“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time,” said author and speaker Jim Rohn. A little over a year into the pandemic and with no clear end in sight, many Americans were reconsidering what was important to them. CivicScience reported in October 2021 that 27% of Americans said ‘time’ had become more important to them than ‘money’ compared to before the pandemic. On the other end, money had become more important to 13%.
As the COVID-19 national emergency officially comes to an end, and after more than a year of raging inflation, where do these sentiments stand now? Do they represent a profound sea change, or just a momentary blitz brought on by the stresses of the pandemic, a hot employee’s labor market, and the extra cushion of Covid stimulus money?
Recent data show the notion lingers on. In fact, even more Americans now say that time is more important to them compared to before the pandemic (30%), while fewer say that money is more important (13%). For 57%, their values have largely stayed the same from pre-pandemic years (n=2,978).
In the larger picture, most Americans generally say their time is either more or equally important as money. A closer look reveals that 4-in-10 (42%) Americans value time over money, while 46% value it equally. A small minority value money more (13%).
That’s all well and good, but what does the shift toward valuing time mean for the American population?
For one, it likely led many to reevaluate their jobs, searching for positions that offered greater job flexibility such as hybrid and remote work, better work-life balance, and more autonomy in their work schedule. As the labor market cools, the jury is still out on whether or not hybrid and remote work is actually living up to those expectations, although data consistently show lower reported job happiness among young remote workers.
A greater emphasis on time may also go hand-in-hand with spending more time with others. A look at leisure activities shows that Americans place the biggest priority on de-stressing and relaxing in their down time. However, those who value time over money are more likely to say they use their free time to be with friends and family, as well as to ‘catch up on things in my personal life’ and travel.
Those who value money are more likely to focus on a hobby/passion or self-improvement.
And those who value both equally are the most likely to want to just ‘relax.’
But while many Americans adjust their work life and lifestyle to better align with their values, that’s not always a possibility for everyone. Valuing time doesn’t mean that you have less money. In fact, quite the opposite. The data show a clear correlation between wealth and valuing time. On nearly every account, the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to value time over money.
For example, people who report they are financially worse off now than prior to the pandemic are twice as likely to value money over time. On the other hand, nearly half of those who are financially better off now say time is more important to them.
Likewise, lower-income earners ($50K or less annually) are significantly less likely to value time over money compared to the highest-income earners ($150K+ annually). The same goes for those with credit card debt compared to those without it.
This suggests that while the shift in values brought on by the pandemic is likely one that’s personal, cultural, and perhaps even generational, it’s also strongly financially situated. Time is increasingly valued, but money naturally remains of equal or even greater precedence for many lower-income Americans, arguably out of necessity.
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