Editor’s Note: Today we’re going to take a quick break from exploring the latest opportunities in natural resources. Instead, let’s look at a way we can turn time into a commodity …or even a currency! Please be sure to leave me a comment with your thoughts and ideas on how this could work in your community. — Sean
Don’t you hate how the Fed keeps throwing money at the big banks and, yet, Wall Street banksters don’t pass that money along to regular folks?
Well, if you’re sick of money being tight and jobs being scarce, you can do what some people around the country are doing and start your own time bank, or hour exchange.
It’s basically a local currency and, best of all, it’s tax-free.
I recently visited a time bank in Portland, Maine, that has become a model for time banks across the nation. I talked to Orion Breen, coordinator of Hour Exchange Portland.
He told me the Hour Exchange came about as an answer to the question, “How can we get people working when money isn’t flowing?” The Hour Exchange is one way to do just that.
Here’s How it Works
Let’s say you’re good at fixing computers. You help a neighbor or resident of the same town for an hour with their computers. Doing that earns you an hour credit that you can use toward an hour of someone else’s time, whether it’s health care or home repair.
Along with greasing the wheels of the local economy, a time bank helps alleviate the problems of unemployment and underemployment.
“There’s a psychological toll to being unemployed,” Orion told me. But if people can bank on their time and skills, it boosts their feeling of self-worth.
A Valuable Opportunity to Work, Network
Hour Exchange Portland has 950 active members with over 150,000 hours exchanged, averaging 10,000 hours a year. Key to the Hour Exchange’s recent success is an online, searchable database that allows potential users to match up needs and skills.
The software was developed by a time bank member. It’s so effective, in fact, that it’s now being used to incubate time banks across the country.
Another booster for Hour Exchange Portland is that the group holds monthly potluck dinners so people can meet face-to-face with people they might hire through the time bank. “You feel safer exchanging time with people you know,” Orion explained.
And the searchable database lets you see how often, say, a handyman has been used for “Mr. Fixit” projects, so you can see if his skills are in demand.
How Would a ‘Time is Money’
Approach Work in Your Community?
Hour Exchange Portland is growing. And while Orion would be happy to see it get big, he says there’s no hurry.
One thing that should be a boost is that the Hour Exchange recently signed a contract with the city of Portland. People in the city who are on general assistance must do volunteer work in the community.
Through the Hour Exchange, they can connect with people who need work done and connect with other organizations, which could eventually lead to paid employment.
I was drawn to investigate Portland Hour Exchange because I’d written about local currencies in my book, “The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide,” and I like to see what new developments are going on in this area. Orion says preparedness is definitely an interest for many time bank members.
One nice thing about a time bank is you find out what skills your neighbors have.
So, if civilization or the financial system does take a turn for the worst, you know who you can call on!
The Tax Man Takes a Pass
As I explained in my book, if you gain goods or services through regular barter, the IRS will treat the transaction as something it can tax.
However, the IRS has determined that the Portland Hour Exchange or similar time banks are NOT taxable.
“It’s because it’s a pay-it-forward volunteer model,” Orion explains. Every hour is treated equally, whether it’s a doctor or gardener.
Also, the hours in the time bank are moral obligations, not legal ones. This also lets people run negative balances at the time bank when they need to get things done.
Orion made a presentation which is now on the Web — you can watch it here:
In the video, Orion talks about how he and his family used the time bank after the birth of his daughter:
“When my wife was pregnant, we got parenting classes and my wife saw a chiropractor for hours. We paid our midwife part in hours. And after Penny was born, people made meals for us.
“These are not little things. When you feel you are losing your mind from lack of sleep, that home-cooked meal is priceless. And when someone else in the community needs a home-cooked meal, maybe (when) they are recovering from a trip to the hospital, we know where they are coming from. And we will be there to help them.”
The personal touch is something that Orion and others find particularly appealing about the time bank. “The key to happiness isn’t based on money,” he told me. “The key to happiness is relationships.”
One point I would add: Studies have shown that if you spend money locally, it TRIPLES the economic effect locally.
The same principle has to apply to a time bank. It’s local currency, well-spent.
And as to whether this idea can succeed longer-term — well, that depends on the time people put into it.
All the best,
P.S. Although time is our most-precious natural resource, the commodities that comes from the earth are what can contribute to our financial wealth. When you take my Global Resource Hunter investing service for a risk-free test drive, you’ll see how we’re aiming to do exactly that. Click here today to start your membership!