When smart people say something profound, it’s worth spending more time to fully understand it

“Time is Money” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

And why that’s important in business and in your personal life…

Opher Ganel
7 min readSep 14, 2019

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Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” — Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya in the 1987 romantic comedy The Princess Bride

The well-known phrase “time is money” is often attributed to Ben Franklin, who wrote the following in a short essay “Advice to a Young Tradesman” (though the origin of the concept traces back to ancient Greek philosophers):

…Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, tho’ he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent or rather thrown away five shillings besides…” — Ben Franklin

As most of us understand and use the phrase, it admonishes us to not waste time, since wasted time equals wasted money.

Where “Time Is Money” Breaks Down

If time truly was money, then just like most of us being able to make money doing or selling something, we’d also be able to “make time” in a similar sense (not in the sense of freeing up, rather than truly “making” time to do something).

However, while we have no idea when we will draw our last breath, we all do know that one day we will die, and that once spent, time can never be recovered or made up.

Unlike money, once spent…

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Opher Ganel

Consultant | systems engineer | physicist | writer | avid reader | amateur photographer. I write about personal finance from an often contrarian point of view.