One of the things that limits textbook financial planning from offering the biggest benefits to wealth management clients and do-it-yourselfers is that the not-so-almighty dollar is just one of several scarce resources at our disposal.
When viewed only through a singular lens, and irrespective of the remaining resources, money simply does less good. But when all of one’s scarce resources are considered and activated, they can offer a synergistic effect that helps connect and amplify the benefits of each. And because personal finance is more personal than it is finance, good planning applies attention to all of these resources or “assets,” whether they can be counted or not.
A helpful way to remember these resources, you’ll be shocked to know, is a handy acronym, TIMER. That’s because each of us is in possession or receipt of some amount of each of the following:
Let’s look at each resource individually and then consider how best to allocate and, ultimately, multiply them.
I’m glad this one comes up first in this memorable moniker, because it is arguably the scarcest of all our scarce resources. Unlike influence, which expands and contracts and can also be compounded through the influence of others (can you say “retweet”?); unlike money, more of which is printed every day and can be multiplied through investments; unlike energy, of which we always seem to be able to muster a little bit more; and unlike relationships, which can be repaired even in the most seemingly irreparable ways; time is something that can only be spent once and is never recovered.
That’s why countless methods and apps and entire books, like Laura Vanderkam’s “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” have been deservingly devoted to the topic of time management.
By the way, this is one of the reasons why this financial planner has dedicated so much time to, well, time, both in my personal pursuits and my writing. For more on this topic, consider the following:
With the advent of a 24-hour news cycle, blogging, vlogging, and social media, we might think we’re in the golden era of influence. But how are we—how are you—wielding your influence? For good and the benefit of others? Or snark and self-promotion?
Or perhaps you haven’t even considered the impact of your influence. If so, I encourage you to contemplate in whose lives you currently have—or would like to have—influence.
Furthermore, whose influence have you invited into your own life? Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and in his book, The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy writes, “According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, [the people you habitually associate with] determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.”
And that’s just the humans we spend time with! What about the influences we invite into our heads and lives, virtually and otherwise? The books we read, the TV we watch, and the social media accounts we follow? The CEO of Drift, David Cancel, offers us a challenge in Inc.: “Think about what you want your reality to be. Audit your social media accounts. And be mindful of who you’re following—not just in real life, but online too.”
Consider, therefore, that the potential for your influence may be necessarily limited or buoyed by the influences of others.
- Here’s a short video from The Art of Improvement on influence that I think could positively influence you.
My primary focus in this post is on the non-financial resources at our disposal, but considering the overabundance of chatter surrounding money and the deification and demonization of the dollar itself, I will offer what I hope is a clarifying definition:
Money is nothing more than a neutral tool to be used for good or ill, to be spent well or poorly, to pursue what is most important in your life. In today’s economy, it literally has no value other than that which is attributed to it. It is a means—and can be an excellent one—but it is not an end.
This is an especially fascinating resource to consider, perhaps because it is one for which we can trade the resources of time and money. For example, if you dedicate an additional hour of this day to more sleep, the chances are good that you will increase your energy tomorrow in all the hours that you are awake. If you dedicate another hour to physical exercise, you’ll likely sleep better tonight and have more energy tomorrow. And if you spend some additional money on healthier food, again—more energy.
Then, the question becomes: How will we spend our energy?
I can remember receiving a revelation when my sons, now 19 and 17, were toddlers that not only did I spend virtually all of the daylight hours at work (or commuting to and from), I also spent the best of my energy there. When I came home, I only had energy leftovers to offer to my family, the people I claimed to be the most important in my life.
I’m pleased to say that I (mostly) heeded that particular conviction and the joy I’ve received in return is beyond measure. So, my questions to you are:
- How are you spending your energy?
- How can you spend it better?
- How will you increase your energy—through better sleep, diet, exercise, meditation, etc.?
You’ve likely seen that relationships are a resource woven throughout the others. We spend our time, money, and energy on relationships through which we influence and are influenced. But here, I want to think about relationships as a resource in themselves. Could they be the ultimate ends rather than the means represented by the other four resources?
Harvard Business School professor, Dr. Arthur Brooks, thinks so. At a recent lecture I attended, he offered a four-part “habit portfolio” or “happiness 401(k).”:
- Faith, or a philosophy that offers us perspective
- Meaningful work that offers an opportunity for service to others
You see, each of these four components in Brooks’ “happiness 401(k)” are essentially about relationships. And indeed, each of the four previous TIMER resources are essentially facilitating the last. Perhaps, therefore, we are making the very most of those resources when we allow our time, influence, money, and energy to be invested in and for those relationships we deem most important.
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