Personal Finance

Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek: Fact or Fiction

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Some time ago I wrote an article about Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. My article questions just how realistic a 4-Hour workweek is for most of us, and argued that achieving a 24-hour workweek was more realistic.

The other day while cleaning out my workshop, I uncovered Tim’s book and decided to read it again. Oddly enough, I found it more enjoyable the second time through. But I still question just how realistic a 4-hour workweek is for most of us, which in turn makes me wonder why the book is so popular. I have a theory about that and a series of questions for you. But first, let me cover the two aspects of the book I really enjoyed.

The 4-Hour Workweek forces us to question assumptions

We all make significant assumptions about our lives, even if we don’t realize it. We assume we have to work from 9 to 5 five days a week, if not more. We assume that debt is just a way of life that almost everybody must endure. We assume we have to work hard until we’re 65 or older, only then to retire to a life of barely enough. Tim’s book questions those and other assumptions in a way that I find compelling. For example, here is a lengthy quote about retirement, which Tim describes as the “worst-case-scenario” insurance:

Retirement as a goal or final redemption is flawed for at least three solid reasons:

  • It is predicated on the assumption that you dislike what you are doing during the most physically capable years of your life. this is a nonstarter--nothing can justify that sacrifice.
  • Most people will never be able to retire and maintain even a hotdogs-for-dinner standard of living. Even one million is chump change in a world where traditional retirement could span 30 years and inflation lowers your purchasing power by 2-4% per year. The math doesn’t work. The golden years become lower-middle-class life revisited. That’s a bittersweet ending.
  • If the math does work, it means that you are one ambitious, hardworking machine. If that's the case, guess what? One week into retirement, you'll be so damn bored that you'll want to stick bicycle spokes in your eyes. You'll probably opt to look for o new job or start another company. Kinda defeats the purpose of waiting, doesn't it?

We need to regularly challenge the assumptions that often unknowingly direct the course of our lives. The 4-Hour Workweek does a good job of helping us do just that.

Using virtual assistants

Tim’s book introduced me to the concept of virtual assistants, or VAs as they are called. A VA is an individual you hire online to help you with just about anything that doesn’t require their physical presence. VA’s can create logos, design websites, conduct research, write articles, make reservations and more.

I’ve never used a VA. After reading his book a second time, however, I’ve reached out to several VAs to inquire about price and to see just how I might use them to make my life easier and more productive. I’ll let you know how that goes, but if you have used a VA before, please leave a comment describing your experience. If you are interested in hiring a VA, here are some online resources to check out:

I suspect that the vast majority of people who buy The 4-hour Workweek don’t actually follow the advice Tim gives them. If that’s true (and feel free to disagree), then why is it a New York Times bestseller being translated into more than two dozen languages? Learning about VAs was great, but I doubt that accounts for the success of the book. I believe people buy the book because they enjoy the dream. It’s the same reason people buy lottery tickets. The best part about buying a lottery ticket is not winning. Almost nobody wins the lottery, and certainly nobody expects to win when they buy a ticket. The best part about playing the lottery is the few days between buying the ticket and the drawing, when you can dream about winning.

So here are my questions to all of you:

1. If you’ve read the book, have you tried to implement Tim’s strategy to achieve a 4-Hour workweek?

2. If you have, what were your results?

3. If you haven't, why not?

4. And if you haven't read the book, but would love to work just four hours a week, why haven't you gone out and bought or borrowed the book?

For me, it’s question #3 that I must answer. I’m going to answer that question in another post, but first I’d like to hear from all of you.


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