Time Millionaires Prioritize Leisure Over Tangible Wealth [Thoughts After Dark]

Robert Roffulo

Welcome to Thomas Insights — every day, we publish the latest news and analysis to keep our readers up to date on what’s happening in industry. Sign up here to get the day’s top stories delivered straight to your inbox. Thoughts After Dark answers the questions you have in the […]

Welcome to Thomas Insights — every day, we publish the latest news and analysis to keep our readers up to date on what’s happening in industry. Sign up here to get the day’s top stories delivered straight to your inbox.

Thoughts After Dark answers the questions you have in the final moments before drifting off to sleep when a simple Google search turns into an hour-long exploration into how things are made and how they work. Your random late-night questions are answered here — even the ones you didn’t know you had.

What makes someone rich? 

Is it money? A close-knit family? A lot of friends? That expensive bottle of whiskey you sip on after a long day at work? 

Or maybe it’s time… an “excess” of it.  

In 2016, writer Nilanjana Roy coined the term “time millionaires,” or people that “measure their worth not in terms of financial capital, but according to the seconds, minutes, and hours they claw back from employment for leisure and recreation.” Time millionaires view a job simply as a way to keep a roof over their head and value their time more than tangible wealth.

According to Upwork, over 36 million Americans will work remotely by 2025. And with one in four Americans currently working from home, the pandemic has brought forth a slew of time millionaires who no longer have a boss across the way to manage their productivity. 

The Pandemic and Time Millionaires 

As a Chicago resident, I can’t hop on a train without seeing numerous business men and women clomping on a laptop or reviewing a stack of paperwork. It feels like there is always so much work to do and never enough time to do it. 

This is what time millionaires are fighting against. To them, leisure is far more important than getting work done ahead of upcoming office hours. Instead, they take walks in the middle of their work day, because they can; they lay in bed and scroll Twitter in the morning, because they can; and they take extra-long lunch breaks, because they can. 

In an article by Sirin Kale for The Guardian, Samuel Binstead, a coffee shop owner, shares his journey to becoming a time millionaire. Binstead used to spend 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. working before the pandemic, but then he began to rethink his relationship with work. Now he stops working by lunch because he said he “wants to live a lot more presently.” 

The pandemic forced many people to reassess a multitude of things: priorities, friendships, and, of course, work-life balance. As people around the world converted their extra bedroom, kitchen counter, or living room into an office space, it shifted the routine many had been used to for months, years, and even decades — changing the way they worked. 

The Privilege of Time  

In 2014, the average workweek in the U.S. was 47 hours. In 2020, it was down to 34.6. There are also currently more than 10 million job vacancies, leaving employees with the upper hand in terms of assessing multiple jobs’ benefits, salary, hours, and other perks before accepting an offer.

But those that work in-person jobs, in retail, in the service industry, minimum wage positions, or have children don’t typically have the luxury of taking a long mid-day walk or clocking out before 5:00 p.m. The people actively achieving a less work-focused life are most often childless and comfortably secure financially. 

For the people that do have flexible work schedules, the luxury of time has been exasperated by the increasing amount of remote work positions. And with recent conversations around why or why not a 30-hour work week should become standard in the U.S., time millionaires are leading the charge in questioning a system that pays low wages for long hours of work. 

For those interested in embracing the title of “time millionaire,” they must first get past the worry of being perceived by some others as being lazy. The current perception of work can almost be seen as a competition of who is working the hardest, with the most exhausted and overworked coming in first. 

But Roy argues that people are looking at work and wealth the wrong way: “I have started to see time not in relation to wealth — the old measure of ‘your time is worth x amount an hour’ — but as something so valuable that it is, almost literally, like having money in the bank.” 

Unlike money, time can’t be saved up — and time millionaires aren’t letting those extra seconds, minutes, or hours go to waste.    

Read more from Thoughts After Dark: 

Image Credit: diignat / Shutterstock.com

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