Time Affluence vs. Monetary Affluence

Imagine that you and I are at a party. I’m holding my favorite cocktail, a dirty martini. You have your preferred beverage in hand as well. There is a hum of voices and music in the background.


To make conversation, I ask, “Would you rather have more money or more time?”


You answer, “Both!”


Then I squint my eyes and reply, “But if you had to choose, would you sacrifice your time to have more money? Or would you sacrifice your money to have more time?”


You look annoyed and respond, “It depends.”


Then, you spot “Phyllis” over my shoulder and excuse yourself to go say hello to her.


I am super popular at cocktail parties.


In this blog post, please ride along with me as I oversimplify the complex relationship between time and money.


My goal is to give you something to think about as you navigate your ever-evolving responses to the following question:


What makes you happier: more time or more money?


Time Affluence is the experience of having:


Monetary Affluence is the experience of having:

  • Sufficient money to meet basic needs
  • Financial resources to sustain a luxurious lifestyle over time
  • Freedom to make choices without financial constraints


Money enables us to have crazy things like food, shelter, and healthcare. Financial security alleviates stress and provides a sense of stability. Without the ability to have these basic needs met, there is little sense of well-being.


Winner: Money


Money also allows its possessors to enjoy material comforts, travel, and leisure activities. These experiences can bring joy and enhance quality of life.


Winner: Money, but only temporarily


We humans have tendencies to both adapt to current conditions and compare ourselves to others. Wealth can bring satisfaction…for a while. Unfortunately, our happiness can quickly go stale when we see where our high school frenemy went for summer vacation on social.


Making more money typically requires significant time and effort. Our pursuit of wealth may come at the expense of social connections and personal health, both of which are closely linked to long-term happiness.


Winner: Time


What about personal growth and development?


Money can buy access to the expertise of others, like coaches, teachers, and therapists, who help us advance in our careers and improve our relationships. This education gives us a wider range of life choices and opportunities.


Having time for self-reflection, exploration, hobbies, and experiential learning is also linked to self-fulfillment. More discretionary time may give you freedom and flexibility to choose your path.


Winner? You tell me.


What does the research say about time affluence vs. monetary affluence?


A study by Cassie Mogilner asked adults to write sentences using the word “clock” vs. “price” for three minutes. The “clock” folks reported significantly greater intentions to pursue sex and socialization in the next 24 hours than the “price” group.


This study cracks me up but demonstrates how planting specific seeds of thought in our brains can affect our intentions. And the intention to do something is the single best predictor of actually doing the thing.




Another study conducted at the University of British Columbia entitled, “Valuing Time Over Money is Associated with Greater Happiness,” did indeed find what the title promised. If a person consistently self-reports that they prioritize time over money, they are also likely to report greater feelings of well-being.



Back to the cocktail party


I eventually make my way across the room to interrupt your conversation with Phyllis.


My dirty martini is a lonely olive in an empty glass by this time.


I assure you that, “Neither monetary affluence nor time affluence alone will make you happy.”


As you and Phyllis roll your eyes in shared annoyance, you hear me mutter the following as I walk away…




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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Tammy M Stokes

    Love your analysis.

  2. Julie Bestry

    The next time we talk, I’m just going to burst out with “Clock, clock, clock, clock, clock…” 😉

    For almost all of my life, I’ve had time affluence, but I’ve never had the level of monetary affluence that led to the same sense of certainty as the time affluence. So, I agree with your analysis, but I’d like to explore money affluence for a few years to make a proper comparison.

    And I could have warned you; nobody wants to talk to Phyllis. Not even Mary or Rhoda.

  3. Janet Barclay

    That’s an easy choice for me: time for sure! I recently declined a very big project because no matter how much I charged for it, it was going to consume far more of my time than I was willing to give it. Ten of fifteen years ago, my answer might have been different.


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