This Is What Your Time Is Actually Worth

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An hourly wage is a pretty simple concept: We exchange our time for a certain fixed rate. How we determine that wage is entirely different matter, however — and the government could be way behind on that.

We all know that the federal minimum wage, which is supposed to support a worker, really does not). At $7.25, it's the floor that in most cases we won't dip below. But ​Planet Money​ looked into a new way of calculating what your time is worth, and we're probably settling for way too little.

The rideshare company Lyft ran some experiments to figure out a key sweet spot: "[T]hey were able to suss out how much people are willing to pay to wait less for their rides," writes ​Planet Money​'s Greg Rosalsky. "It's a cool way to measure how people value their time."

Their findings? In the nine wealthiest cities in the United States, we think our time is worth, on average, $19 an hour. The U.S. Department of Transportation, in contrast, thinks it's about $14 an hour. That's well above the federal minimum wage in both cases.

Time, of course, isn't always money, but selling your labor is, in effect, negotiating with a company to buy your waking hours and dictate how you use them. It's worth knowing how best to negotiate and advocate for yourself in any job situation, especially if you're in charge of setting your own rates. Lots of factors, like cost of living and industry standards, come into play, but with the right persuasion, you could do yourself all manner of favors.