Buying Time from Low-Income All The Way Up to High Income

We’ve talked a lot about “trading time for money” and how this is a poor way to get rich. Without being paid on performance metrics at minimum… the path to getting rich is significantly more difficult. The opposite is also true. If you can spend money to buy time it can accelerate your earnings. The catch of course is finding a way to monetize the free time. Below we’ll provide a brand overview of buying time.

Type of Time to Buy

Functional Time: This is the most valuable form of time. Lets assume the human body needs ~8 hours a day to sleep this leads to approximately 16 hours of “functional time”. We’ll go ahead and cut out an hour as well (waking up process, going to sleep process etc.). You’re left with just 15 hours per day to dedicate towards 1) earning money, 2) exercise/health, 3) having a fun social life and 4) hobbies. From those categories alone we can see that purchasing time needs to unlock items one and two (money and health). If you’re paying to unlock more social life activities or hobbies, you’re likely in the 8 figure range of net worth. Since 99%+ of the population does not have access to 8 figures, we’ll focus on the first two items.

#1 Commuting (Basic Level): We’ve never understood why people own cars if their income is currently sitting at $50,000 a year. Lets say some bad decisions were made and you’re making the average/median income of $50,000… In this case, killing your transportation time is the best “bang for your buck”. You’ll decrease your annual expenses and *increase* your income if you’re interested in getting rich. By using public transportation you’d be better off over the long-term and would be “motivated” by being in that environment in the first place. Run the quick math.

If you’re generating $50,000 a year that is roughly equal to $25 an hour (assumes 2,000 work year). Taking that and applying it to the cost of “car ownership” you’ll get to a number that represents around 10% of your annual net income. Seems like a stretch? Not quite. Even if you drive ~1,000 miles a month that would equate to $1,200 in gas (at 30mph and $3 a gallon) in addition we have to factor in depreciation, insurance and of course the up-front cost of the car multiplied by an annual return. To keep it conservative lets say the total cost is $3,000/year… That would be 6% of your gross income. But. Your payments are after tax so we’re looking at 8-10% of after tax income.

While people will attempt to rationalize this amount of spending, we’d also factor in the time lost. A net loss means that it is quite difficult to do anything productive. Difficult to read, difficult to write and difficult to focus since you’re putting your life at risk along with others every single time you try to take your eyes off the road. Think of driving a car as “sunk time”. Sunk time is the definition of inefficiency as you’re unable to accomplish anything. Even if you try and listen to audio books you’re better off being on public transit reading since you’ll consume more information (besides if you’re not where you want to be taking public transit is perfectly fine). In a rare case we agree with frugality websites here because there really is nothing gained by driving yourself since that time can be used to: 1) respond to emails or 2) read. As a final note, there is nothing wrong with having a car and we’re not advocating public transportation for people making large amounts of money. We’re saying that it’s the best bang for your buck and reducing “time lost” is what you’ll need to do if you’re starting from ground zero. Every hour you have needs to be spent wisely since you’re trying to play catch up/get ahead.

#2 Paying for Organization (Middle to High-end): With the biggest time suck out of the way (commuting) you can then look to organizational tasks that are eating up your time. Organizational items include: 1) cleaning, 2) laundry, 3) cooking and 4) booking. We’ve placed the items in that order because it is likely going to give you the highest return on your time. Most people focus on laundry services first but you’re more likely to benefit from a maid service on a bi-weekly or monthly basis when compared to standard clothing.

Cleaning services will cost at maximum ~$200 a month (we’re sure there are higher numbers, however, a smart person can spend around $200 and be perfectly fine on a monthly basis). This would represent around eight hours of wages at a $50K income level. Or it would represent two hours at a $200K income level. Somewhere around $150K it becomes logical to outsource your cleaning as you’ll likely free up more than three hours of time with a cleaning service. The key is that you’ll need to spend this free time earning money.  Do some quick math the next time you’re in your home/apartment and see how much actual time you spend keeping the place organized, you’ll be surprised to find that its well north of 3 hours.

Laundry services are next in line. Typically, your white collar professional tries to outsource this item first… even though he’s better off hiring a cleaning service. If you’re running your clothes through the wash you can use the spare time to work on anything you like. You’re not losing much time clicking “on” for a washer/dryer since you’re going to be in your home in the first place. The reverse situation is true for cleaning services since you’re physically losing time organizing your place. Once you’re in the ~$250-300K bracket, you’ll want to free up the two hours or so per month you’re *spending* on organizing clothing. In this range you’re better off making a few phone calls, editing your website, writing code (insert any activity that makes YOU money). The amount of time spent can be freed up for a similar cost.

Cooking services are the third item to look at. This is when you’re getting to more extreme levels of income. It doesn’t take much time to order food or to drop by your favorite places to get food. You’ll go down the cooking service line of thinking when you’re no longer interested in tracking your own diet. We’ve got mixed views here since tracking and monitoring food can be rewarding as you figure out what types of vegetables, fruits etc. lead to positive reactions in your body (the basics are covered in Efficiency). Once you feel comfortable with your general diet needs and see no reason to *tweak* your diet in the future you can go down this route. As you can tell by our writing here, we’re still on the fence since we’re constantly changing our diets to see if our bodies respond positively (as a final note, yes your taste buds do change as you age).

Booking services are last. This is when you have your own assistant for all of your scheduling/time management. This is standard in a corporate environment where an assistant takes care of your expenses, travel booking and is “first line of defense” to avoid spam phone calls. Generally, it takes quite a lot of really justify this level of time saving when you’re running your own empire. We’re nowhere near that level of need given that most items can be added to a calendar in a few clicks but if you get to that level congratulations on making it to a high 8 figure or 9 figure net worth!

#3 Paying to Earn Money (Every Single Level): It sounds contradictory since most people look at earning income on an “hourly wage basis”. In this environment, paying for services to unlock more money does not seem plausible. This is also why frugality blogs focus intensely on using all of their effort to cut costs (after all their earnings are capped at time-dependent intervals!). Lets look at the biggest purchases that can earn you more money: 1) customers, 2) sales, 3) design/image and 4) “R&D”.

Customers are the hardest to convert and the most profitable to go after. If your company generates a 50% profit margin, you can spend quite a lot of money on traffic/advertising. Assuming you’re generating $100K a year in operating income (example) you can spend the entire $100K assuming that you’ll generate $201K in sales (you’d make $100.5K in operating income instead). This is why investors focus so much on the “addressable market” and the “audience”. It is because the niche you’re targeting is going to determine how many buyers there are to begin with. Once you can focus in on that group and target them directly, it’s simply about getting them to click “buy”.

Sales representatives would come next. It should come as no surprise that the second thing you’ll look for (after the customers of course) is a solid sales effort (assuming your product is done). Look no further than standard affiliate marketing or the SG&A line item for every single company in existence! If you have a solid set of customers you may need some soft touch relationships to keep it going (recurring revenue). In addition, those same sales representatives can help you convert the “no’s” to “Yes’s” during their down time. Similarly, you’re looking for the same dynamic where your total amount spent needs to generate a higher operating profit number when compared to your “stand-alone” set up.

Design and image is significantly more difficult to quantify. Here you’re making slow and modest adjustments to how you’re perceived which can help you change your target market. Look no further than your typical musician/actor. We’ve all seen the same story over and over again. When they’re young their personalities are targeted towards people in the 13-17 age group and as they get older they are told to “evolve” and end up becoming more and more “edgy” with tattoos or small misdemeanors and other click bait gossip type activities. Some go entirely off the deep end and suffer from serious issues, however, the transition was expected to happen. Difficult to profit as a musician at age 40 targeting teeny-boppers. While this is an extreme example, you can take the same concept and apply it to any Company. Are they targeting the high-end or low-end? What age group? What other products could fall under the same umbrella? All of this is taken into account as companies grow. For more specific examples, look at high-end retail and see how many companies are forced to take “branding set backs” and target slightly lower price points to expand their market while maintaining the perception of being exclusive/luxury (Coach, YSL and even Tesla are examples).

Research and Development is last only because we know absolutely nothing about making a technology product. R&D is supposed to 1) keep your product ahead of your peers and 2) help expand your company into new categories without changing the Company perception in a negative way.  If you’re selling white label consumer based products there are clearer directions: 1) perfumes could expand to mens colognes, 2) suits could expand to casual wear, 3) Books periodically become movies, so on and so forth. Unless you’re trying to make millions upon millions of dollars you’ll unlike need more than a couple of good ideas with solid marketing making this last on the list for yet another reason.

#4 Travel: We touched on this topic in our post on “End of the Road“. We’ll add it here although it will likely be obvious for everyone (including mid-career people). When you’re done, the biggest headache is saving time. You don’t want to burn any unnecessary time so here is what you end up doing: 1) living right next to where you typically go out, 2) you know your city extremely well and yes you might even take the train! Why? Well who wants to sit in rush hour traffic if you know the train is faster… You’ll remain rational, 3) you’ll hate indirect flights and will happily fly economy if this means avoiding the standard 1 hour layover in city you have no interest in and 4) you will pay up for expensive travel if there is no other option (extremely rare) and 5) if you do end up becoming ultra-rich you’ll pick up net jets accounts or own one. We’ll wager the vast majority of people can make it to the third bullet (where flying business class is normalized behavior) however reaching level four and five takes a lot of good luck and effort.

On a final note… if you’re interested in learning more about making money, staying in shape and doing so without choking off your personality… You’ll probably like our upcoming book Efficiency (Expected Release Mid-July). The benefits include:  1) How to get into the top 10% physically with one hour a day of exercise; 2) How to eat correctly to be in the top 10%; 3) How to figure out what type of intelligence you have; 4) How to use this type of intelligence to choose a career and the *right* company: Wall Street, Technology or Sales; 5) How to start an online business and sell (the basics and all you need to start); 6) Clear outline of how to create and start an online product business with correct copywriting; 7) How to go into affiliate marketing if someone wants to take a stab at the competitive space; 8) Overview of how affiliate marketing operates and how to do it, 9) How to do all of this and maintain a normal social life (avoid choking off your personality). Efficiency will be available in July, subscribe to receive discounts or follow us on Twitter for the launch. Remember we can give the tools, but no one can execute on the plan but you.

Comments

  1. DWZA says

    In the technology industry, it is the complete reverse with the exception of “customers” and the most important thing is R&D which is a little different from R&D in all other industries. Examples include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and in a way in the past Google. It is very important even to customer-heavy companies like Uber and Lyft. In fact Lyft in tends to completely leapfrog Uber by surprise, without using short-term cashflow-burning tactics to fight for customers, by using particular R&D that they are developing and their leapfrog plans are 100% sound, logical and will happen.

    In fact, it is expected long-term doom in the industry if R&D is not the first priority and customer/sales become the first priority. Obvious example Microsoft and the 1990s Apple.

    In the technology industry, it is possible to have R&D that is significantly more lightweight and rapid, thus low cost and efficient on the ROI, unlike other industries.

    It is also possible to have the Black Swan event happen in the technology industry which uproots all traditional logic because such events virtually never happen in other industries.

  2. YBsir says

    Grammar/minor correction, maybe you can implement the change if you will have time for that (no pun intended)) – should be ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ in the
    “It is because the niche you’re targeting is going to determine how many buyers their are to begin with.” sentence.

    Cheers!

  3. Jez says

    let’s not forget to point out all these “time for money tactics” are only marginal operational cost savings that anyone can do at any stage. You’ll make the most money porpotionally out of the market and economic positioning decisions you take when you choose a job or enter the market as a startup founder. Even your potential gains from your Investment portfolio inclu. real estate is second to this.

  4. says

    An interesting point is the time spent with social networks. In the description of working hours, that is ~ 15 hours a day, a considerable amount is spent with unproductive socialization – through these apps and websites.

    0.01% of people use social networks to promote something related to their business – both directly and indirectly (through professional contacts, closer relationships, etc.). The others lose an immense amount of time that could be taken advantage of.

    Looking at the history of modern humanity, no surprise at that. Exit the TV and enter the social networks. The big difference is that the TV does not offer an interactivity. You sit down and consume the schedule. PCs, tablets and smartphones with internet connectivity offer the * never-seen-in-history * opportunity to access practical content that literally can change anyone’s life. And yet people do not use the tool for their own benefit.

  5. A says

    So essentially dedicate your 20s to something like selling enterprise software, improve your life, and work on business ideas on the side?

  6. maple moose says

    I know WSPs doesnt do Q&A so this is for anyone.

    What is the pathway to sales for a person who might not have the necessary skills or experience? Start at some lowly retail sales then keep jumping to better and better commission potential/ companies etc. ??

    Example: Selling shoes at footlocker –> selling cell phone plans –> selling B2B –> high end sales ???

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      Covered in Efficiency everything you need will be in there.

      But. Just like sports. We can give you all the tools and tell you the order but making the right plays and executing is where the money comes in.

    • JQ says

      Maple Moose, to be honest no particular skills or experiences are necessary to break in, other than an undergrad degree for most tech companies. Just show a willingness to compete, learn and hustle, and you can spin pretty much any experience (sports, tutoring, grades, internships, waiting tables, whatever) to show that. No need to start in sales at all but I’m sure it would help your story.

      • maple moose says

        Ive worked in retail and B2B (selling merchandise to convenient stores), but nothing on commission, but I dont have the inner game to take it to the next step.

        My reasoning is that I should get some plastic surgery and get on some testosterone and then get a commission sales job.

        These 2 factors would enhance looks, mindset and a masculine aggressiveness in closing.

      • Wall Street Playboys says

        This has officially won the “most ridiculous” comment of the year award.

        Going to get plastic surgery and testosterone just to learn sales… You can just sell stuff on the internet.

        No one can possibly beat this comment in 2017. We almost hit spam but decided it was too hilarious so we let it ride this time.

      • Zimensky says

        Also @maplemoose

        Get that junk out of your mind.

        You are being sold that you “need” all that shit. The “male self-improvement industry” is taking you for a ride.

        God even the word “inner-game” makes me want to yak. S*** has gotten way out of hand.

    • Zimensky says

      Young so take this as more “comparing notes” than “learn from me”

      If you actually want to get better at sales here is what I did:

      >Mass apply to a bunch of sales jobs in your city or your college job site.
      >Read some sales books before you go so you have some basics. A couple is enough. (A sale is a love affair by Jack Vincent is my favorite)
      >Every interview is just a sales pitch – this should be obvious (you are the product – what feeling are you trying to convey?)
      >Go to these interviews with the sole purpose of trying to sell the interviewer. Try to “win”. Learn when to keep your mouth shut. Learn how to empty your mind.
      >Once again do the opposite. What do most idiots do during interviews? Only talk about themselves. There is a hint. If you can direct the conversation and display your attractive qualities *while at the same time* coaxing the interviewer into talking about himself you are doing it right. This is an art and cannot be taught by a book which is why it sounds so odd in writing.
      >You fail at first but do it enough and you start to find what works and doesn’t. This is hard to teach so you just need to do it to learn it. Jot a couple of notes down after each one.

      As a bonus if you don’t even want the job you will find you perform better. Funny how that works out.

      How do you get a sales job?

      Get good at interviews and sell shit.

      How do you get good at interviews?

      Do a bunch of interviews.

      Wrapping up with some humor do it enough and eventually they become *fun* in a weird way!

      Cheers to all!

  7. Alejandro says

    Just out of curiosity, do you guys have STEM backgrounds?
    Been reading this blog for a while and your advice doesn’t come across as coming from a business person. Business people usually don’t communicate in this way 😀

  8. Blackvorte says

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong but transport and cleaning seem like being on the wrong side of an option (small upside, big downside). The risk in public transport is bodily harm and theft. Simply look at any big city about the number of people pushed onto the track/jumped/robbed, etc.
    Cleaning, the risk is of course theft. If your Rolex goes missing, that will probably set your efficiency back a few years. Most likely why many simply stick to laundry services. Rest is solid.

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      When you’re young we doubt you have much to lose taking a subway around NYC and paying a premium to live closer to work vs long commutes that eat into valuable functional time.

      Never had an issue with people stealing items, may be country specific? Either way has worked so far

      And of course, public transport no longer needed once you start earning good money.

      • says

        Most cleaning services are/should be, insured and bonded. Being *bonded* protects clients against theft. Usually up to $10-20K. Anything more expensive than that and you can put it in a safe.

    • AC says

      Taking public transport is far safer than taking a car in 99% of the planet. Especially if you’re talking about rail-based public transport and not buses.

  9. Namo Tassa says

    Public transport is best option considering my city is number one in time consuming activity : Traffic Jam.^^

  10. Jason says

    Can you lads do another Q&A? I been reading and learning since 2013. Is it possible to go from copy writing to high level sales? I hope you cover this angle in efficiency?

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      We won’t be doing free Q&A’s anymore. They will only be available to people who have purchased the book.

      This prevents stealing (to some extent) and also prevents us from answering repetitive questions already covered in the book.

  11. L says

    Dear WSPs

    I´m an engineer working in the intersection of neuroscience and machine learning (signal processing). After some time working in the field, I realize that scientific research is a fraud. I’ve never had a truly interest in finance (my fault) but I recently discovered your blog and I’m reading it with eyes wide open. I’m not young. I realize that I’m *far* from who I want to be and I’m *not* maximizing my potential. Your advice on living an extremely efficient life makes me feel dumb and ineffective, which is a very good sign. My type of intelligence is numeric + synthesis. I´m an obsessive person and I do not own a TV or waste time in social media. I know your opinion about predicting the market and I agree. I just want to apply my data science skills to finances but the long-term result is become FI. I would be very grateful if you could give some honest thoughts/actionable advice.

    Thank you so much for your time,
    L

  12. Jason says

    Love this blog. One of my go-to’s for motivation and inspiration.

    How do you guys feel about being a real estate agent? i live in silicon valley and average home price is $1 million+

    Just feels like a big difference in terms of ‘prestige’ vs wall street, and I have never had a good experience with an agent — most seem retarded and just out for a quick buck.

  13. EngineerMan says

    Looking forward to the book, WSPs! I’ve been reading you guys for a while and gave my two weeks today. I work in tech as a software engineer (vested 2 weeks ago, ha) and can see people getting complacent on only making ~$200k/year all in after trading all of their time. I’m finally going to focus on *not* trading time for money anymore. I was doing this on my free time building income streams before, but now I’ll be able to focus on scaling them up full time.

    I’m extremely interested in the AM/paid traffic section of your book. I’ve also been dabbing in paid traffic and learning/doing material from STM.

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      So we are clear we would never recommend quitting any career/job without money flowing well from another idea.

      Income from biz > career/job otherwise taking unnecessary risk.

      We assume you’re already rolling if so you’re good.

      • legend says

        2 kinds of people..
        1. Complacent at 100k a year and…
        2. Dissatisfied with 100k a month

        Instead of dabbling find someone already rolling to work with. Theyll know you want to run your own show eventually but offer something else of long term value to them.

        Every core member of my team is completely capable of running their own show. They know it.

        The reason they work for me is because I remain their biggest and best opportunity.

  14. Jose says

    Got on the email list a few weeks ago but I haven’t received any book information. Just double checked to see if I’m still on list and I am. I’m really interested in buying the book. Any help appreciated.

  15. says

    I had a hunch about a few of these points. How I save money right now making ~130k:
    1) Bought top of the line Roomba (800USD) and then I get maid service done every 6-7 weeks now (house stays really clean when the Roomba is working everyday)
    2) Moved close to work while finding a place ~700USD/month lower than the average for a 1bed (minimize large expenses gives me more piece of mind than trying to skimp on coffee). Penny wise, pound foolish is a trap I think a bunch of commoners fall into.
    3) Holding off on buying a house even though social pressure is mounting everyday (P/R ratio is ludicrous) since I can move freely closer to work if job change.

    Excited for the book, its gonna be good

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