Somewhere on the internet, Einstein is quoted “Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.” Now typically, when we think of compound interest, we think of money. If we invest $1 today and wait (and wait and wait and wait), we will have many multiples of $1 at some point in the future. The longer we don’t touch that $1, the more money we will have in the future.
In the business world, a common refrain we hear is “Time is money”. Usually there is a boss standing over an underling demanding the underling(s) stop goofing off and start working, because someone is losing money because time is being spent/wasted.
Just like 1+1=2 is the same as 2=1+1, we can say that “Money is Time”. We can then take “Money is Time” and insert this into Einstein’s equation, we see that just like money, time also compounds. If we spend time now, we will reap the benefits in the future.
I know you’re probably wondering how Einstein and “Time is Money” are in any way related to TV time, I say: damn the torpedoes and read on.
Sometimes, on a late Friday night, when I’m tired, my hands are covered in paint and all I want is to crawl into bed, I wonder why I put all this time into my real estate business. Some Saturday mornings, when I’m up at 6am so I can make coffee, go for a run and head to a rental to smash some radiators, I remind myself that I believe that time compounds. My actions today directly affect my abilities to do things in the future.
Recently, I came across a horrifying statistic: American adults watch almost 1,100 hours of TV per year. I wanted to verify the statistic, so I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (fascinating website if you’re into stats). Well, on the BLS website, I found 2012’s numbers and I was again horrified. According to the BLS:
Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8 hours per day), accounting for about half of leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over. Socializing, such as visiting with friends or attending or hosting social events, was the next most common leisure activity, accounting for nearly three-quarters of an hour per day. (See table 1.)
– bls.com; accessed 4/22/14
Those 2.8 hours per day are not per work day or per weekend day, that’s per day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year (366 every four years). So in 2012, the average adult watched 1,022 hours of TV. That’s a part time job that someone spent in front of the TV, every year. That’s the average American adult. If we assume an average life span of 76 years and an American ‘adult’ constitutes anyone 16 and older, the average ‘adult’ will watch 7 years of TV in their lifetime. That’s 7 years watching TV 24 hours per day.
Let’s assume a more reasonable TV marathon in which the adult in question watches 16 hours of TV and sleeps 8 hours. That person will sit in front of a TV for 10.5 years.
That. is. insane.
Think about the opportunity cost lost because of some flashing lights on a box in your house. Think about the great books that aren’t read because of the TV. How about the great artists who we lose because they can’t devote their time to their art because of their TV addiction.
TV was never an important part of my life (luckily I had parents that only allowed us to watch Bill Nye the Science Guy, Marty Stouffer’s Wild America, and The Wonder Years…sometimes the X-Files). My wife and I had cable for a few years when we were married, but during one of our financial diets, we decided to get rid of cable.
I admit, it took a while (like two or three years) for my desire to watch TV to totally subside. Every Fall, as the leaves get crackly under foot and the air gets crisp, I still think of the college football I’m missing, but that’s really it. I don’t miss anything else on TV. Even then, watching college ball with others is infinitely better than watching by myself (plus I can knock off the #1 and #2 leisure activity at once).
We do still have a TV in the house and subscribe to Netflix, but that’s it. At this point, we don’t even know how we would have time to watch any TV. My wife is constantly chasing a toddler around the house, I’m working my day job (~2,100 hrs per year) with an additional 750 to 1,000 hours spent on my real estate investment business. We literally don’t have any time to sit and watch TV.
I’m going to sound like an old fart here, but I think America is losing it’s edge not because we are lazy, but because we are glued to the boob-tube. Think of how many new jobs would be created if the average American didn’t sit around watching TV. I think about my own business. As I work to get closer to FI, I will be buying more rental properties or flips. Sure, I will spent my 1,022 hours working on the rehabs, but those 1,022 hours will get me so much closer to FI than sitting in front of TV will.
So tell me, am I an old fart?