"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."
-- Benjamin Franklin

Everyone knows that money, in and of itself, can't buy happiness. Thanks to a phenomenon called the "hedonic treadmill," we humans generally get used to whatever good things come our way and end up craving more ... and more ... and more ...

Worth more than its weight in gold
So if this true, then what's the point of all this stock stuff? Why invest for the fanciest of cars, the largest of lakeside homes, or the most majestic of yachts? Why worry whether our shares of MasterCard (NYSE:MA) are up or down on any given day? Doesn't the evidence suggest that no matter how rich we are, how famous we are, or how many toys we have, we'll almost never be satisfied? Well, yeah. We probably won't be. Pretty sad, isn't it?

But fear not, my fellow stock junkies and junkettes! Because there is a lasting reward that comes from successful stock picking. There is something that our investment returns can buy that will certainly, unequivocally contribute to our permanent happiness. It's the main reason why the majority of Fools, including the more than 115,000 members of the Motley Fool CAPS community, unite and assist each other in making substantial stock-market profits.

The reason is simple -- to be able to buy the most valuable and cherished commodity in the world: time.

Climbing the not-so-corporate ladder
Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, observed that humans have a variety of needs that range from basic physiological necessities to "higher" psychological and spiritual ones -- such as the need to have a sense of belonging, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of purpose (highest on the list). Maslow found that the key to an individual's well-being lies in the ability to climb to the top of this "hierarchy of needs," which probably explains why we often feel a void in the most neglected areas of our lives. So, contrary to what the wisdom of P. Diddy might tell us, it's not all about the Benjamins!

Fortunately, the 21st century -- more than any other period in history -- offers us the very best chance to reach our economic, intellectual, and spiritual potential. But that doesn't mean it comes for free. Nor does it mean that we are guaranteed to meet all of these needs -- far from it. Although having a completely rewarding life doesn't require stratospheric talent or millions of dollars, it does cost great amounts of our time. This is precisely where investment acumen and great stock picks can come in pretty handy -- OK, very handy.

Times of our lives
We'd probably agree that purchasing things we really don't need -- in order to impress people we really don't like -- is an incredibly ridiculous waste of money! So, even though buying $10,000 worth of stock in companies like Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), or Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) in the early 1990s would have made you a multimillionaire today, there's still no guarantee that your life would be a more satisfying one today. That's for sure.

But what finding a few 10-baggers would have given you enough to buy is freedom -- more freedom than you and I could ever hope for. Money is storage for value, and it stores its greatest value not when it's helping us keep up with the Joneses, but rather when it's being used to buy us time. Time to spend on the activities we love. Time to pursue the goals we are passionate about. And time to do all the things that bring meaning to our lives.

In other words, money can give us the luxury to scale Maslow's great mountain of needs. It can give us the peace of mind that enables us to make mistakes, slip, cliffhang, and even fall ... yet have more than enough time to recover and still make it to the top, where we can find our calling, our "dharma," our life's purpose. Of course, this is a luxury that few are lucky enough to afford.

Reality checks
Unfortunately, planting a flag atop Mt. Maslow isn't exactly a huge priority for many people, and understandably so. In our hustle-and-bustle, stress-laden society, more pressing concerns tend to take precedence. When your daily worries center around how you'll be able to keep a steady job, support a family, pay for a home, pay the bills, and have enough saved for the future, just being able to stand at the foot of Mt. Maslow is enough of a struggle!

But that's reality, right? Maybe so. Still, with some financial education, focus, and a whole lot of discipline, just a few wonderful investments can give anyone's reality a major makeover! In the words of Albert Einstein, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

Empires of time
Most investors have dreams of becoming great tycoons, putting together corporate empires like Warren Buffett or Eddie Lampert -- or like Carl Icahn, with his investments in Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Blockbuster (NYSE:BBI), and Motorola (NYSE:MOT). It's easy to think you have to be a billionaire to have enough money to make all your dreams come true.

Obviously, though, most of us don't need to build a corporate dynasty in order to see our biggest aspirations come to fruition. Instead, all we really need is enough money so that we don't have to spend another second worrying about money. After all, each one of us has a personal mountain to climb, and the clock's a-tickin'.

A Foolish paradise
So, to give you a head start, get going and try one of our investment newsletters free for a month. For instance, our Motley Fool Inside Value newsletter combs through beaten-down companies to find those with the best prospects to rebound and produce future profits for shareholders. The members of the Inside Value team of stock-loving analysts dedicate an inordinate amount of their time (and they enjoy every second of it) to picking those wonderful investments that can indeed buy you, my Foolish friend, some precious time of your own.

As Vincent Van Gogh once said, "Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do." With the help of your fellow Fools and some wisely placed investments, you'll eventually find more time to complete the job you were destined to finish -- rather than the one that only pays the bills.

Microsoft, Dell, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Take advantage of our free trial offer and take a closer look for a month, on us.

This article, written by Brian Pacampara, was originally published on Dec. 4, 2006. It has been updated by Dan Caplinger, who doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy never wastes your time.