How Many Saturday's Do You Have Left?

Time Is a Precious Commodity. Even More so After You Read This Story.

1000 Marbles - a Story About Time
••• Kohei Hara/DigitalVision/Getty Images

I was in my early 20's when email started to take off. As I was sitting in the office one day this story about time showed up in my email inbox. It brought tears to my eyes and forever changed my way of thinking.

I saved the story to an "inspiring quotes" folder that I keep. I don't know who wrote it. I hope it impacts you in the powerful way that it impacted me.

1000 Marbles

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the backyard patio with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up to listen to a Saturday morning talk show I heard an older sounding gentleman, with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles".

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say...

"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital."

He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities."

And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles." "You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years."

"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime.

Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part."

"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."

"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away."

"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

"It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again.

You could have heard a pin drop on the radio when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work that morning. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."

"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile. "Oh, nothing special, it's just been a while since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."

Source: Anonymous – received by email in mid 90’s.

Time vs. Money

Planning for retirement involves a trade-off between time and money. Some may choose to work more Saturdays, hoping to save more early on, retire by 55, and have more Mondays through Fridays free later. Others may choose to work less, and enjoy their Saturdays as they go along.

Take some time to think about your values around time and how that impacts your financial decisions and your decisions as to when to retire. If your decisions are not in line with your values, it may be time to make some changes.

You may decide to find ways to live on less, to free up time. Or perhaps it is time to shift into a second career that is more rewarding or less stressful. There is no right or wrong answer - it is a personal decision, or if married, a joint decision with your spouse.

If working through the financial aspects of the time vs. money trade-offs is challenging, a qualified financial advisor or retirement planner can be of great assistance.