How Much Money Does 1 Hour of Happiness Cost?

Today, while envisioning my future endeavor Evolving with G I once again turned on that part of the brain that goes nuts over how much money it is good to have, when, and for what. It was a pretty personal day, and I was mostly attuned to my emotional goals, not the external world ones. So this is what came into mind:

Money I need = Price of Happiness/Hour * Hours I will live

Luckily I’m a very number friendly person.

How many hours I have left to live was easy, since I have an app on my phone which just tells me how long until my 83rd birthday, the age at which both of my awesome grandmas stopped existing – and using money. I’m assuming technology will at least make men now live as long as women did then during my lifetime.

So here is the big number nicely encapsulated in a glacier, since I’ll be in a cryonics tank upside down somewhere:
fun left stuff.png


Then I can calculate how much do I cost per hour. About 3 bucks per hour, if I take my last year expenses, and divide it by the number of hours in a year.

Yes, for reals.

And how happy am I?

Well, luckily I also track that with another app that buzzes at random times. Recently I’ve been at about 8.6 out of 10.

So that is pretty much the price of my happiness at the moment. I could cut down on expenses if needed, and I could probably spend up to a hundred thousand dollars a day if I absolutely had to.

There are all sorts of reasons to want more money, among other things, to buy extra time. I could probably be happy spending between 3 and 4000 dollars per hour.

But maybe I can use this post to tell my brain, once and for all, that it really, really doesn’t need that much money.

Three bucks an hour. That is not so much.

It does add up though.

It specifically adds up to


That’s more than a million dollars. It is almost a million and a half dollars. It’s a lot of money.

The good news is that as soon as I sleep for 8 hours and 20 minutes, that’s 25 less needed, right there.

An Hour’s Worth

I currently value my hour differently for different things.

For things that are not aligned with my goals, such as if you wanted me to be a waiter in your restaurant:

150 per hour

That seems ok. For every hour now that I spend being a waiter I get 50 hours at the other end. I think 82 year old me would be happy to know I saved his ass for two days.

For sort of aligned stuff, if you want me to promote rationality, give a talk about philosophy of mind, promote Effective Altuism or talk about primatology:

60 per hour.

That seems ok too. Every hour doing one of these things buys me 20 hours. It’s fun and makes the pile of money slide longer, and prolongs my reverse retirement plan.

For the project I’m working on at the moment:

3 per hour.

I have a to do list organized per value per hour. That’s better than any other system I know for to do lists because it saves most attention. Every new item slides in automatically exactly where it should, and when I am in the mood for getting stuff done, I just have to read the top one. At the top of my to do list will usually sit a thing that I want, need, or love to be doing.

I don’t distinguish work from play in my to do list. Pit ball disco party and finish tax form are both there, side by side. It does take some intuition training to be able to judge the value per hour of new items, but surely pays off.

I’d be up for doing the top item in my to do list forever, so it only needs to pay for my basic cost. As I found out today, that’s three dollars an hour.

For Exploration Mode:

0 per hour.

Exploration mode, not to be mixed up with procrastination, usually means there is a big picture insight missing in my to do list or my approach to life, it is a time for review and cutting off the 80% worst of most of life things.

For building up skills and meta-stuff:

-30 per hour.

I’d pay more than 30 per hour of learning how to do the things I want to do, or the projects I want to pursue. I end up not paying that much (on average) because:

Most skills can be easily learned online

Most professional teachers are too slow, since they were trained to take the pace of their slowest student.

Most of the cost of being taught by the best is producing value to them and finding them, not giving money. Social skill pays better than dollars if your goal is dancing with the masters.

So on average I end up paying less than I’d be willing to.

Pushing The Deadline Until the Deadline

My dad used to tell me to try to earn today what I’ll need in 10 years. I ended up developing a more complicated chart and a currency then, my conclusion was that one should plunge into being poorer, have the lowest net wealth point at 33, then rise upwards from there.

Either way, it is important to not miss the deadline. Contrary to popular thought. The deadline is not the day you have to be done with homework, to satisfy your boss, or to do your taxes.

The deadline is when you stop existing.

Your money is not very useful when you don’t exist.

If you have some leftover money and you happen to anticipate that you will permanently cease to exist soon, it is worthwhile to do some outsourcing, some automation, to make sure your goals that are you-independent get done after you leave the premises.

Again contrary to popular illusion, living your life like it was your last day is a terrible advice – I like the version where you live your life like you’d live only 4 more years though, it strikes a perfect balance between my emergence trigger for an awesome life worthy of long project pursuits, while still remembering that letting today opportunities slide into I’ll do it tomorrow’s neverland might be a bad way of actually getting anywhere, it is the middle-ground where the Buddhist hippie meets the entrepreneurial philosopher.

So for those of us with more than a few hours to live, it is worth getting an idea of what the deadline is, how much our happiness costs, how much money we have now, and how much more, or less, is needed for you to declare servitude retirement day.

It may be sooner than you think.



2 thoughts on “How Much Money Does 1 Hour of Happiness Cost?

  1. Qual é a ideia atrás de “reverse retirement plan”?

    Gostei da edição deste texto – espaçamento entre linhas, layout mais claro.

    1. The idea behind reverse retirement plan is derived from The Caleiro Conjecture. The Caleiro Conjecture postulates you should think about your life backwards, starting from your dying day. The fact that your dying day is unknown makes it such that you don’t experience stress or tension when people who are the same age as you achieve things you don’t yet feel capable of achieving, since you never know if you are 35 4 or 15 years old, except as a probability distribution.

      Conditional on the Caleiro Conjecture, using resources to buy time is a good idea early on, because you are more likely to be alive anyway and also the marginal value of the extra hour is higher than when older. This means one should accumulate resources later and do a reverse retirement plan, although continuing to be updated about the pace of the world.


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