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Monday, March 8, 1999

Time Savers, Money Savers

by Dan Coyle (DCPlaya)

Back in junior high school, I read a book called Cheaper By the Dozen. It was about Frank Gilbreth, a pioneering motion study expert, and his 12 children, two of whom wrote the book. Among his innovations were touch typing, the system whereby the surgeon asks the nurse for an instrument and she hands it to him, and the most important time saver of all: buttoning your shirts from the bottom up instead of the top down. After several time trials, he discovered you can save a few seconds every day by reversing your buttoning direction. (Try it -- it works.)

One particular part of the book has stuck with me over the years. Someone once asked Gilbreth why he was so passionate about saving time. "What are you going to do with all the time you save?" asked this person. You'll have to read the book to find out, because the answer is not what stuck with me over the years; it was the question.

Generic versions of that question come up on a regular basis in my own life, especially in investing. Why am I putting aside money from every paycheck? Why am I spending several hours a month tracking stocks and researching companies? Sure I enjoy it, but I do it because I want to have a big pile of money some day. Well, how big is big? When will that some day come? In short, what am I going to do with all that money?

I have a new idea every day. One day I want to retire early from my "real job" and get a job teaching personal finance at a local high school. The next day I want to buy a small business or continue in my current career secure in the notion that I do so because I want to, not because I have to in order to make my house payment.

I don't have to make a decision now, and the great thing is, I don't ever have to make a decision if I don't want to. I have the freedom to do anything or nothing with that money, and that's the reason I do these things: Freedom. It doesn't really matter what I do with the money. Just knowing my choices multiply like compounded interest is justification enough. Pretty soon, my choices will be cheaper by the dozen.


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