How Much Would It Cost To Buy Back Your Life?

I’m not exactly sure what it was about yesterday that got to me.

It’s been fairly normal in the past three years for me to go through intermittent period of longing, when the 8-5 (let’s be real, 7-7) seems long, and the weekends seem short. Longing for a little more free time, followed pretty shortly thereafter with a sobering wave of pragmatism and gratitude for being gainfully employed at good companies. I’ve said before and will say again that life is good, that I (and we) really don’t have much to complain about in the scheme of things.

But, maybe it was because it was the busiest time of year, when the work just piles on and on and on, without care for person or demands. Maybe it was the pang that came from seeing the photo of close friends getting together in the middle of the day, without me. Maybe it was the many projects, born in the mornings, bright with buckets full of enthusiasm and excitement, met at the end of the day with only just enough energy to pick up the house, set them aside, and head to bed. Maybe it was the warm, 72 degree day and crisp breeze laughing outside the office window, or the couple leisurely eating lunch at 2pm at the restaurant down the street. Maybe it was because everyone around me, at that moment, seemed to have the freedom to choose what to do in the middle of the day, and I (as any full time worker would attest) did not. For whatever reason, for the first time, instead of just longing for a little more free time, I felt….mad.

Mad that this is how life is setup. That we have to sell 40, 50, 60 hours of our week to make this thing called money…money that goes to provide comfortable homes that we spend little time in, and life sustaining stuff for loved ones who we spend too little time with. Mad that working all week long, for the rest of your life, counting your vacation days and watching the sunny sky only from inside a gray and white and tan and always a little bit too chilly office. I don’t know. For the first time, it just really bugged me.

Of course, that’s called grown-up life, I know. “By the sweat of your brow”, and all. I know. I know.  And yes, there are creative ways around this. Perhaps one spouse can trade his or her time in for money at a much better rate, and that pays for your time back. Perhaps you both work half time, and learn to live on less. Perhaps you start your own business and get to dictate WHEN you sell your time (though that you must sell it at some point is undeniable).

Either way, I started thinking about time. And how if we really wanted our time back, REALLY wanted our lives back, it would cost a certain amount of money. A specific dollar figure.

So….how much would it cost me to buy my time back? (All of it?) So I would have enough of this stuff called money (just enough) to spend my time in ways that were the most meaningful to me and my family for the rest of my life?

Well, the math is very simple. Oliver and I are a packaged deal now, so I ran though how much it would cost to buy BOTH of our lives back, at a minimum.

So, to be simple. $100,000 a year, while not a massive amount, is not a minimal amount, and could provide a modestly decent, if simple, life. (It wouldn’t cover things like saving for kids college, a reasonably comfortable home, salary increases with age, etc, but, I digress).

Assuming I live to 95, inflation is 2%, and we can get an average 4% annual return on investment (I know, optimistic these days, but not unreasonable given the horizon), it would cost exactly $6,951,522.30 to buy back our time. That would provide us $100k/year, indexed for inflation, for the next 70 years.

Interesting. Honestly, I thought the number would be higher.

How much would it cost to buy your life back?


If you want, you can use the calculator below.

For the following fields, enter:

PV: nothing

FV: 0 (Or whatever amount you would want to be left to your family when you die)

PMT: Annual income desired (example: $50k, $150k, etc)

Periods: Life expectancy (example: 95 minus your age now)

Rate: You’ll have to do a tiny bit of math here. Stay with me.  Rate=(Assumed rate of return/assumed rate of inflation)-1 . Example= (1.04/1.02)-1=0.019 ***make sure to use the % as a decimal figure, not a whole number

Then click “PV” to solve for the present value of the $$$ needed. (The number will appear as a negative number. That’s ok.)



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  • Maybe you and Oliver should look into an idea that a friend of Louie’s daughter Edie is doing. He looked at the actual time his employees worked during an 8 hour (+1 hr lunch) and discovered/decided that all the work they did during that time could be done in 5 hours, if people worked for the full 5 hours. He put them all on 5 hour days and did not reduce their income. At the end of 90 days things were going great. All the work was being done and the employees were loving the free time. They are now on the same 90 day schedule to see if it continues. Great idea, if it keeps working. 40 hours a week is a lot if you have a family. I have never seen how Mothers could do that, since frankly as much as Dads are more involved now the majority of the at home work still falls on the woman. Love G’Ma