) in his “cover” entitled This Night (released in 1984)i.

But with the exception of Billy Joel’s homage to the great Romantic, I don’t think too many great musicians set out to copy the music of other great musicians.  Have you ever watched a great musician listen to great music?  It’s a sight to behold.  They immerse themselves so fully (and so often) in it that the offspring of their own genius is simply a natural byproduct of that which they’ve consumed.

Consider the ancient saying, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”ii   Is it possible that every great piece of music is a regurgitation of another (whether its creator knows it or not)?

If you haven’t, I’d like to invite you to explore the roots of music as you know it.  Few would doubt, for example, that Billy Joel’s influence played a role in the music created by my brother, Jon Maurer.  But before Jon knew of BJ’s existence, he was breathing in Bach, Handel, Mozart and the artist I humbly submit as his deepest influencer—Ludwig van Beethoven.

Beethoven was passion personified.  “But I just can’t get into classical music,” you say.  I submit the “Cliff’s BeethovenNotes” version of Beethoven—the movie, Immortal Beloved.iii   Although it likely contains as much fiction as fact, Gary Oldman seems to summon Beethoven’s ghost in his depiction, and the soundtrack alone is an excellent survey course in this great composer’s work.

Another musical great who demands to be in your consciousness and your collection is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Mozart preceded Beethoven and could be seen as the first great musical innovator.  Conveniently, his life and work has also been condensed for you in the Academy Award winning, Amadeus.  Mozart  Mozart practically defines the word prodigy, as he began composing and performing before European royalty at the age of five.  He set a bar for musical genius that may be beyond parallel.

Mozart’s story is sadly incomplete without mention of Salieri.  Antonio Salieri was an accomplished musician in his own right, but is rumored to have stewed with envy as the upstart, Mozart, began to strip every ounce of his fame—and eventually, his dignity.  (Check out this Salieri/Mozart scene depicted in Amadeus.)

Humility may be appropriate in the presence of musical genius—and many do resort to envy—but I believe the preferable emotion to be invoked when struck with greatness is simply… awe.  

If you’re into music, I highly recommend checking in with the Jon Maurer Band Blog regularly, where each of the band’s members contribute.  I especially recommend these posts on “The Wild World of Neo-Soul” and “5 Albums to Start Your Jazz Collection.”


[i] If you follow the hyperlinks, listen to Pathetique first—at least the beginning—and then listen to the chorus of This Night… stealing, not borrowing.

[ii] This is wisdom from the ancient Hebrew King Solomon as quoted in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (New International Version).

[ii] If you’re thinking of introducing your children to Beethoven’s work through the movie, you may consider screening it first as the maestro’s zest for life spills over into a few seconds of nudity.