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Here is something that I have been contemplating the past few days: What is a year of your life worth?

Before I get directly into that subject, I’ll start with a story. When I was 19 or so, just out of college, I began to work part time at my instructor’s martial arts school. Some months later, in an exercise to illustrate the intangible value of our classes, he had me sit down in his office and list on a piece of paper all of the benefits that I felt that I had acquired by training there (I was a student as well as an employee). While I can’t recall exactly what I wrote, I’m sure that I listed confidence, physical fitness, and a dozen other things on my paper.

What is it all worth?

Once I was done writing, he then asked me to put down a dollar value beside each of the benefits that I had listed, an amount that I felt each of them were worth to me. Not having a ton of money at the time, I’m pretty sure I listed fairly small amounts for each one, but the sum total was still significant, at least to me. At the end of the exercise, he simply asked that, assuming it were possible, if he was willing to write me a cheque for the amount of money that I had listed on my paper, would I give back all that I had gained in exchange for the cash? As you can imagine, I said no.


Back to the original question, what is a year of your life worth? If you’re gainfully employed (not a vagabond like us), I assume you could quote your income, whether that be an hourly wage, salary, commission, or whatever. Simply adding a year’s worth of that money together would give you a sum, but the question is, given the choice, would you consciously sell a year of your life for it? That is, after all, what you’re doing. Most people, however, fail to consider it. A strictly theoretical question? I’d suggest that it’s not.

Time, more rare than jewels

We all know people, some intimately, who are on a 2-5-10-20 year plan to go cruising. Many of these are folks that insist that they need to work another X number of years to save up enough money to cut the dock lines. It’s important to recognize that, in a situation like this, these people are essentially trading time for money. Time, a fixed asset, infinitely more rare and irreplaceable than the most precious of jewels, and money, pieces of paper or numbers in a bank account that can be acquired in an unlimited number of ways. We’re all aware that our lives are made up of a limited amount of years (months, days), or at least we should be. If you had insight into the exact number of months remaining in your life, each represented by a page on a paper calendar, would you tear off a year’s worth in exchange for a sum of money? If so, what would be your price?

In my mind, this discussion doesn’t solely relate to those in the early stages of cruising preparation. Think about those who are ready to go sailing now, and are boat shopping. When comparing two vessels, one that is virtually turn-key, and one that is a fixer-upper that will take 2 or more years of work to prepare for a voyage, what should the difference in price be for someone who is, with the right boat, ready to go cruising now? Most would add up the value of parts and labor to make the second boat seaworthy, but completely fail to add in any value for the years of their life that they are relinquishing while waiting for the project boat to be completed. A mistake? I’d say yes.

What is a year of OUR time worth? That’s a great question, but one that I don’t, and perhaps never will, have an accurate answer for. In spite of that, I do believe it’s worthy of some consideration.