5 Steps to Achieving the 24-hour Work Week (Which Beats The 4-Hour Work Week)

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I recently read The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. Apart from some temporary inspiration to seek financial freedom, I came away from the book thinking that while I’d helped Ferriss achieve a 4-hour work week by buying his book, I was no closer to such an elusive goal. And I would guess that 99.9% of those that read the book, don’t implement its suggestions. If you followed the advice in the book and achieved a 4-hour work week, by all means let us know. But having spent some time considering what Ferriss had to say, I’ve concluded that a 24-hour work week is more realistic (although still difficult to achieve) and would free up a lot of time to do the things I enjoy. Like so much in personal finance, our choices are not all or nothing. Balance and compromise are good choices. So here are my 5 steps to achieving a 24-hour work week:

  • Step 1: Calculate How Much Take-Home Pay You’d Lose
  • Reducing your weekly working hours from 40 to 24 and your gross income by 40% doesn’t mean you’d lose 40% of your take-home pay. Federal income taxes are calculated using marginal rates, which generally means you pay more taxes on the last dollar you make than you paid on the first dollar. Also, depending on your income, you may have lost the benefit of some of your tax deductions because they were phased-out or because of the Alternative Minimum Tax. Having prepared my taxes with TurboTax, it was fairly simple to plug in a different income amount to determine my taxes, and then recalculate my take-home pay assuming I took a 40% salary reduction. Here is a federal income tax calculator that I used for this step. Of course, you’ll have to factor in state income tax, too. The result for me was that while I reduced my gross pay by 40%, my take-home went down by only about 22%. Still significant, but a lot less than 40%.

  • Step 2: Calculate Savings From Working 3 Days a Week
  • Savings from working less may or may not be significant, depending on your situation. For me, the cost of public transportation, clothing and lunch are not significant, but every dollar counts. You may have to commute long distances to work at significant cost. Working 3 days a week may allow you to do away with a second (or third) car, saving not only on the cost of the car, but also on insurance and repairs.

  • Step 3: Identify Areas to Reduce Spending
  • This is where I examine just how important all the “stuff” in my life is. If it means having a 5-day weekend every week, what would you give up? If you need to offset $1,500 in take-home pay, for example, how important is $125 a month for cable, $75 a month in books you could have borrowed from the library, or $300 a month eating out? I’ve looked hard and long at my expenses and believe that I can dramatically reduce them, particularly over the coming year. This step also helps put into perspective the true cost of what we purchase because we begin to see our spending in terms of the work needed to earn the money (before taxes) to pay for all our stuff.

  • Step 4: Identify Ways to Increase Passive (or nearly passive) Income
  • There are many things I’d like to do to earn alternative streams of income. Blogging and real estate investing are the two main income streams for me. Depending on your financial situation, generating even $1,000 a month in income from alternative sources might be enough to enable you to reduce your work week. I’m not suggesting this is easy, but it’s not impossible, either. And depending on how you generate the income, you may pay significantly less in taxes. Real estate investing is a good example of this. Lazy Man and Money writes a lot about alternative streams of income and here is his July 2007 Progress Report.

  • Step 5: Make Yourself Indispensable at Work
  • This step is critical. If you have a job that you believe would enable you to work part-time, you must demonstrate that you are valuable enough to the organization to be effective part-time. Of course, some jobs may lend themselves to part-time work, but for most of us, raising this with our boss will be a delicate matter. One step in that direction is to begin working one or two days a week from home. This conditions your boss and co-workers to not seeing you everyday. Again, the ability to telecommute will also vary from one job to another, but is a good first step toward a 24-hour work week. If your current employment is just not conducive to part-time work, you may have to look for another job. Ultimately, you may find that you can make more money part-time at another job than you can with your current work.

One final thought. Working less can take many different forms. You may begin working 4 days a week, or working full time but telecommuting one or two days per week. The ultimate goal, in my mind, is to take back more control in your life to do the things you want to do when you want to do them.

Published or Updated: March 22, 2012
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. I loved this article and not just because you linked me in it. I haven’t read the book, but indeed 4-hours is a little extreme unless all your income is passive or nearly passive as you mention. I should make mention that my income streams are far from passive. I’d like to have a lot more just coming from investments, but I don’t have the kind of capital for that to happen. It’s contributing, but it’s not going to equal day job until I’m ready to retire. I’ve decided to give blogging and real estate a shot.

    Real Estate isn’t really working out so well – it seems that there are a lot of people playing that game and there are few properties that you could rent out for more than the mortgage, taxes, expenses, etc. We still have two investment properties (place we owned to live in originally, but have moved on for higher paying jobs), but they are currently break even at best. Over time, with inflation, we expect that we’ll be able to charge more while the tenants pay off our mortgages. At the end of 30 years, we’ll be making some good nearly passive income from them – or we can sell them. We might be able to make more in the equities market, but I’m unsure. Leverage is on our side for now. I look at it as a hedge against the markets, which we also invest in.

    The most successful of my alternative incomes is my blogging – however it’s also the least passive. I tend to spend 3 hours a day on it on most days. Much of that is networking with other bloggers which I have found has it’s own benefits. There are a lot more benefits which I posted on my blog at one point. The biggest thing is that I don’t consider it work. I enjoy discussing things and commenting on other blogs like I’m doing right now. When you really enjoy your job, it’s not work. And the flexible hours really can’t be beat. The pay isn’t good at all, but it’s getting better each month. I’ve only been at it for a little over a year and it’s starting to be a significant part of my income. I try to imagine what it might be like in 5-10 years even if the growth slows. Perhaps by that time, I’ll be relaxing in Mexico with a Corona able to earn a living with a couple of hours of day of writing. We shall see.

  2. DR says:

    Lazy Man, thanks for the great comment. On real estate, I’ve actually had some success. A business partner and I now own four single family homes in Ohio that all are generating positive cash flow, and we put very little down. We purchased the properties from HUD at great discounts. I’m working on some posts to describe just how we did it, and plan to post the articles in the next week or so.

  3. Millionster says:

    The 4 hour work week book — that was an interesting read but probably geared towards more aggressive thinking. Some of my side biz stuff that I put less than 1 hour in a week have been giving me an increasing return of $100 more a month, and some creative tweaking brought it up to $200 more a month. This month, actually I havent done a damn thing, and I still made money. How awesome is that? Real wealth is about getting your time back. I’d love to have a 24-hour work week, and a 4-hour work week. The book and your post demonstrate they are both attainable.

  4. Homeybiz says:

    DR,

    Thanks for putting up an informative blog. I came back to this post based on your recent post on Tim Ferriss’ book. What I found interesting about the book is that your ability to implement his plan does not depend the vagaries of any investment sector. Although those who have been in real estate for awhile have done well and may continue to do well, I am concerned that new investors are coming into the real estate market as the bubble has popped. It may be awhile before those with little capital can make a living from real estate (just look at NASDAQ.) Although I happen to believe that commodities are next big thing, Tim does not push any investment except into one’s self and a sustainable online business. I’ll keep you informed on whether it works or not.

  5. Empress Juju says:

    Thank you for the link to the tax calculator, because I have always tended to think in gross numbers.

    It was enlightening to see a number closer to the real difference I’ll be living with when I take this leap!

  6. Garrett says:

    I work 4 days, 24 hours a week….however, I am an American teaching English in South Korea. One of the reasons I decided to stay here is to work 4 days, 24 hours a week and my take home pay is $2,250 after taxes. My comment is to show you can also find these opportunities thinking outside the box.

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