I WAS taken with a story (hopelessly embellished for effect) that Warren Buffett's "people" had once been so pestered by a wealthy Pom wanting an audience for "just one hour" that they eventually had to appeal to Buffett himself to get rid of the man. His reply was simple enough: "I have worked out that I have 42,515 hours left to live. If you don't mind, I don't want to waste any of them."
Someone please send me the real story, but since we heard this in the office we started what we call "The Death Sheet". It is an Excel Spreadsheet that works off the actuarial life expectancy tables. The average life expectancy of an Australian female is now 84 years.
The average Australian male gets 79.5 years, and if you make it to 65, that extends to 86.8 years for the girls and 83.9 for the boys.
Enter your birth date into the "Death Sheet" and it instantly tells you how many years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and weekends you have left to live.
I am particularly impressed with one colleague in the office who should already be dead, but more relevant to my predicament, according to the "Death Sheet", is that as of today I have 28.59 years, 343 months, 1487 weekends, 10,443 hours, and about 15 million minutes left to live, terribly useful information when it comes to budgeting for your retirement.
No longer do I have to rely on just the income from my super, because armed with the date of my death I can now plan on spending the capital as well, and with a bit of luck both my life and my bank account will expire on the same day, leaving nothing to those undeserving children. It is a humbling thought that my life is now over halfway through, is 64.1 per cent over, and assuming nothing gets me first, in 10,443 more hours, it's curtains.
But it's not all bad. Having so finite an existence sharpens the mind for the better.
There is clearly no time to waste. I need a red Mustang convertible by the end of the day, a Harley by Monday and a pad and paper to plan that bucket list. With only so much time before oblivion, I need to extract as much value as possible. So how do I do that?
First up, I have to get off my backside. If I'm going to make the most of it, I have to get up and start moving those arms and legs, making an effort to make it worthwhile. There's no joy in idleness.
Next, I have to start being realistic about a lot of things. That miraculous financial transformation, for instance. With only 1487 more Saturday Lottos left, the chances of my boat coming in have all but evaporated.
In fact, I'd probably better not bank on it at all, not any more and at $14 x 1487 Saturdays, it turns out that if I give it away today I can afford that Harley after all.
And as for winning an Olympic gold medal or becoming prime minister . . . come on. Far better I concentrate on the likely now rather than the unlikely.
Like having a weekend away with the kids that they will remember well after I am gone.
I also need to plan. To prioritise. After all, it's going to be hard to do Route 66 on a Triumph Rocket when I can't stray more than 20 yards from a toilet.
Best I leave now and leave the golf and cribbage until later.
And I have to start focusing on being happy. On identifying the few things that help me achieve that and hug them to me.
And I need to promote the chances of happiness. To control which people I am with, the places I go and the things that I do.
But the main game perhaps is not to waste time. It's a bit like any investment.
Half the battle is not about winning, it's about not losing. So excuse me if I don't take your cold call, reply to that email, fill in that service questionnaire or argue about the carbon tax.
I am now duty-bound to judge every activity on its value contribution to my dwindling life span.
Damn. Only 250,624 hours left now. What on earth am I doing? Bye.
Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of stockmarket newsletter Marcus Today.