Time is Money: How are You Spending your "168 Hours"?

If you haven’t heard of Laura Vanderkam yet – you will.

My intellectual girl crush on Laura began back in August 2009 when I read her wonderful op-ed in USA Today, The Princess Problem.  I was gripped by her grasp on the odd conundrum that is the modern woman’s relationship to money and power. Immediately I knew that I wanted more, and Laura did not disappoint. Her new book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think launches today and let me say… it is absolutely brilliant. 

As a personal finance expert I am fond of chanting “time is money”.  But Laura’s book taught me a much better mantra is: “How are you spending your 168 Hours”?  Reading 168 Hours is an investment in your life that will pay dividends for years to come.  Laura was kind enough to share some thoughts that would be of interest to those of us passionate about all things women and money.  So savor the answers below – and for more Laura check out the book’s website and follow her on twitter at @LVanderkam.

(1) These days with unemployment hovering near 10% a lot of people are wondering how best to maximizing their hours at work.  From your research for 168 Hours what would you suggest?

Keep in mind two things. First, most employers want you to make more money for them. Potentially the currency of your profession is different, but don’t fool yourself, it often comes back to money somehow. And second, you probably have long-term career goals. You’ll maximize your time at work if you focus on activities related to those two desires. You’ll really soar if the two overlap! One tip: Write your year-end performance review in January. Now you know exactly what you should be focusing on at work, and what you can skip (because I’m guessing that “she always answers her emails within 10 minutes” won’t be listed as one of your key accomplishments).

(2) One thing I always encourage women to have is an “F-You Fund,” that special savings cushion which enables you to make bold changes to how you use your time.  You made exactly that type of leap in your life.  Can you tell us about that?

I didn’t know it was called an “F-You Fund,” but I have called upon this fund multiple times. When I was 23, I wanted to move to New York to become a writer. The fact that I had built up savings, even as an intern earning about $25k a year, made it possible for me to pursue my dream. In the years since then, I’ve walked away from several projects that just weren’t going to work long-term. Money may not buy you love, but it buys you freedom. Even if you like what you do, I believe people perform better when they don’t desperately need their jobs. You’re more willing to take risks. You’re more willing to stretch yourself and push back.

(3) Chapter Seven of 168 Hours is called “Don’t Do Your Own Laundry.”  I can already hear women across the land high five-ing you on that.  What is your logic?

Time is money. The only reason we view outsourcing household chores like laundry, food preparation or cleaning as expensive is that we expect women to do these things for free. But what’s funny about this is that the definition of women’s work keeps changing. You probably don’t sew your own clothes or churn your own butter anymore. So why not try a wash-and-fold service? If you could moonlight and earn $20/hour, and laundry takes you 3 hours per week, it isn’t free, it cost you $60 (well, $40 after taxes). I know this seems like it contradicts my advice, above, about having savings, but you can build assets two ways: spending less or earning more. It takes a lot of coupons to get the same bang as asking for a $5,000 raise.

 

FTC disclosure:  In order to properly review this book prior to it’s release I had to actually read it in advance. That entailed getting an advance review copy which I did not pay for (disclosed!). Importantly, upon reading 168 Hours, I immediately hopped on Amazon to buy copies via their pre-order function to give as gifts (which I don’t have to disclose, but I will, because the book is that good.)

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