The Highest Form of Wealth

Morgan Housel -- the best-selling author of The Psychology of Money -- tells us why time is a much more worthwhile goal than money.

This is a guest post from Morgan Housel, partner at The Collaborative Fund and author of the best-selling book, The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness.


The stock market is up big this year. US households now have a collective net worth of $144T, ~2x the level of 8 years ago.


But it’s times like these that we have to remind ourselves that the relationship between money and happiness is complicated.

Rather than assuming wealth is just the amount of money you have, let me propose what I think is the highest form of wealth:

Controlling your time and the ability to wake up and say, “I can do whatever I want today”

Five-year-old Franklin Roosevelt complained that his life was dictated by rules. So his mother gave him a day off — he could do whatever he pleased. Sara Roosevelt wrote in her diary that day: “Quite of his own accord, he went contently back to his routine.”

There’s a difference between working hard because you want to and working hard because someone else told you you had to, and how to do it, and when to do it. Even if you’re doing the same work, the independence of doing it on your own terms changes everything in the same way that sleeping in a tent is fun when you’re camping but miserable when you’re homeless.

Wealth can lead to time independence, but it’s never assured

It can be the opposite, as whatever created the wealth has a claim on your time in equal proportion to its financial reward. A number of CEOs fall into this category: They have an abundance of wealth and not a moment of free time, which is its own form of poverty.

Charlie Munger summed it up: “I did not intend to get rich. I just wanted to get independent.” It’s a wonderful goal, and harder to measure than net worth.

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