I’m honored to share a guest post today. Without giving away more details, I’ll turn it right over to her. I promise that you will take away a powerful message from her words…
How much is your time really worth?
Isn’t that the million-dollar question!?
If you’re reading this, I will venture to guess you have some interest in personal finance. Maybe you’re working on paying down debt, building your emergency savings, or saving for early retirement. And you’re probably familiar with many of the money-saving, money-making strategies to accomplish your financial goals.
The question is: where do you draw the line between time and money?
It’s obviously different for everyone, but certain things that happen in our lives can cause us to evaluate this question more seriously.
I recently had one such life event (of my own doing). Last year, my husband and I completely renovated a home in 4 months.
At that time, I promised Vicki I would write a post for her with the nitty-gritty details of the renovations (and financials) for what was supposed to be a single-family rental property (which turned into a flip). As I explained to Vicki, I’ve become rather skittish about sharing those details.
For one, I don’t wish to share specifics since we no longer own the home. Even more, it’s not something I love to talk about. Not because we didn’t make money (we did). But because of the time we let it steal from our lives.
I thought it would be useful to share the short story and lessons I learned about the value of time. Because, now and then, I think we can all fall into the trap of putting money first.
The why behind it all
Some of you might remember me. I’m a former personal finance blogger (Amanda from Centsibly Rich). I suddenly and without warning sold my blog last fall – because time was at a premium and I was desperate to gain as much of it back as I could.
As you can imagine, as a former personal finance blogger, I like to think about, talk about, and strategize on money. And I’ve implemented much of what I’ve learned from other personal finance bloggers over the years.
My family is debt free (except our mortgage – which we could pay off). We also save a good percentage of our income. We have the basics down and are approaching financial independence in the next few years.
But over the years, we realized there was a strategy we hadn’t yet tried. One that could move the needle toward FI more quickly. Namely, real estate investing.
Though we had talked and talked about it for years, we never actually took the leap. Last year we decided if we didn’t take action, we’d never know.
As I mentioned, we intended to purchase a single-family home to use as a rental property. But our local real estate market is super competitive. We realized to meet the 1% rule, we’d have to buy a “fixer-upper.”
We didn’t blink an eye over a little work. Over the years, we had honed some mad DIY skills. Plus, we entirely updated our last home by ourselves. How hard could it be? (Can you sense the sarcasm?)
Eventually, we purchased a single-family home in an amazing neighborhood. The house was overflowing with 30 years of the tenant’s “stuff” and was noticeably in need of updating and repairs.
Within a week of closing, it was apparent that behind all the piles of stuff and furniture, the scope of work was larger than anticipated.
Weeks of clearing out junk, trips to the dump, demo, cleaning, and hiring contractors ensued. When we got to the finishing stage, we thought we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. But even that seemed to drag on for weeks beyond what we anticipated. More money and even more time was spent.
The process seemed endless and consumed our nights and weekends for months. My husband works 9-5, so he worked on the house every day after work (and used a ton of vacation time). I worked on it all day, every day. Not only were we exhausted, but family time during these months was minimal.
The decision to flip
Thankfully, we started attending a local real estate meetup. The relationships, support, and advice that came out of this group was nothing short of amazing. Not only did we get help with some major construction projects, but we got advice from those who could show us the ropes.
One trusted professional helped us decide to change our strategy from a rental to a flip. We were in the middle of a hot seller’s market. And, considering the scope of work and money we invested, selling was the fastest way to recoup our money and make some too. At this point, we were tired and ready to wash our hands of the entire thing, making this option even more appealing.
In the end, we sold the house after 4½ months of renovations, closing six months after we purchased it. We were pleased with the end product, happy to improve the neighborhood, and satisfied that someone could enjoy living in a nice new(ish) home.
Life after the flip (and lessons on the value of time)
Those months of working on the house felt like a constant battle to work harder, work faster and just get it done. (I should mention that no one was holding a gun to our heads here. The timeline and the amount of work were choices we made.)
I admit I’m at fault worse than my husband here. I tend to hyperfocus on goals and push, push, push to get there asap. But this time it crossed the line. I let it rob me of precious time with my family and friends. I let it interfere with my health. I let it rule my life.
Toward the end of the flip, a few poignant things happened. A close friend’s husband died suddenly, without warning, just before his 42nd birthday. I took Jillian’s Mini-Retirements course and did some serious reflecting. A week after we signed papers to sell the house, I had knee surgery to remove 2 (benign) tumors from my knee joint. All of this was enough to make me take pause.
What in the world were we doing? And at what cost?
By the end of it all, I didn’t even care about the money. I just wanted it done. I wanted to see my kids, have a date with my husband, read a book, and take care of my health.
I’ve realized that, while real estate investing can certainly speed one’s time to FI, flipping (the way we did it) was not worth the cost to get there (for us).
I’m not ruling out the possibility of a buy-and-hold property in the future. I’m not even ruling out flipping another house once my husband walks away from the 9-5. But I know if it happens, I would do it completely different next time.
For now, I’m content to live my life and take my time reaching FI.
Despite the difficulty, the experience was not a failure. I choose to look at it as an opportunity to learn valuable lessons. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:
Time is more valuable than money. Of course, I knew this before. And, if you would have asked me, I would have said, “Of course I value my time over my money,” but I didn’t live that way during those four months. The biggest, most important lesson I learned from the whole thing was the true value of my time.
Time>money. Time>money. Time>money.
FI is not THE end goal. I know I’m not alone when I say I tend to focus a little too much on our magical FI number.
But, once FI is reached, then what? Will life suddenly and miraculously become easier and more fulfilling on that coveted day? What about all the life in between? What if, God forbid, something happens, and we don’t live to see that day?
It’s way too easy to miss out on today by focusing too much on tomorrow. Of course, it’s a fine balance. While we’re still saving aggressively for FI, we’re focused on living our best lives right here, right now. Otherwise, life will only pass us by.
Don’t rush to say yes. Sometimes when I feel passionate about something, I mistake it for intuition and say “yes” too soon. And then I’m stuck. I’ve recently imposed a waiting time for making decisions. I also ask myself if the decision to say “yes” aligns with my values and purpose. This helps me weed out the trivial yeses from the “he** yeses.”
Work on balance every day. Balance isn’t my strong suit. When I have a goal, I work earnestly to reach it. I get drawn in and think if I can just work harder and longer, I’ll reach the goal faster.
And then I miss all the life that happens in between.
I’m setting “work” times, “reading” times, “exercise” times, etc. on my calendar and trying to relax and enjoy the moments as they come. It takes effort, but I’m certainly less stressed!
Don’t ever miss opportunities to spend time with loved ones. People first is my theme this year. When family or friends want to spend time together, I say yes. Everything else can wait.
In the end, I’m relieved to have the experience finished. But I wouldn’t change a thing. All the lessons I’ve learned are worthwhile and have changed my life.
Thank you, Vicki, for allowing me the space to share! 🙂
And I would like to thank Amanda for sharing her family’s story about their real estate investment purchase! There are some really important messages about valuing your time and changing course when you realize that what you’re doing doesn’t align with your values. If you are thinking about real estate investing, re-read the lessons Amanda shared. Thanks again, Amanda! It’s so good to read your writing again! The community has missed your voice!