Alas, Free Time Comes At A Price

Busy as they are, working people find time to lament how little free time they have. At times, they even claim they’d be willing to accept a lower income in exchange for greater leisure. How seriously do they mean it? A survey commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream detects very mixed feelings. In one part of the poll, 23 percent of respondents agreed “strongly” and 30 percent “somewhat” that they’d be “willing to give up one day’s pay per week in exchange for one day off per week to spend more time with family and friends.” In other words, more than half the poll’s respondents were agreeing to what would be, in effect, a 20 percent cut in pay. Another question yielded quite a different finding, though, when it asked people how much less pay they’d take in order to have more free time. Thirty percent of respondents said they’d accept a cut of 1-5 percent, and 19 percent said they’d accept a 6-10 percent cut. But just 7 percent would take anything more than a 10 percent pay cut. (Thirty percent wouldn’t accept any reduction; 14 percent said they didn’t know.) And as you can see in the chart, just 40 percent of respondents said they’d rather have more time off than get a raise. In general, when folks focus on free time, they want more of it. But when they focus on money, they can’t face the prospect of having less.