Free Time and Indentured Time – Introducing A Better Lifestyle Equation

by Stephen

I have been devouring the book:  Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco.  I almost
The irony of your free time is it isn’t FREE; it’s bought and paid for by your indentured time. -MJ Demarco
didn’t  buy it because I thought the name was proof of just another get rich quick scheme… Boy was I wrong!

This is not a book about how to get rich in the traditional sense, it is a book very similar in principle to the 4 Hour Workweek.

The Millionaire Fastlane challenges many of the traditional views of lifestyle/retirement planning and it  advances the work of Tim Ferriss by poking even bigger holes in the concept of the American dream which can be summed up like this:

A “wealth in a wheelchair” philosophy.

That being said, the Millionaire Fastlane is proving to be my favorite book about business and lifestyle design since (you guessed it) The 4 Hour Workweek.

I want to spend some time disecting the book, in order to formulate my own fastlane plan and maybe help you along the way. Today, I am going to pull some content from the book and a bit of my own thoughts, specifically regarding DeMarco’s wonderful idea of “free” and “indentured” time.

Free and Indentured Time: A Better Lifestyle Equation!

Lifespan = Free Time + Indentured Time

According to DeMarco:

“Free time” is yours to spend as you please:

TV, a jog in the park, video games, sleeping, eating, vacation. If you’re like most, your free time is lumped on evenings and weekends, where time is not exchanged for money.

“Indentured time” is the opposite:

It’s the total time spent earning money and the consequences of that spent time.

When you awake in the morning, shower, dress, drive to the train station, wait, ride to work, and then work for eight hours—this is indentured time. When you spend your entire weekend “recharging” from the workweek, this is indentured time.

Indentured time is actual work and the work you must do for the work. Morning rituals, traffic, compiling reports at home, solitary “recharges”—whatever time spent earning a buck is indentured time.

If you won the lottery, you’d quit your job because indentured time is no longer required and is suddenly replaced with free time.

Money buys free time and eliminates indentured time. However, the irony of your free time is it isn’t FREE; it’s bought and paid for by your indentured time.

You enjoy a two-week vacation because it was paid for by a year of indentured time. You can relax with a cold beer for an hour on the couch because you paid for it earlier in the day with eight.

My 2013 Goal is quite simple: Increase my free time and decrease my indentured time. Or, completely eliminate my indentured time altogether!

Time to invoke the 80/20 rule:

A viable option? Change the ratio of free to indentured time:  20% indentured time for 80% free time.

“If you were born into slavery, your life would be 100% indentured time with 0% free time.”

While total time can’t be manipulated, you can manipulate your time ratio. If you can steal free time from the hands of indentured time, life will have more of the “right time” versus the “wrong time.”

What I did:

Five years ago I reduced my hours at work by cutting a day off my four day, twelve hours per day, indentured time workweek. I did this out of respect to a new commute and I also wanted to create some mental space in order to pursue other passions.

I needed (and wanted) to keep my day job, but I was out of balance. reducing my indentured time to 3 days per week, gave me a 3 for 4 trade which weighted the cards in my favor.

I personally felt wonderful about my decision but I had to overcome a certain amount of initial guilt that was a result of  pandering to my jealous critics. And trust me there were (and still are) many critics.

Critics often make assumptions about “free time” that fit their consumerist mindset. Free time is not idle, wasted time and this is something most people just don’t understand.  They also have a very low value of their time, which  places an equally low value on their life.

How to Define The “Real Price” – A Real Price Equation

Real Price of any item  = Indentured Time

We tend to define the cost of an item by it’s dollar amount. By doing this, we can easily overlook the true cost, which is a variable of our time.

The equation would look like this:

Item price (dollars)/per hour salary (dollars) = X hours + (X  hours * percent interest if financed) = Y hours

You can then take Y hours/hours worked per day to figure out how many days of indentured time this item is going to cost you.

Here is an example

In this example we will use an $4,000 item purchased by our indentured subject who is working for $10 per hour and the item is financed at 10% interest. Our subject works 8 hours per day.

$4,000 / $10 per hour = 400 hours + (400 * .01 interest) = 440 hours / 8 (hours per work day) = 55 DAYS of indentured time. OUCH!

Of course this only applies if your primary source of income is derived from indentured time.

Let us not forget that most of us working folk must also pay the government before we ever will see our ten dollars per hour and that will make matters even worse!

What is The Greatest Threat to Free Time?

According to DeMarco (and me) it is Parasitic Debt!

Parasitic debt is  everything you owe the world. “It is the excrement of Lifestyle Servitude.

What are some examples of parasitic debt?

  1. Your shiny new car financed at 60 monthly payments.
  2. Home mortgage financed over 30 years.
  3. Fancy designer clothes four months removed from out-of-fashion, and yes, even that insidious furniture that seemed like such a good idea at the time.

All of this crap creates servitude and forces indentured time. When you’re forced to work, you limit choice, and limited choices close roads.

The leading cause of indentured time is parasitic debt.

Surely you’ve heard the phrase” thief of hearts.” When it comes to parasitic debt, it is the “thief of lives.” Parasitic debt is a gluttonous pig that gorges on free time and shits it out as indentured time.

Any debt that forces you to work is reclassified from free time and shifts it to indentured time. Debt needs a constant drip of blood, and that blood comes from your gas tank of life: time. And since time is fixed, an increase in indentured time comes from only one source: your free time.

The next time you buy some fancy gadget on credit, know exactly what you are buying. You’re buying parasitic debt that eats free time and excretes it into indentured time.

How to Control Parasitic Debt

Avoid instant gratification, and understand the consequence of debt: indentured time!

Things that are sure to DECREASE indentured time

Prior to 2009 my income stream looked like this:

Income Sources

  1. Corporate job

Fast forward to 2013 and now my income stream looks like this:

Income Sources

  1. Corporate job
  2. Online revenue stream (content systems)
    1. Affiliate sales
    2. Product sales
    3. Advertising revenue

Changing the ratio to my favor

Right now my job is still my largest income source. I make pretty good income working as a PA so this may prove hard to beat. But, and this is the most important thing to understand, my income source “job” favors the category of indentured time.

Once again:

Lifespan = Free Time + Indentured Time

Current Income sources in relationship to time

Frees Time:

  1. Online revenue stream

“Indentures” Time:

  1. Job

Analyzing this equation

I want you to know that unlike many of my friends I don’t hate my job.   A career in medicine, especially a career as a PA is wonderful. I love my patients, and I love my practice. But, working for a corporation is a form of lifestyle servitude. I have very little control over my time.

Income sources that increase indentured time should be carefully scrutinized for their value. Any source of income that increases free time should be considered of utmost importance.

Adding to the Free Time equation

I have spent the last week staring at this equation and running through ideas to skew the balance further in my favor (I have also watched way too many episodes of Shark Tank).

I have realized that in order to consider an idea worthwhile it must pass this test: It must increase my income and it cannot add to the column: indentured time.

I immediately threw 2 of my ideas out the window.

A friend once told me the key to becoming wealthy (both in spirit and in money) is to find a need and fill it! Pretty simple right?

There are many ways to provide wonderful value to people and DeMarco’s book has helped me clarify these options in a way that resonates deeply with me.

Value in relation to time, this my friends is the currency by which we should base all of life’s decisions.

Not everyone in this world can be a producer, but if you have read this far I assume you are. The millionaire fastlane requires a change in mindset, now I only have to remove the barriers of fear that stand in my way, and convince my family that these “barriers” are far less fear provoking than life in the prototypical “slowlane”.

Wealth in a wheelchair is no longer an option and it is time for some drastic change!

Next Post: a 2013 plan for attacking and eliminating indentured time!


The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

George Smolinski March 12, 2013 at 11:41 am

First, thanks for posting about MJ Demarco’s book. I, too, read it, albeit about a year and a half ago, and I appreciated the way he looks at time and ESPECIALLY how he feels about parasitic debt.
However, my big criticism is that for all the cheerleading in the book, he really doesn’t provide a ton of concrete methods to move forward with maximizing your free time and minimizing your indentured time. The book more seemed to say, “just invent something that everyone wants to buy, pay all your debts, and then you’ll have a ton of free time”.


Stephen March 12, 2013 at 10:48 pm

George, first of all I hope you are feeling better and are out of the hospital! I think Demarco’s book would have made perfect hospital bed reading ;-).

It’s funny because when I finished the book about a week ago I had the same thought you did. Although I was still riding high on the “insight” (probably not an insight exactly but definitely a well-timed reminder) that even things like 401k’s are a suckers game. I could identify with a lot of the first part of the book, mostly since I still live in the house we bought in 2007 and I paid too much for, and the entire economic downward spiral changed the way I look at everything. I spent a lot of time mostly angry and blaming others before owning up to it, and then doing something about it. This made all the difference. Demarco talks about this.

Demarco doesn’t say “invent something that people want to buy”, he says invent something that people need. And this is where so many people get confused. The difference here (in my opinion) is the difference between success and all the others out there who are looking to sell, instead of looking to help. Demarco takes a helping philosophy.

I spent the entirety of Sunday creating a new sales structure for a product that I used to give away for free on my PA blog. It was quite popular as a “pay with a like” item and has garnered me a lot of traffic. But my own greed (or maybe just curiosity I’m not sure) started to slip in. I just got back tonight to see if I had made any sales. I had 70 clicks but not one purchase. I will be tracking the metrics this week, but to be honest I am not surprised. I will change the sales price and do some split testing, and then I will most likely use a pay what you want structure, or significantly improve my product offering. The moral of the story: the need doesn’t justify the price, or the time to make the transaction the way it is currently structured. And this is where Demarco proves his point.

To be successful as an entrepreneur it is not easy. Because identifying the need and then filling it is hard work. Nobody can do this for you, but if you have driving passion to help people and make a lasting difference in their lives your TIME will be well spent, and this may (or may not) end in the freedom to choose how we spend our days, which is in essence a choice we have at all times anyway I suppose.


George Smolinski March 13, 2013 at 12:49 am

Good points. You’re right: its more finding what people need and filling it that drives success and for all of us, helping people find the tools to fill those needs will always yield success and personal satisfaction.
I also agree with him (and you) about 401K’s!


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