The Value Of Time

“Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s why it’s called the Present”

Not sure whose quote this is. Sure time has value. It is a non-renewable resource and we either make something of it — or it’s wasted.

But calling time a present is spiritual and directional.  I seek order of magnitude.

Normally I do not have a basis for the dollar value of time.  I get paid a salary, but not an hourly wage. I allocate time to work as need and it tends to need quite a large portion of the available hours. I therefore value any time not working, especially vacation days.

So now to the point of this all. Between now and December 31, 2010 I know exactly how much a day is worth. For reasons that are not material to the story, my company will be cashing out any unused vacation as of the end of the year. I just found out a few days ago. Every vacation day I take between now and then is worth 1/260 of my base salary. I make a decent base salary.

I had some days off planned.  For example, next Friday to make a long weekend around our wedding anniversary. I knew the cost of the hotel and meals, etc., but now the money I forfeit by taking the day off will more than double the cost. Ok, its my anniversary.

But what about the wedding in Philly we are going to next month. Do we leave Friday or Saturday. Leaving Friday I not only have cost of the extra night in the hotel but I lose another day’s pay. The flip side is that I have friends in Philly I would spend the day with. How much is that worth?

Another day after Thanksgiving. Then my wife wants to take a week in December and go somewhere warm. If I wasn’t getting paid for left over vacation days in 2010, I would have considered this a good idea. The week’s pay I would lose would pay for much of the same trip taken in 2011.

I grew up in a family that counted pennies.  That formed my nature. I fortunately do not need to budget so closely. This is however real money and there are so many things we want to do to our house and I am still paying for college.

What’s the value of time? More this year than next. Curse my employer for doing something good.

I’m Losing It

Actually for about 20 minutes it was completely lost.

First my eyesight, my hearing and my memory. Now I’m losing my mind.

After a brutal work week I slept for a couple of hours this afternoon. Then I needed to rally. Too many things to do that cannot wait. Officemax to pick up some last items for D before he takes off for college. Then to the grocery store to pick up a few things. I am about to get into the checkout aisle and I reach for my wallet. Not there. “What do you mean its not there” the left side of my brain screams to the right. Have you checked every pocket. Of course I have, twice. Where the hell can $200 in cash, all my credit cards my license and every piece of I.D. known to man wrapped up in an overstuffed brown leather package be?

I run to the car. Maybe I absentmindedly put it in one of the OfficeMax bags. No, damn it. I race across the strip mall to the Max. “Anyone leave a wallet?” I frantically ask the 16 year old cashier with the bad highlights in her hair. No.

I race back to the car to look again. Then back to the grocery store. Did I drop it in the cart which I had now abandoned for 15 minutes. Not there. on to the service counter. Anyone bring in a brown wallet. I must have looked like a total crazy person because the woman behind the counter could not pull all of the stuff out of the lost and found drawer fast enough. Still nothing.

A few memory cells kick in. I DID HAVE IT IN THIS STORE. I had pulled a shopping list from it. I was at the Pepsi display. Quick to aisle 10. Damn it, damn it. Not near the Pepsi. I race to the few other areas of the store I had been. At this point I have passed into that region beyond panic. Visions of some schmo buying expensive things with my credit cards and cash flashed before my eyes. It was the weekend and I was going to have to cancel my credit cards and we are to take my son to school in two days. ARRRRRRHHHH.

One last look in the Pepsi aisle. Wait, what is that on the four foot high stack of cartons? My wallet of course. Laying open for all to see. Maybe you had to be looking for it. Everything was there. Well almost everything. The money, credit cards, driver’s licence, etc were there but the shopping list was gone.

So you decide. I am I some unfortunate schlemiel or the luckiest guy in the world? All I know is that I am glad I found my wallet and my mind tonight. I hope neither disappears again too soon.

I Want To Give Away $300 Million

What I mean is that I want the ability to give away $300 million. I think that means that I would have to have substantially more than $300 million, which is what I really want.

David Booth just gave $300 million to the University of Chicago Graduate Business School. Of course the name will now become the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Good for them, though that is not what went through my mind when I first heard this story.

My first reaction was that if I had $300 million to give away BEFORE I died then I must have close to a gazillion dollars to begin with. It is not as if a person will give $300 million away and leave himself a paltry $10 or $50 million. You gotta believe that you would not do that unless you had at least a $billion or two.

I want to be that guy. When I am, feel free to come and ask for some. Just be aware that you may need to have your house, or better yet one of your kids, be renamed.

Rich Man Poor Man

Is it O.K. to want to live a luxurious life?

I recently spent two days at the Four Seasons at a client’s expense.  At the Four Seasons, the rooms and common areas are beautiful. The staff attends to you regularly and warmly without being intrusive. Every time I left the hotel a limo was waiting for me.  The meals were excellent. 

This lifestyle draws me like the proverbial moth to the flame.  Yet at the same time it makes me uncomfortable.  Why do I get such strong, conflicting emotional reactions? 

I have spent the past several days trying to understand.

First of all, recognize that this set up was not done for me. This company had its board of directors in for meetings, one of which I attended. The first class treatment was for them. The nature of my work brings me into daily contact with many wealthy business people ranging from multimillionaires to the occasional billionaire. These people can do or buy pretty much as they please at any time it suits them.  I envy this ability. (BTW. There is rich and there is super rich. The NASDAQ just opened a trading market for private companies that do not want to be subject to the regulations required to be listed on the regular NASDAQ exchange or the NYSE. Want to buy shares in those companies. Minimum requirement to play: $100 million in assets.)

Second, I lead a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle.  I do not worry about how to pay the mortgage but I have to (or at least I do) think about what we are going to spend and what that means we cannot spend in the near future. I do not stay at a Four Seasons when I am picking up the tab. Also, I grew up at the low end of middle class life with less than I have now. 

Over the years I developed a self image of being egalitarian, a populist as it were. I came to admire that self image. (Too narcissistic?) I think about how money spent on the excesses of the wealthy would be better spent on the needs of the poor.  

Having said all that, I would not mind at all having enough money to live well and no longer work. I want to travel the world and stay at nice places while doing it. I do not like mediocre hotel rooms even though I am generally averse to paying for better given our current finances.  I like nice clothes though I could live in blue jeans and tee shirts. (I wore my Armani jacket for the first time at these meetings. I felt special having it.)

For now, contemplating whether or not I could get comfortable being one of the truly wealthy is purely an academic exercise.  One with wealth can always give it to the needy.

After all this introspection, I possess no greater understanding of these conflicting emotions than when I began.  However, being able to write about how I feel helps to exorcise the demons at least a bit.

 P.S. I loved the 1970’s mini series Rich Man, Poor Man.  Peter Strauss, a young Nick Nolte and the extremely sexy Susan Blakely starred. What ever happened to her?

My First Armani

You know how an infant’s toys are often called My First ____. My first book, my first truck, my first doll. I am a child again…just with a bigger bank account.

I have lived in the corporate world my entire adult life. Until the creation of business casual I wore a suit every day. Also, since I work with, and more importantly sell to, senior executives I need to look like I belong even though they earn far more in a year than I will in a decade. I wear either suits or sport coats and ties several times a month. It was time to replenish some stock.

While I need to look good, I grew up in a very frugal house. I have not outgrown the habit of buying on sale, shopping at several stores to get the best deal and spending as little as possible. And yet every once in a while I go crazy on a whim. Tonight was one of those moments of insanity.

I left the house to buy one or two pairs of slacks and maybe a pair of shorts. After dragging my wife to a number of stores, we ended up at Nordstrom’s. I had checked pants prices at 6 stores and decided on a navy pair. I then agonized as to whether $40 was too much for a pair of shorts. Unfortunately someone asked the sales clerk about suits and sportcoats. Their anniversary sale is on now. We looked at a couple of OK items including a reasonably priced sport coat that looked good on me. Then my wife who has a great eye for fashion saw a jacket. It was an Armani. Of Course. Even at 50% off it cost more than my last 2 suits combined. It fit great and made me look even better. I took it off but we just kept coming back to it. Next thing I know the tailor is chalking the sleeves and I own this bad boy. Makes the thought process about the shorts irrelevant.

I am sure this jacket will last forever. I will look like I belong with a bunch of rich people when I need to. And, I will eventually get over the buyers remorse I have when I spend more than $100 on anything. It does make me look something like Clooney. Yes I mean George not Rosemary.

My first Armani. You will not find this for your child at Toys-R-Us.

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A Bake Sale For Millionaires

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(The second of two articles from Monday’s Chicago Tribune)

I have been hearing about a segment in our society in need of support. It just so happens that at a point when many of us would feel we reached the financial pinnacle, we would just be joining a group of relative paupers. We need to help build the self esteem of this group and provide aid to help them achieve their dreams. Yes, I am referring to that underclass of multimillionaires struggling to help the world achieve a goal of 1,000 billionaires. With only 946 billionaires worldwide, you can see the problems.

What problems you ask? Like helping the sagging U.S. real estate market. Currently there are too few bidders for the Hala Ranch, a 95 acre estate just outside of Aspen owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Bandar bin Sultan (what a great name). With an asking price of $135 million, millionaires need not apply. Only 11 of the 1,000 requests to view the property have been granted. As I said, a major blow to the self esteem of multimillionaires everywhere.

And Aspen is not the only U.S. locale with this kind of problem. A client of mine, a former CEO, has a place in Jackson Hole, Wy. The city of Jackson Hole has worked hard to limit the amount of new development which keeps the supply of property low while demand is rising. As he lamented the other day, the millionaires are being forced out of the area by the billionaires. This brought me to tears.

Being a man of action I quickly put a plan in place that mirrors successful fundraising efforts conducted for the local school and my son’s baseball team. We are having a bake sale! For this mission we will need a massive effort. This needs to go national. I am enlisting readers throughout the 48Facets community across this wide nation to join me.

Raison cookies anyone?