I’m not some enlightened philosopher or ‘visionary thought-leader’. I’m just a guy who likes to think about things, simply. I think a lot about why people work. Mostly about why I work. But it’s my job, I’m a Recruiter. I waste a lot of time on Twitter, something I justify as ‘doing my job’ - but my wife doesn’t believe me. I saw this tweet from Hunter Walk and I had to chime in. He said:
“Many people value their money more than their time when it should be the reverse.”
I replied with something like, “It’s not that simple.” and “Usually people with money can say that.” I wasn’t trying to be a jerk but having seen it from both sides, it’s really a tough problem. Rich people buy time with money, and poor people spend their time to make money. If you have a job, you’re giving your time for someone else’s money. So basically we have two types of people, and yes, one person can move back and forth between both categories depending on the amount of time or money in question.
1) More money than time.
Usually if you make more than a certain amount, say $75k a year (which is barely middle class in Silicon Valley), it makes sense for you to pay for certain services like house cleaning, or car washes. Even buying lunch is a small luxury since it’s almost always cheaper to pack a sandwich and brown bag it. But at some threshold or break point, your time is worth more than your money, so you’ll gladly pay other people to do your dirty work. Like cutting the grass or cleaning your toilets. This is why startups like TaskRabbit, Zaarly and Exec exist. Rich people are willing to pay pretty well (like $25/hr which is equivalent to a salary of ~$50k a year at 40/hrs week) to have people do tasks and run errands for them.
2) More time than money.
On the other side of the transaction are the Execs, Rabbits or runners who are willing to do the grunt work for $15 to $20/hr - after the startups take their cut of course - and go pick up your dry cleaning, walk your dog or do other menial tasks that the Rich can’t be bothered with. The logic goes, why send a Programmer to do a Costco run when they’re being paid $150k a year! Obvious right? (btw, Costco delivers) And everyone’s happy right?
Well not so fast. This class-dynamic has always been around and will likely last well into the future. People get paid to do a job. The more valuable the work output, the more you get paid. The startups creating these marketplaces are saying they’re creating jobs for the unemployed, under-employed and stay-at-home Moms. But are people really doing these tasks as their first choice job? Not likely. This Great Recession has created an environment where people are taking on additional work - or even any kind of work - to make ends meet, pay rent or even be able to afford to eat.
Why do I think this? Let’s go back to 2002. The first dotcom boom had gone bust the prior year. I was paying ridiculous San Francisco rents and a $500 car payment and burning through my savings at a frightening pace. As a “business guy” in the startup world, I wasn’t worth anything and there were no jobs to be found. So when my friend called about a job opening, I took it. Working at the mall. Not one of those fancy floor jobs like the good-looking folks get, I was in the back, opening boxes. As a stock-boy, I was paid $15/hr and I was glad to have the job so I didn’t have to a) starve b) default on my loans and c) leave the Bay Area like everyone else. This was less than I made at my first job, with my fancy Ivy League degree (with a minor in box-cutting).
Now, 10 years later I charge ten times as much, though essentially I’m still the same person. The economy’s changed some, but startup recruiting is in high demand amidst this second talent war. And so I find myself on the other side, where I barely have time to sleep, I’m working as much as humanly possible and finding that my mid-thirties are not as productive as my mid-twenties. Now I need 6 hours of sleep a night when I use to work fine on four. ;)
But I don’t use TaskRabbit or Exec. I still wash my own clothes and do my own yard work. My job title when I’m home is Garbage Man and Dishwasher (most nights, sorry Honey!). I grew up in a poor immigrant family on welfare in Brooklyn in the 80’s, so maybe I have a different perspective. I still believe in an honest day’s work, and sometimes that means having a little ache in your back, a little soreness in your arms and a good night’s sleep from a job well done.
So why don’t ‘those people’ just do more valuable work you ask? That’s not so simple, and beyond my powers of explanation. How one’s time is valued by society, i.e. how much you make in your job, affects your views on time and money. It’s a very practical and logical mindset. Some call it the Poverty Mindset, and those get-rich-quick guys will tell you that’s what’s holding back your Inner Millionaire! There’s also the concept of Decision Fatigue, which may affect the poor more than their well-off brethren. When you’re worried about putting food on the table for your children, you don’t have the luxury of valuing your time more than your money. You’ve gotta use your time to make money, to keep the things that are most important, alive.
Bonus: Sometimes when you have more time than money, you get wonderful creations like this.