Time as the Newest and Oldest Currency

Mark Fogel Compensation/Cash Money, Uncategorized

I have always been fascinated by the concept of time as currency. I calculate that without any surprises (hitting the lottery or by a bolt of lightning, etc.), I have between 1,600 to 2,000 days left of meaningful time to work. That sounds like a lot until I figured out that I have spent nearly 9,000 days already. So, my time bank for work is more than 80% depleted.

I have written about this in the past and it seems to be a hot topic in 2019 with many of my friends in the HR and talent spaces.


So, what if we looked at work from the aspect of time spent/used instead of money earned? How would we approach the world? Would it be the same or very different? My father told me as a teenager that time is the only thing you can’t accumulate or save. You’re always spending it, whether intentionally, or not. In the movie IN TIME the characters worked for time that is stored on their forearm digitally. Commodities were bought and sold using time as currency, work is paid with by adding time and scanning equipment debits and credits each person’s account. The wealthy had banks that held excess time. OH, I forgot to mention, when you hit 30 yrs. old you stopped aging physically. Basically, you could live forever, but only if you had TIME.

Back here in the real world that’s not the case. We get a finite amount of time that no one really knows the extent of. It makes using time even more important, as you can’t take it with you and you can’t donate it or pass it on to children and siblings.

Cancer patients get the concept of time as currency. They try to maximize their time even if they are not fully capable of enjoying it. It’s sad that we so often need life changing events to shake us up and understand what’s really important.

When we are trying to build our careers, we expend an excessive amount of time. Sometimes 11 or 12 hour days, worked nights and weekends. I figure that I worked the equivalent of at least an extra 1,000 days with overtime and extra time during my career, maybe more. I’m not sure how that will impact me on the back end and it raises the question of how it will impact you as your reading this. No, I am not going to go on a long diatribe about how Americans don’t take their vacation time. We know that it is an issue. Maybe changing our perspective to “time” as currency will nudge a few folks to take their time in the future. As HR leaders and practitioners,  you have an opportunity to impact this for others and I urge everyone reading this to do so.

Some folks create bucket lists to do during their lifetime. I have always had a few items both personally and professionally to accomplish. For example, here are a few I have checked off my list:

Get to the top of my profession and be recognized for it (3 national awards of distinction and a slew of local ones). Visit China (12 times on business). Teach HR in graduate school. Speak at national conferences as a subject matter expert. Write for prestigious magazines and websites (yes, Fistful of Talent counts, and thanks Kris for giving me the opportunity!). Have a family, own a car, a house (that is totally paid off), have a dog, and send my daughter off to an elite university (that I never had the grades or gumption to attend in my teen years.)

Oh, here are a few still left:

  • Get published in HBR and do a TED talk ( a real one, not the one with the x after it)
  • Write a book ( I know a few of my FOT brethren have already checked this one off or are about to)
  • Visit England and Australia (two places I have not been)
  • Walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding ( no she is not engaged yet)
  • Coach a grand child’s sports team ( I may have to wait a few yrs. on this one)
  • See a Superbowl and a World Cup game in person
  • Play the Black course at Bethpage state park ( I have played the 4 other courses multiple times)

Remember, no one ever has written that they were a great boss or made a lot of money on their tombstone.

Of course, both lists are just short examples, there is plenty more on both lists. When reflecting on my lists it is clear I have checked off more on the business front, then the personal. I bet that’s true for most folks. It’s also sad that we work our whole lives in hopes to squeeze out a few personal bucket list items, hopefully before we are too old or sick to do so.

We all have the freedom to set aside some time to live our lives and work off our “bucket lists”. Our only restrictions are the reality that our TIME banks are not infinite, and we are afraid to use that extra few days of PTO. Hopefully I will get to hit most of my list. To do so, I am rethinking my priorities and drawing up a new game plan for my TIME…

How about you? Your clock is ticking….