Editor's note - You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser.
A review of Tim Ferriss' book, The 4-Hour Work Week
Some time ago I wrote an article about Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. My article questions just how realistic a 4-Hour work week is for must of us, and argued that achieving a 24-hour work week 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 work week 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 Work Week 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 most 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 inflatinio lowers your purchasing power 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 unkowningly direct the course of our lives. The 4-Hour Work Week does a good job of helping us do just that.

Using virtual assistants

Tim’s book introduced me to the concept of virtual assistances, 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 presense. 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 interesting in hiring a VA, here are some online resources to check out:

Why is the 4-hour work week so popular?

I suspect that the vast majority of people who buy The 4-hour Work Week don’t actually follow the advice Tim gives them. If that’s true (and feel free to disagree), than 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 are 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 work week?

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.

Article comments


I haven’t read the book yet, but I agree with the idea that waiting for retirement to enjoy life is stupid.

I’ve started taking longer vacations these past few years. 3 weeks in europe, 4 weeks in south-east asia, and now 8 weeks in india!!!

DR says:

LOD, that sounds terrific. I’m thinking about working part-time during the summer, although I’ve yet to mention this to Mrs. Dough!

bluntmoney says:

I’ve read the book and we’re in the process of implementing it. But we’re kind of slow about it. Results so far are that I have more time — hopefully more money will follow soon 😉

DR says:

A big thanks goes out to a reader who emailed me with a long list of typos in this article, which I’ve corrected. My only excuse is that. . . well I don’t have one. But if I think of one, I’ll let you know. As always, thanks for keeping me honest.

I think most of it is fiction from the simple standpoint that not everyone can implement his ideas. Can you imagine most professions insisting that they work from home?

The idea that we should enjoy life is valid, but if I take more than a week off, there is just too much waiting for me when I get back. In middle management, you can calculate your hourly earnings rate and say that you should hire anyone to do those things for you which cost less, but that is only if you are earning money while they’re doing your stuff! I’m on salary.

The book is a good read and does force you to question some long held assumptions.

I think that as he gains more popularity, though, some of his history could prove to be different that what everyone assumes. You don’t just suddenly start a supplement business out of the blue and have $70,000 net income in a year or so.

I started using a VA a month ago and thus far it’s been helpful. I just wished I could use it for more often.

Lee says:

I read his book and like it. I found it a very helpful companion to books like Rich Dad Poor Dad that offer more spiritual advice. But Ferris offers very practical advice. However, Ferris states that any idea you have can be done by a VA. But when I tried to take advantage of VAs for my business ideas, I got shot down hard twice. They simply would not do what I needed or tell me who else I could go to. My ideas are a little out there, but I found this frustrating. I think the VAs have a much more rigid structure of what they will and won’t do than Ferris discovered.

Christos Constantinou says:

I got a lot out of the 4HWW. However, like most of Tim’s blog posts, the book is only half the truth. Its a good read together with Good to Great which contradicts some of Tim’s suggestions based on an actual 5-year research. Tim does not cover how you handle change, which requires changing your business processes which seems to me impossible in a 4HWW. Its change or die. However, Tim is talking out of experience and unlike most authors, he gives unique value that you can only get from entrepreneurs that are also book authors. I enjoyed every single page of his book and has affected my mentality on how you can run a business. Still no implementation though… I have a one-year plan on how to start and run a streamlined web development company. We’ll see how that goes.

Marie says:

As a small business owner/runner, I read this book hoping to get insights into how to better manage my own busy life. And since my business provides freelance executive-assistant and personal-assistant services to other small business owners, I was also interested in learning how else I could help my clients.

Unfortunately, I think this book is geared towards a product-based business. Many of his points and methods are for self-sustaining supply chains. I haven’t figured out how to adapt his ideas to a service-based company.

The use of contract assistants (virtual or otherwise), however, is a good one. For example, I had a client go away to Europe for a month, and I was able to keep the (product-based) company running. I also use assistants myself. But as Lee said in a comment above, it’s not always easy finding the right support team.

There’s a lot of work to get done before any type of decrease in work week hours is possible. But to his credit, I think Ferriss does put this across in the book.

David says:

I’m only half way through so my answer may be premature, but I agree with your original comparison to a lottery ticket. A lot of the book has hopeful ideas that sound exciting, but would take a strongwilled (risktaking) personality to achieve. I like the simple exercises of looking people in the eye when you talking with them, cutting multitasking, and enabling ways of going outside your comfort zone. I also like setting goals on what you’re working toward and re-evaluating passions/interests. Very inspiring, but to answer your questions I’d err on laziness.

Rasmus says:

I am currently down to working 6 months of the year, and I have a plan for getting lower.
My family and I also recently bought our second home in Hua Hin, Thailand with the goal of spending 3-4 months there per year.
The biggest issue is actually convincing my girlfriend that she should get more days “working from home” at her job. If this does not happen, it is a bit hard to spend 3-4 months in another country each year. But this is the biggest issue.

I am currently working hard on getting muses up and running so I can get some more passive income (you can also follow my struggle over at http://my4hours.com)

Kerry says:

I read this book while travelling in uruguay before i started a new hourly intensive job for an oil and gas service company. The book inspired me to implement his principles. The truth is the concept is amazing. The hours required to get the principle in place are quite substantial. The end result if you work hard enough, is hopefully the 4 hour work week. What Tim doesnt emphasize much is that in order to get to a 4 hour work week and a well oiled machine you must put in the hours in the first place. He is an inspiration and the book has changed my life. I also have developed a second website for the oil and gas industry that is on its way to becoming my new career focus.
Good luck to everyone… its possible if you believe in it.

Rafe says:

4 hour work week is worth it for the links alone.

The website he advises you to look at are pretty amazing and I would have never heard of most of them.

For example, http://www.weebly.com

Build websites in minutes! Nice looking ones! Like mine!

Did you guys know about that?

Tina T says:

I started reading this book today. Im on the train shaking me head. I am thinking to myself “this man is nuts”! I will get back to you when I finish reading.

Rob says:

I’ve implemented some of Tim’s ideas after buying and reading the book. I will admit though that I am a bit ambitious and always have to have my hands in a million pots, so I didn’t go the way that Tim did of a 4 hour work week. However since I enjoy my work, it never seemed like work to me. I have however followed his advice in some areas and have gone from a 60 hour plus work week down to about a 25 hour work week. It’s taken some adjusting to a drop in income doing so though. I’m working my muses to make that income up but as with anything it takes time.

Rob says:

another book to consider that is out of print but is good to read along with Tim’s book is Peter Treveyllian’s book Portable Trades and Occupations

roger says:

I am still reading it, find some concepts interesting.
I work for a corporation that in no way would allow me to have a third party do what I do, unless it is an official contract between my company and that third party. And I don’t like the idea to contract out to India. Too many of my co-workers lost their jobs to people in other country (lower cost to my management).
I do believe in balancing work and play, and take all the vacation I can take now, not waiting for retirement days to do things I like doing.

Vicki says:

You have inspired me to read the book! I have heard about it numerous times and really don’t have a good reason why I haven’t read it yet.