I was once very taken with a story (hopelessly embellished for effect) that Warren Buffett's ''people'' were once 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 him. Buffett's 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 applies actuarial life-expectancy tables. The average life expectancy of an Australian female is 84 years and the average Australian male 79.5 years.
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 and the Death Sheet tells you how many years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and weekends you have left to live.
I am particularly impressed with one colleague who should already be dead but, more relevant to me, as of today I have 28.59 years, 343 months, 1487 weekends, 10,443 days, 250,625 hours and about 15 million minutes left to live, which is terribly useful when it comes to budgeting for retirement.
No longer do I have to rely solely on 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, my life and bank account will expire on the same day, leaving nothing to those undeserving children.
It's humbling to think my life is more than halfway (64.1 per cent) over and, assuming nothing gets me first, that in 10,443 more sleeps, 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 just 250,625 hours before oblivion, I need to extract as much value as possible. So, how do I do that?
First, 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. 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, and at $14 multiplied by 1487 Saturdays, it turns out that if I give it away today, I can afford that Harley after all.
As for winning an Olympic gold medal or becoming prime minister … far better that I concentrate on the likely rather than the unlikely. Like having a weekend away with the kids that they'll remember well after I'm gone.
I also need 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 head off now and leave the golf and cribbage for later. And I have to start focusing on being happy; on identifying the few things that help me achieve that and holding them close. And I need to promote my chances of happiness; to control which people I'm with, the places I go and the things I do.
But the main game, perhaps, is not to waste time. It's a bit like 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 questionnaire or argue about the carbon tax. I am now duty-bound to judge every activity on its value contribution to my dwindling life.
Damn, only 250,624 hours left. What on earth am I doing? Bye.
Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. His views do not necessarily reflect those of Patersons.