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Why we can't get no satisfaction


In an interview with TOI-Crest, the author of books such as 'All The Money In The World: What The Happiest People Know About Getting And Spending' and '168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think', discusses the importance of money and time.

You say time is the ultimate luxury. Why?

Time is the ultimate luxury because while you can (at least theoretically) earn more money, no one can make more time. All the money in the world will not buy you a second more. Because we all have the same amount of time, exercising control over how you spend your time is the ultimate show of power - it amounts to making the most of a scarce resource.

It follows from this that those with lots of time, like unemployed people, should be the richest, but clearly that is not the case, both literally and metaphorically

Unemployed people have a lot of free time, but they don't necessarily have pure control over it. After all, there are often money worries, which limit how much you can do with that time. You often wind up scrambling to do things to pay bills and that doesn't feel particularly powerful. When I talk about time as the ultimate luxury, it's that you know your time is very valuable - and yet you choose to spend it on things that the world doesn't necessarily reward. Like reading the paper while there are various calls and meetings going on, because that's what you want to do.

You've written a series of books on making the most of one's life. How important are money and material possessions in leading a fulfilling life?

I tend to think money matters for living a full life because money is a tool. Like any tool, it enables you to do things more efficiently and effectively. If you have grand goals, having more money will enable you to have a better shot at achieving them. Material goods are somewhat of a different matter. Money can be converted into material goods, but many things we think will make us happy don't necessarily do so. Furniture, for instance. You're better off buying cheap furniture and spending your money on travel and getting together with friends.

Do you think most people today have the wrong priorities? Where are they going wrong?

I don't necessarily think people have the wrong priorities. I think they just aren't using their money to effectively achieve their priorities. We want happiness, but we overspend on housing, which makes us cash poor, so we can't do the things that really are fun, which tend to be experiences. Humans are social creatures, and we have evolved to be somewhat obsessed about where we land in the hierarchy. We are always tempted to spend more on "positional goods" - that is, those items like houses, cars, and jewellery, which are easily compared. No one knows if your picnic was better than someone else's potluck dinner, so we have no temptation to overspend on such things. And yet those experiences are more
correlated with happiness.

What is the single biggest change people should incorporate in their lives to make their existence more satisfying?

To make life more satisfying, I advocate figuring out what matters most to you, and then spending as much time and money as possible on those things. Being in the right job - one that brings you great joy - is a good start. Then you're spending many of your waking hours doing something rewarding, and earning money doing it. That will certainly bring a lot of satisfaction.

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