New Research and a Dirty Truth: Read This Before Chasing the Dollar

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“You’re nobody here at $10 million,” said Gary Kremen, the 43-year old founder of Match.com, of Silicon Valley.

In the August 5th New York Times article titled, “In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich,” he and others in the nation’s wealthiest 1/2 of 1 percent admitted to feeling compelled to work 60-80-hour work weeks just to keep up. Hal Steger, who’s banked more than $2 million and has a net worth of $3.5 million, echoes the sentiments of these “working-class millionaires” when he says, “…a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to. Maybe in the ’70s, a few million bucks meant ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ or Richie Rich living in a big house with a butler. But not anymore…

C’mon now.

I live in a nice part of Silicon Valley, and I do whatever I want for less than $5,000 per month. There are more metrics to consider. More important, I’m “happy” by all conventional measurements. But I’ll be the first to admit… it hasn’t been this way for long. Only in the last three years have I really come to understand the concepts of time as currency and positional economics. Before I explain how you can use both to exit the rat race and dramatically upgrade your Lifestyle Quotient, let’s look at some numbers… According to polls on this blog:

46.88% of Americans say they would need to make more than $200K a year to be happy

63.41% of Americans, assuming prices remained the same, would rather earn $50K in a world of $25K earners than earn $100K in a world of $200K earners

74.64% of Americans would rather get Fridays off vs. a 20% raise

Would you be happier if you were richer? A recent study published in Science by a group including Princeton professors Alan Krueger and Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics, indicates that annual income is less important than anyone could have guessed. In fact, it gets less important as the per-capita average continues to grow. Here are a few highlights that foreshadow where we’re headed:

-The ways in which people with high incomes spend their time tend to make them more tense and stressed than their less-affluent counterparts.

-If personal wealth does not necessarily lead to personal happiness, then how well does gross national income reflect a nation’s well-being? Not well at all.

-Economists can add another dimension to their measurements by examining an alternative currency: time, “the coin of life,” as poet Carl Sandburg called it. The study of income and happiness featured in the Science paper suggests that time-use — how one uses one’s time — plays an important role in personal well-being, so national measures of time-use might aid our understanding of well-being on a national scale.

In the study itself, they move into positional economics and answer the question: why does income have such a weak effect on subjective well-being? Here’s the science-speak, skip it if you want, and I’ll translate it below:

…a permanent increase in an individual’s income has a transitory effect on her well-being, [even though] relative standing would increase. …The increase in relative standing can be offset by changes in the reference group: After a promotion, the new peers increasingly serve as a reference point, making the improvement relative to one’s previous peers less influential. (24) Second, Easterlin (1,2) argues that individuals adapt to material goods, and Scitovsky (25) argues that material goods yield little joy for most individuals. Thus, increases in income, which are expected to raise well-being by raising consumption opportunities, may in fact have little lasting effect because the consumption of material goods has little effect on well-being above a certain level of consumption or because of hedonic adaptation. (26) Moreover, people’s aspirations adapt to their possibilities and the income that people say they need to get along rises with income, both in a cross-section and over time. (27)

Basically, even permanent increases in income have little effect on perceived happiness, as we compare ourselves to those above us, no matter how much progress we make. Material goods give us a short-lived happiness sugar high, and we seem committed to making ourselves miserable. That sucks.

What to do? There are a few ways to use the currency of time, and awareness of positional economics, to your advantage to beat the Joneses on new terms:

1. Focus on “relative income” — defined as hourly income — instead of “absolute income,” misleading annual income that doesn’t factor in time. If you assume a 40-hour work week and 2 weeks of vacation per year, estimate per-hour income by cutting off the last three zeros and dividing in half. Thus: $50,000 per year –> $50 divided by 2 = $25 per hour. Relative income can be increased by increasing total income for the same hours, getting the same income for fewer hours, or some combination thereof. More options with more life.

2. Determine your precise Target Monthly Income (TMI) for your ideal lifestyle — the goal of most rat-race income competition — and focus on structuring mini-retirements to redistribute retirement throughout life. There’s an excellent Excel spreadsheet here for calculations.

3. Determine your “where” of happiness. It’s not necessary to permanently move to a country with depressed currency, but even temporary relocation to a domestic (check out Forbes’ publisher Rich Karlgaard’s Life 2.0) or international location with a lower cost-of-living resets your peer group and positional economics barometer. Being perceived as rich often translates into perceiving yourself as rich. Neat trick and a hell of a lot of fun. Two of my top picks for positional resets are Argentina (see “How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires”) and Thailand.

4. Develop appreciation in tandem with achievement. Subjective happiness depends on appreciating what you get as much as getting what you want. The first step to true appreciation is perception: cultivating present-awareness. I recommend experimenting with lucid dreaming as tested at Stanford University, in particular the “reality check” exercises of Dr. Stephen Laberge.

5. Develop competitive social groups outside of work. Participate in games outside of income mongering. Train or compete in a sport where income is a non-factor. That dude makes $1,000,000 a day as a hedge fund manager? I don’t care–his golf swing sucks and he has love handles. Here, it counts for nothing. Oh, and her? I know she just got promoted to national manager for IBM, but so what? I just scored 5 goals on her. In this world, I rule.

Don’t let rat racing be the only game you play against the Joneses. There is always someone willing to sacrifice it all to earn more, so let them. Just remember: it is entirely possible — in fact, common — to be a success in business and a failure in life. Take the red pill and think different.

###

Odds and Ends:

Winner of the Planet Earth DVDs: Will W. of “death of unions” suggestion, you are the winner! Please e-mail your mailing address to amy-at-fourhourworkweek.com and point her to this blog post so she doesn’t think you’re nuts. Congratulations!

Where did I end up sending the 200 books to change the world? Based on your suggestions, I actually mailed out well over 300 to the following organizations: The Robertson Scholars Program at Duke, The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Accelerator program, the AERO experimental education center, The Kauffman Foundation, The Public Forum Institute, Vistage International, the YPO, and several women’s entrepreneurial organizations both here and in the US. Thank you for the recommendations!


Posted on: September 4, 2007.

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91 comments on “New Research and a Dirty Truth: Read This Before Chasing the Dollar

  1. Tim-

    I love your concept of “time as a currency”. Having just spent 2.5 weeks in Europe with my wife and kids this summer (all the time I could spare), I wish to God it had been 2.5 months. Also, having the day off for Labor Day yesterday was just a bit too nice. I had not seen “time as a currency” before, but when I read it on here it hit me like a ton of bricks. It is not just a currency, it is THE Currency.

    thom

    Like

  2. “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s**t we don’t need”
    Fight Club is so quotable and an apt pop culture reference for aspects of the Four Hour Work Week ethos.

    I started my blog because I was amazed how many people would constantly question how on earth I could afford to travel (with style at that!) even though they ‘earn’ more than me.
    It is all about perspective – choosing to take that red pill as you say Tim.
    Do I want to live a life of purpose, amazing experiences and a lot of fun, or do I want to live to work a 70 hour week so I can impress a few other miserable over-worked-out-of-perspective people? The choice to me is simple.

    Like

  3. Tim, one of your most inspired posts to date! Impressive how you sandwich the word message between two video messages.

    I’m off to Las Vegas for 10 days. 2 days of work, then a week of crazy fun with my friends flying in from Australia…we’re gonna hike the west edge of the Grand Canyon, and I plan to make a few K playing poker.

    Keep leading Tim, you’re doing a great job!

    Like

  4. Tim,

    I’m a little disappointed by your last point. What if it wasn’t about winning, ever?

    “That dude makes $1,000,000 a day as a hedge fund manager? I don’t care–his golf swing sucks and he has love handles.”

    Ok, but if he’s having fun and is comfortable in his body, I’d say he still wins. I’d say you’ve won the game of life when you stop worrying about winning the game of life.

    And don’t take any mysterious pills!

    Like

  5. You stated, “Material goods give us a short-lived happiness sugar high”

    We must remember that if one continues to enjoy the short-lived sugar highs, one will end up with DiaBETes.

    If you re-arrange the letters a little you end up in debt (time debt, financial debt and relationship debt).

    Like

  6. Good advice, by and large, but I have one big question. From wht I can tell, you’re single; would your $5,000 a month be enough to sustain you in your preferred lifestyle if you had a partner and two children. Even if your partner worked and pulled in the same, would $120,000 be enough? Maybe you do have children and this is a moot question; maybe having a partner and children isn’t part of your preferred lifestyle. But for many people, it’s a part of their life, preferred or not, and the costs (education, medical care, entertainment, clothes, and so on) can be pretty crushing. To live in a district with good schools, or to live out of those districts and pay for schooling, often can’t be done on $60,000 a year; and considering that half of US households make less than $45,000 a year, it’s even harder. Yet most would consider their childrens education an important (if not THE important) aspect of their preferred lifestyle.

    ###

    Hi D,

    I agree 100%. I am single, but more than 60% of the case studies in the book have families. The figure doesn’t need to change much, but even if it does increase, it needn’t be the lifestyle limiter that many decide it to be. There are lateral options such as those the mothers and single mothers use in 4HWW. The main point I hoped to make was simply that we should have a basis for amassing hour and feeling compelled to be in constant motion. As long as you have a concrete number — a la for tuition, etc. — you are on the right track. None of the principles are limited to singles.

    Thank you for contributing to the discussion!

    Tim

    Like

  7. A million isn’t worth as much as it did…so who cares? I went from Bucharest to Barcelona for a week. Transportation and accomodation? A mere $300 – meaning round-trip flight and 5 nights at a hostel. If you’re creative, money doesn’t matter that much. And acting like that serves you and makes you a better person in the process. You start to reconsider your assets.

    As someone brilliantly put it, when you’re on your deathbed, you won;t regret not spending enough time at the office.

    Like

  8. Hi Tim,

    Loved your book!

    Of course, now I’m in the midst of a mid-life crises!! I now realize what I am living a completely boring, unfulfilling life. Years ago, I outsourced most of the functions of my business. Yes, I had lots of time. And I was being paid PLENTY for the hours of work I put in. But something was still missing.

    Your book really made me ask myself: How do I want to spend my time? Pursue a more fulfilling career? Spend more time with my children? Learn a new language? Assuming I can free up hours per day (using the techniques in your book), what would I do?

    Ernst

    Like

  9. Tim, I don’t think I can do it. Skydive. Great vid but once you’re in a downward spiral of flips how do you get out of it?

    With regards to your post, I agree with developing outside social groups. However for me, my work has a lot of social group events and sports that I participate in. And it turns out that my CEO is the best football player or baseball player. He’s also the best at cards and poker. So it gets annoying trying to compete with him. Lol. But it’s always in good fun and every now and then you do get to shine regardless of what your title is at work.

    Cheers,

    Zye out of Toronto.

    Like

  10. As I’ve been working through the book, I’m realizing that changing my own mindset is the biggest challenge. Gaining time freedom isn’t so much a matter of finding a way to make money with minimal time investment – there seems to be plenty of way to do that. It’s really about the process of liberating myself from my own ingrained concepts about the relationship between time and money.

    Judging from the success of this blog and the book, I’m not the only one struggling with this. Thanks for leading the way, Tim.

    Like

  11. As a professional in the wealth management field, this is old news. My charge to my clients is to get their finances in line with their passions, virtually all of which do not include “just make more money.” To paraphrase King Crimson, wealth is never the end in itself but a means to the end. What is the end? Hey, that’s for you to figure out. Pub’s like the NYT and others merely play along with the anxiety and fears of their readers and advertisers to boost their own bottom line, and to me that is the ultimate cynicism.

    Like

  12. Outstanding Post!
    Has come to a crucial and dynamic point whereby I am literally cutting everything down by the POUNDS. I bumped into an ex-partner of a business who still owes money and set up a fabulous restaurant…. but stressed as hell.

    Qualty

    Like

  13. I have a version of this conversation every week with people who come in my office – people who are completely convinced that another [X] dollars will materially improve their life and are willing to endure godawful working conditions to achieve them.

    We touched on this topic in conversation during dinner at CommunityNext and wanted to see where things are now; I’ve spoken with readers of 4HWW who still have trouble with the ‘last mile’ of fully integrating the lifestyle with their finances for lack of contacts/relationships who financial/tax professionals (who ‘get’ the 4HWW model).

    Have a few ideas myself on the topic, and it would be great to hear yours.

    Cheers!

    Like

  14. I quit my job last Wednesday and hit Vegas for a weekend trip with my wife the next day. Today is my first official day as a freelance web guy/entrepreneur. As I read 4HWW last month I realized my dream lifestyle is to be home with my new wife and my dog and start planning our next snowboarding relocation while developing one of my passive income ideas. I don’t need more money, I just need more time. So I took the amount of billable hours I want to work in a year, and set my hourly rate to bring in the same amount I was making at my job before.

    “The coin of life”, that’s good stuff. Thanks for the post.

    Like

  15. Very interesting article. I’m very wary of self-help books and similar publications, but despite that, the 4HWW book kinda grows on me. Even if the super-human example of Tim really raises the bar, the links and practical advice are a better solution for the eternal doubting Thomas than all the “actualize your potential” drivel you hear otherwise — even if the message basically stays the same. As long as I get some tools to work with, fine.

    Speaking of tools, I’d like to read more on ways to actually achieve your TDI. The ones in the book seem to be aimed mostly at MBA’s, salesmen and people who really excel in some hobbies. No luck for the boring IT guy who only can make some money by investing large amounts of time.
    (And who has the additional problem of not as many potential customers as someone aiming for the US market)

    Still, Buenos Aires is calling…

    Like

  16. Right on the mark. We have a material quality of life that is better than 90-some percent of the planet but our emotional quality of life is declining. I can say that my last raise had no tangible improvement on my life as it got sucked into the financial black hole of middle-class, suburban family expenses. Yet I still have the same stresses–if not more since expectations are increased.
    I am working to apply the lessons of your (fine) book to my own life. But it is going to take some time and awareness to work my way out of the expectations of materialistic wealth and entitlement being pushed by society and the media.

    Like

  17. People can chase dollars all day long, but happiness is just a state of mind…and all the tools we need are free and in our possession right now. We just have to take time out to see it for ourselves and work on it. Sadly, most people don’t.

    Like

  18. Tim

    Great post, bud…..as always.

    You’re insight on time vs. money continues to inspire me. I thank you for being a leader where others choose to perpetuate their overworked/dead-end lifestyle dogma.

    Thanks again. I am currently planning our (my girlfriend and I) trip to Japan for early 2008.

    Cheers.

    Like

  19. One of the big antagonists is choosing to increase your fixed expenses in accordance to your latest rise in income. That turns what should have been an asset (dollars) into a liability (monthly payments.)

    Once that happens the individual feels even more of a slave locked in to their job. When you have long term liabilities you can’t take a few months off or search for a more enjoyable career.

    Like

  20. Great post Tim, time is definitely more important than increased income.

    If you can earn more and have more free time to enjoy the money, now that’s the life.

    The sad thing is the majority of people get caught up on the first part and end up working their whole existence away but not enjoying any of the spoils.

    Like

  21. You make a very convincing argument for your position but you are sort of eliding the fact that many people have family obligations which preclude a full embrace of your approach. I have kids and I want them to grow up near family, and family happens to live where real estate is almost as expensive as San Jose. And they will be expecting to go to college, a market where one’s options are substantially broadened by the availability of a lot of cash.

    I remain optimistic and I certainly appreciate the work that you are doing, but it will have a broader appeal beyond your own age group if you can integrate, or at least acknowledge, the panoply of human needs that are best if not exclusively satisfied with cash.

    ###

    Hi J!

    I couldn’t agree more that income is only one ingredient and that many needs cannot be satisfied with more of it. Second, I would certainly rather have more than less of it.

    The “geoarbitrage” element of 4HWW can definitely be applied to families (Check out the book written by one mother I interviewed: Bring Your Own Children: South America! A Family Sabbatical Handbook), even by those making less than $30,000 per year, but it isn’t for everyone. This leaves a number of other even more fundamental changes like those outlined at the end of this post. The moving has the most romantic appeal, but it is actually just one piece of a rather large puzzle.

    I hope that helps!

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  22. Tim

    I was interested in your lifestyle quotient and like the idea. However, I am a little confused because my time isn’t split in to two – work and vacation, but three – work, vocation and vacation.

    Work – what I have to do because it pays the bills
    Vocation – working on projects in line with your purpose (usually unpaid but hopefully with some long-term income
    Vacation – chilling out and experiencing the pleasures that life has to offer

    I was wondering what you take is on the vocation situation. I would image many of your readers spend many hours/days on projects that are neither work nor vacation.

    -Andrew

    Like

  23. Tim,
    Great post and as for the 18,000 congrats…but it looks like Yanik is calling you out :)

    I also have to say that you did a great job on the call with Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer.

    I love the Time, Income, Mobility description of currency and I am now teaching my coaching students this and I call it the “T.I.M. formula” for currency. Obviously your parents knew what to name you!

    It’s wild that Here you are coming up with “Formula’s” and a ‘new’ definition of wealth while you are still so young I swear I could smell the baby formula ‘Similac’ on your breath!

    Kudos!

    Of course, I am recommending your book to EVERYONE!And I of course give you credit for the formula.

    Only one small thing about the book…why did you have to pick Columbus, Oh…my back yard as an example of less than exciting? :)

    Keep Climbing!

    Thad

    Like

  24. Hey Tim, I’m glad you’re so full of great ideas. I don’t always connect with what you say, but here you hit the bullseye for me twice on the significance of free time and the value of foreign travel.

    Like

  25. Hi All!

    Just a few answers to your questions:

    1. The dive was over Monterey bay — absolutely gorgeous.
    2. You get out of the front flips by arching your body and assuming the standard skydive hover position.
    3. As for how I dissect different topics, I’ll be delving into that very soon using languages as the example!

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  26. Awesome post.

    You may say similar things that have been said by other self help gurus, but you do in a refreshing way.

    You’re helping destroy the neurotic mindsets Americans have. Material wealth has become an obsession that has lost its balance with what really makes us happy.

    Some people might say that its selfish, but that is short sighted. So much harm is done with materialism. When people are free from it, I think you’ll find more good will be done in the world. People will be more aligned with what they truly feel.

    Anyway, I like posts like this.

    Like

  27. Love this post more than any other.

    I have to admit I admire all your jumps, be they out of planes or into the public eye. You’re handling both brilliantly, and I wasn’t so sure you would, so thanks for routinely suprising me.

    And to Andrew and his question about he difference between vocation and work: consider that in the same way so many of us have been all locked up in faulty thinking about time and money, we might also be locked up in faulty thinking about work and vocation. In the last 6 years both my husband and I have reinvented what it means to live, work and play by rethinking what living well, working passionately and playing really mean to us.

    And for an ‘out there’ example, check out Dr. Keith Taylor’s story as founder of http://www.modestneeds.org.

    Like

  28. Tim,

    The title of your book 4HWW has been a lightening rod. Many seem to portray you and/or the book as some sort of a “slackers guide” for those who don’t want to work. Your interview with Matt Lauer and Donny Deutsch was a laugher — did Donny even read the book?

    I understand with your “mini-test” with google adwords the 4HWW generated the greatest number of click-throughs and the controversy over the title helped it become a number one bestseller. But has it generated confusion of the message you are trying to communicate?

    To me, the primary message of your book is: Here are some tools, techniques and ideas…to help you create a life NOW that is exciting and fulfilling.

    Just curious, did you try to mini-test titles that were more accurate or that you preferred in some way but generated fewer click-throughs?

    Ernst

    Like

  29. TIm,
    Thanks for the post. I loved your book and am now setting up a plan to spend 6 weeks in hawaii with my kids. I would have thought that was impossible, but it seems SO feasible given some of the ideas you present! My family is ready for our mini-retirements! Thanks!

    Like

  30. Dear Tim,
    Could it be that unhappy but high-earning people are not motivated by MORE for the sake of “more life as an abundant human” but by an insecurity that results in needing to justify and prove their worth to others? One can be a joyful, generous human with zero tangible assets, as long as one is motivated by sharing one’s inherent worth, and one’s own enjoyment of life. Lacking this, one needs to work like crazy to justify owning, spending, doing or enjoying anything. AND one needs to work like crazy to justify the reverse, i.e. why one doesn’t have someone else’s idea of enough of anything (“look how hard I work – it’s not my fault I’m poor/not happy.”)

    I wonder if there are more happy people out there than we realize, and we just don’t give them credit. Probably lots of millionaires, sure, but probably lots of people on limited incomes who are motivated by their joys and interests rather than by whether others approve or are impressed. Retired people who spend their time volunteering come to mind! I bet many of them are just as thrilled to be involved in their quilting clubs or literary book groups or whatever as you are with Tango. The point is to cherish one’s life enough to spend one’s time LIVING!

    I think your book is a terrific shove in the right direction toward self determination and removing self-erected mental barriers to a full, human life. Thanks, Tim!

    Anne

    Like

  31. Hi Tim, I read your book and and highly enjoyed your refreshing insight on things.
    One question that kept reverberating was: why would a single 29 years old guy, who mastered time management and liberty, choose to base his home in Silicon Valley – out of all places? Unless you have some tech start up coming up your sleeve, why not live somewhere cool — like NYC, BA, Tel Aviv, SF, Paris, you name it..
    -barak.

    ###

    Hi Barak,

    I would live in SF, but it’s too overcast and cold! I love Nor-Cal, since I can drive to my season, whether it’s surfing in Santa Cruz, then skiing in Tahoe, or Yosemite to a weekend in Santa Barbara. I love the geological diversity and the energy of creation here in SV. That said, I spend at least 3 months of the year in NYC and other places like BA. I’m also in SF at least once a week.

    Good question!

    Tim

    Like

  32. I just read an unintentionally hilarious book called Richistan that describes the lives of the new rich in this country, and I’m glad I’d already read the 4-Hour Work Week. It gave me the perspective to see the ridiculousness of people who, no matter what their net worth, say they would need double that to feel secure and are stuck on an absurd treadmill of keeping up with the Joneses.

    Like

  33. Time is money. Save yourself both at lazylibrary.com, a site that makes it easy to find books under 200 pages. I use this neat search engine to find good ‘airport’ books. Makes travel all the more enjoyable.

    Like

  34. Tim,

    Great advice. To me, it’s all about truly understanding opportunity costs.

    Opportunity Cost is one of those concepts that all of us think we understand, but we’re often unable to calculate the real dollars involved.

    In its simplest terms, Opportunity Cost can be defined as follows: In order to gain something, you must lose something else.

    Learning to make better choices involves looking beyond immediate perceived value and instead quantifying the cost of every opportunity you’re faced with – the opportunity cost.

    Like

  35. Hi All!

    Ernst, thanks for the question about the title and if I think it’s misleading. I don’t think 4HWW is misleading, but people take it literally without reading the book. But that’s OK.

    I wanted to elicit a strong response with the book, and the first step is getting attention. I can’t argue the points until someone picks up the book, but I wanted no more than a “WTF?” response resulting in picking up the book, whether to enjoy it or disprove it.

    There were other titles, but I’m all for controversy as a means of getting the foot in the door.

    Hope that helps!

    Tim

    Like

  36. About 7 years ago, after several years of investment banking in New York and London, and well before the really big money kicked in, I checked out.

    I wasn’t about to mortgage off my youth.

    When I read 4HWW, it all came back: “Dude, what are you going to do with all that money?” I kept thinking as then 22 year old me saw crusty, hunchbacked 32 year old MDs running off to catch the next Concorde.

    Now, seven years later, I’m a closet 4 hour workweek retiree running a highly profitable company from my study. 4HWW gave me some great new tips, and endorsed some things I knew already.

    But now the problem.

    ###

    Hi A,

    This is the BIG question, of course. I have to get to bed, but the entire “Filling the Void” chapter in 4HWW is dedicated to exploring this. Definitely take another peek at it.

    G’night!

    Tim

    I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do. I’ve thought hard about this, been as creative as possible, but how many times can you motorcycle the Swiss Alps, ride a camel in Western China, or horseback in Sumatra before you get bored of fun.

    I’m not ungrateful. I’m happy. I’ve seen 49 countries (slowly) and I now spend most of my time playing with my kids. But I simply end up with more hours in the day than I know what to do with.

    Any ideas?

    Like

  37. I would agree Tim. And you certainly seem to be a master of using controversial topics/titles in order to garner attention.

    Congrats on the amazing book sales by the way! And yes, I would agree once again. It appears as though Yanik is calling you out.

    Bunk

    ###

    Hi Bunk!

    Thanks for the kind words. LOL… Yanik knows I’m up for 30,000 feet with oxygen masks. If there were a 130,000 jump, I’d be on it!

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  38. I thought I was the only one living the 4-hour work week. For the past 13 years, I go into job interviews where *I* interview my potential boss to see if we’re a fit. In my current position, It’s not uncommon for me to come in at 9am and leave by 3pm, but spending a good portion of that day doing personal research projects or writing projects. The workplace is just an office space that I don’t have to pay rent for and yet get all of the benefits of owning a high-speed copier, T1 line, fax machines, office supplies, conference rooms, etc.

    Thanks to this flexibility, I’ve been able to create all types of side “jobs/adventures” that clients pay me to do. Are they really jobs? Not really. They’re paying me to do the things that I enjoy doing and they give me the opportunity to travel on someone else’s dime.

    I’ve always been skeptical about telling people that I live this work-lifestyle, fearing that people won’t believe I ‘work’ this way.

    Like

  39. Tim Ferriss wrote the book I should have written myself. I’ve been living the 4hr wk longer than Tim’s been alive. Believe me a ton of money is no substitute for a good life. – EV

    Like

  40. Tim,

    This entry finally drove me to post. After linking the article in my own blog, a friend in the Bay Area simply wrote it off as the nature of the beast. “Yeah, he’d just be getting by” was her comment.

    Rubbish, total and absolute.

    Fantastic book, by the way. It’s motivated me to brainstorm passive forms of income to supplement my very full personal training schedule. Next time you’re in Austin, I invite you to get a “Colorado Experiment” workout the way Jones intended, as we’re one of the few in the country to have exclusively “Negative-only” equipment.

    Cheers,
    Skyler

    Like

  41. To the person in Post 43: The Other Side, who ends up with more hours in the day than you know what to do with:

    Have you considered volunteering or any other type of public service? Libraries, museums, art galleries, hospitals, schools, sport or afterschool activities for kids, Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers and Sisters…the list goes on. Is there a cause that you believe strongly in, such as environmentalism or personal rights? All of these things rely heavily on volunteers to function or provide services. Volunteering can be an experience just as fulfilling and inspiring as traveling or playing with your kids.

    Just an idea.

    Like

  42. Would you still espouse the same philosophy at age 50? The balance of time and resources is ever elusive but as time passes, resources take on more significance. If the end game is being self sufficient and comfortable, practical resources like a home, health insurance and available cash take on more significance. In a decade, your urge to be a vagabond may fade. You may start envisioning your life when you reach 50, 60 and beyond. The lack of security in that vision may scare the hell out of you. At age 29, your long view of life is extremely underdeveloped. A time will come when making a video about twirling ink pens at 2 in the morning just isn’t enough any more. Check back in ten–years, that is.

    ###

    Hi T!

    Thanks for the comment. There are many people at 50 and beyond who are embracing the 4HWW. These questions are good, but please realize that I am not against planning for the future — I am just against it as a substitute for living in the present.

    I have IRAs, 401(k)s, real estate, cash reserves, equities, and other investments. My vision for the future is secure. Travel is one inexpensive piece of my fun that is had in addition to, not to the exclusion of, ensuring the future. It is possible to marry the two. I’ll be talking more about my investment style in the upcoming weeks.

    Hope that helps!

    Tim

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  43. great post Tim. I am a new reader, only finding out about you around a week ago through digg.com (i must admit I spend to much time there since it was introduced to me). I have yet to read your book, but I’m planning on picking it up this weekend. I like your out look on life, though it varies differently from my current mind set. Luckily im still young (21) and have time to change. Im currently in school for IT training, which is known for its excessive hours ( I do enjoy IT, but I also have alot of other things I would like to do in my life). What recommendations do you have for some one like me in the IT field where every thing is spending time solving problems and keeping thigns running 24/7. Some one else asked this question earlier and it intrigued me. I’ve often played with the idea of owning or running my own business in some form or another, rather than being a slavewage for a company who will over work me and under pay me for their bottom line. Again, any suggestions, and any other readings you would suggest in tandem with 4HWW?

    ###

    Hi Mike!

    I suggest you also check out “The Monk and the Riddle” by Randy Komisar. It was given to me as a graduation present and is a great partner book to 4HWW. Enjoy and good luck!

    Tim

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  44. I read this today in CNN.com’s “Having it All” series:

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/07/30/dads.work/index.html

    “At least once a week, schedule a family activity that involves interaction such as a game, bike ride, trip to the playground, etc.”

    I first laughed out loud at the ridiculous image:
    “Look at this dear. According to my day planner, I am on track for 48 scheduled interactions with the kids this year, up from 40 last year!”

    Then I just about cried at the realization that this scenario’s maybe not as ridiculous as I first thought and that there are dads who run their family this way. What. What? What! WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING!?

    Like

  45. …and while on the rant about the “Having it All” series…

    “Among the countries surveyed, Americans receive the fewest vacation days on average per year, earning only 14 days, compared to 24 days in Great Britain, 26 days in Germany, 30 days in Spain, and 36 days in France.”

    Look at those words: “received”, “earning” – other surveys use similar words such as “get”, “grant”, and “award”. It’s our “Time” to give to a company – not the other way around.

    Here’s hoping that the day will come where the corporate approach of “Give us all of your days and we will grant some of them back to you” seems crazy.

    Like

  46. Thanks Kirsten (Post 49) and Tim.

    I volunteer a few hours a day at, of all places, a spiritual center. And yes, you’re right, it’s incredibly fulfilling. But what I have is a less existential and somewhat more operational question. I’ll ask differently: is there a book or website out there that simply lists things to do (mental, physical, or spiritual)?

    I realize that I may be guilty of flitting from one pursuit to another, but when “time” and “money” are no longer constraints, and one has expended one’s own creative powers, I’ll rely on borrowed wisdom (or, as above, just a long list of ideas to cruise through).

    Unrelated but (and no, I’m not an outsourced Bangalori hack hired by Tim to say this): if you haven’t read the book yet, stop reading this blog and read the book first. I consume a book a week, and for the past several months began reading business books for enjoyment. So after a steady diet of “how to grow your company”, “how to be more efficient at growing your company”, and “how to shine the customer’s shoes”, it was an intoxicating breath of fresh air to step out of the “Matrix” and read about a completely different paradigm. Within the first 30 pages of 4HWW I called up 3 other thirtysomething retiree friends in the middle of the night: I had to share the excitement (“Finally! Somebody had written a book about us!”(Tim: You have me as an anonymous case study for future written works)). Immediately after reading the book I re-read it with pen and paper in hand to operationalize anything that I hadn’t already been doing. The sad part: every business book on the shelf now seems incredibly dull; more accurately, utterly obsolete.

    Tim, when’s the next book coming out?

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  47. Dear “The Other Side”:
    I think Kristen is right on the ball by suggesting volunteering, especially when I read your phrase, “when one has expended one’s own creative powers”. Good Grief! The best part of life is EXPANDING one’s creative powers! One great way to do that is to put yourself in volunteer situations with groups who have big visions but seemingly limited resources. The key word is “seemingly”. What happens in volunteer roles is that you begin to realize what can only be achieved WITHOUT money. Money can prevent you from using and growing your creativity, which is really limitless. A great book on this topic is “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist. Check it out.
    Anne

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  48. Thanks Anne. I’ll check out “The Soul of Money.”

    Speaking of books and jumping off planes, for anyone needing just that extra nudge into the unknown, the following are great:

    “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand: How to quit and just not care. And what it means to truly love one’s work.

    “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse: Rich prince turned wanderer.

    “The History of Rasselas” by Samuel Johnson: A novella masterpiece written in a week. Another prince searching for answers.

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  49. Well i just picked 4HWW up tonight, and im allready through chapter 4. Some things line up with my current thinking, others vary, but not by alot, and make alot of sense. I gusse thats the point though isnt it? I havn’t checked out the “Monk and the Riddle” yet as Tim suggested. I’m itching to read more to find out how its all possible, and I allready have some ideas, lets see how much they match up :)

    My biggest concern right now is that I’m still not even fully capable of compleatly takeing care of my finances, so how am I going to get off the ground with out the 9-5 I so dread. Curently i work part time at a job while I get through school, one that I hate (sales floor) becuase I spend 90% of my time doing NOTHING, simply becuase there is nothing to do, and getting yelled at for doing anything thats not work related. (kinda sounds like Tims ice cream shop job).

    Sorry for the rant there, but on another note, what do people think of the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, its another i have stumbled across in the last month, but not yet read, though heard good things about it.

    Oh, and though i doubt your the type to watch much TV, any chance of you makeing an apperance on the Colbert Report, i think your make a great guest.

    Like

  50. The root issue here is that they are insecure because they feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. They talk about their neighbors having more, so they need more. They have plenty but are compelled to have more so that they can brag at a higher level.

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  51. TIM,

    Outstanding reference to Fight Club, another movie that reflects the overworked people in our society is seen in Boiler Room.

    I spent 2 weeks in NYC, mostly in lower Manhattan, and it was amazing to me to see how so many people seem so stressed out running around without a clear presence of what is going on. Since i have read your book, I have reduced my hours from 40 to 15 hours. I own a concrete biz and am in the mist of opeing a t-shirt co. Great info, i use the blog as supplemental info, as i would with vitamins in the morning.

    Best,

    Jose C

    ###

    Jose, you “daily dose” of blog comment just made my day ;) Thanks for participating in the discussion!

    Rock hard,

    Tim

    Like

  52. Tim,

    As a guy who cherishes “experience” over “things,” do you have a long list of great (mentionable) experiences that you might share with us?

    Like

  53. question, what is your opinion on franchise, like opening a coldstone or a McDonalds. they have a buissness model already in place, are market proven, and I would think it wouldnt be to hard to automate them either.

    Like

  54. Pingback: Building a Life
  55. Great article and great post! But aren’t we understating the importance of money just a tad? Tim, I believe that you can do whatever you want for $5,000 per month, but that’s only because you found a way to make that money without having a job.

    Suppose you were making $5,000 a month, but it was from a job that was sucking the soul out of you, and you saw retirement from all employment as a necessary step towards happiness. And suppose that like most people, the only way you could think of to replace your income was to save up $5 million or so in order to get $5,000 a month as distributions from a mutual fund. In that case, you probably wouldn’t see your $5,000 monthly salary as enough both to do whatever you want now, as well as quickly save up $5 million so you could quit your job and live a life of purpose.

    I do see your point though. It reminds me of the old man in the original Legend of Zelda who would lock you in a room and demand “Your life or your money.” You had to either give up 100 rupees or a heart container. It was always an easy choice for me.

    Like

  56. Tim,

    Very interesting post. I do agree that people (especially in this valley) define their happiness by their wealth, and your four steps on how to feel “happy” are right-on.

    The reason I said 4 steps is that, I found the last one (“Develop competitive social groups outside of work”) a bit troublesome. It’s always good to know that there’s life outside of work, of course, but do I really have to make my extracurricular activity a macho ego fest? If that hedge fund manager actually is better than me, now, do I blame my lack of fund to hire a personal golf coach? I would replace the last step with what you are already doing… helping others in need. As you probably already know, serving others who are less fortunate gives you perspectives on life and wealth, and teaches you compassion and humility. That seems to make many, including myself, happy, don’t you agree?

    Always thought-stimulating posts. Looking forward to more travel posts (e.g. tips on cheap Tokyo trips)!

    Like

  57. Hey all,

    has anyone taken the dale carnegie course? Im considering taking it but it is very expensive. I want to make sure it is worth it. Thanks!

    Like

  58. Wow, there’s a lot of comments… and I can see why. This article was absolutely earth-shattering for me. I know that sounds strong, but I’ve been going through somewhat of a personal conflict with the expenditure of hours in my day. I haven’t read your book yet, but after reading this I’m just about over the edge and ready to buy it.

    Like

  59. Good stuff. The book “Your Money or Your Life” was the first good resource I read about things like this. I think Tim’s 4HWW book usefully goes even further by pointing out that most companies are fundamentally hostile to anyone working fewer hours, no matter how productive the person is.

    I was in a downsizing company and took a voluntary buyout in 1996, using the proceeds to travel for a year. Was biased toward SE Asia so I could afford more time. Had really gamed the frequent-flyer-miles system as well, mostly on self-paid leisure trips.

    One year became more like three as I was just plain lucky with the ’97 currency crash, and I also dipped into the IRA. A HUGE no-no, I know, but the thing just happened to be pumped up in the dot-com bubble and then collapsed, which it would likely have done to a lesser extent anyway.

    In ’99 I started using eBay as a travel-income supplement, before everyone and his brother were trying to do that. It got leaned on more and more after the dot-com bust, providing just enough to keep me out of the workforce. Hours were long, pay uncertain, benefits nil, but the time flexibility (for travel) and being my own boss, plus the whole idea of having to work for someone else again, were enough to make me fight repeatedly to hold it together.

    My lifestyle still depends quite a bit on geoarbitrage (especially with health care and prescriptions done in Thailand on biannual trips). Ebay and PayPal are both very greedy companies that have seriously hurt whatever goodwill the sellers used to have, so I’m looking for a new gig along Tim’s lines to cut working hours. It’s often hard to be striving for time freedom when you’re completely surrounded by those who are on the work-spend treadmill, whether by choice or (usually) not. It may require a change of scenery to thrive.

    I have some of the parts, just need to add some more.

    Like

  60. Hi Timothy

    Wonderful book! Especially appreciated the ‘Filling the Void . . .’ chapter, which had the ring of truth to me.

    I’ve had a great but time-devouring career, first as a journalist, then as a not-so-successful entrepreneur followed by speech writing. Each career brought along its own ‘meaning’, which I embraced wholeheartedly.

    But the existential angst of having to get up each morning and create meaning all on one’s own seems different. More challenging but also, if you manage to do it right, more meaningful.

    As you say, no man, or woman, is meant to specialize in doing just one thing, all the time, forever.

    Now I better get back to work investigating my own version of 4HWW and follow your advice about not frittering away time on email.

    Thanks for sharing your discoveries

    Cheers

    B

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  61. Hi Tim,

    I’ve been reading your book for the last few days and its suggestions have already started to help me to deal with my “lack of time” to do what I want. Your Eliminiation, Automation & Delegation strategy (I’ve been using the acronym EAD to better remember it) has been especially helpful because its so simple and practical.

    I was surprised at some of your ideas in chapter 15 however. While I agree that being happy and doing things for others are necessary daily habits, the ease with which you pushed aside the question “What is the meaning of life?” was curious.

    Scientific evidence that the universe had a begining, along with our knowledge of its immense complexity screams evidence of a designer. Anybody who found a watch on a deserted beach would not assume that it had no maker because they couldn’t see one. Knowing more about our maker and his reason for making us would surely add meaning to our life and help us to set the right priorities in a world that offers us countless options.

    The search for such valuable knowledge might create stress and cause a few knicks and bruises mentally, but it would also help us to avoid setting the wrong priorities in our short lives and add depth and meaning to any happiness we already enjoy.

    Thanks again for your enjoyable, easy to read and helpful book.

    Like

  62. Tim, i have read most of your book. While I am enjoying it and learning a lot. Unfortunaltly, i jsut don’t see how anybody can acheive that success without an investment. I have two business. One is my bread and butter . I am a personal lifestyle manager amd the other is a struggling hat business (new) i had to fire my web guy . I know have a non functioning website. i do not have the money to fix it. In fact i am struggling just to keep the roof over my head and have thought of getting the day job just to help pay the bills . I would rather poke my eyes out with bicyle spokes LOL. I am single mother with two kids that shares custody. While i would love to pack my bags and set sail. Its unrealistic. Its like “what came first the chicken or the egg”. That’s how i feel. You still need money to make money and no one is going to do anything for free. Do not get me wrong. you have the tools for me but i cannot use them until i have a few thousand laying around and or my children are grown up.
    love the read . keep writing
    antoinette

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  63. Hey Tim,
    Love the book. I’m getting my website redone for 160 bucks after a posting on elance.com. The book has opened up a load of possible “muse” ideas in my head – but I fear the procrastinator in me will soon take over and I’ll end up just ‘talking’ more. How can I keep motivated when i serially put things off? I have a really cool ‘scalable’ fully automated business that could work. But everyday further from when I finished 4HWW, the plan is becoming a bit of “well maybe when I…” and soon, “ah s$#%, I should of…” Any advice for a person whose philosophy on life is “will get er’ done”? I turn 30 in six months, and if I screw those up, that’ll suck.

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  64. Tim and others who get it,

    Fantastic! I am so glad that I have found a community that is with me that traveling the world is not just for the “lost souls”. People used to tell me (Mostly my parents) that while I was seeing the world in my late teens and early twenties, sooner or later I would have to get a “real job”!

    I listened to them, went back to school, graduated in engineering and now hove a nice, stable, well paid, great benefits and suffocatingly boring “real job”.

    The funny thing is, I really miss the constant learning and flexible schedule of being a student. The only thing that I feel of benefit is the security/stability, not the income. Because just as you have realized, we adjust our lifestyles to our incomes. I used to take entire 2-3 month vacations abroad for the summer, but now just a “too-weak” vacation.

    Security/stability can be replaced with monthly cash-flow. So here goes, after working part-time on some other projects, my wife and I have been able to supplement our income just enough to quit it all, pack up our things, rent out our house and move to a coastal tourist community in Taiwan! Just like you, I will be programming my day around learning the language and enjoying “my” time with my wife and newborn child. Some of my friends and colleagues just can’t understand why I would “jeopardize my career” when in fact the stuffy career was exactly what I wanted out of my life!

    Thank you for your inspiration, I knew that there were others out there that are crazy enough to chase your dreams!

    Kampai, Gambei, Cheers, Prost, Salut!

    Like

  65. After two hard years working in a legal office, helping defend a case with profound First Amendment implications, I spent two weeks on Kauai. As a benevolent fate would have it, a check didn’t arrive, and I had $300 to cover expenses. Zounds. Well, I’ll tell you, it was wonderful. I completely lost the separate-and-above tourist consciousness. I was only too aware that I was, financially, at or below the level of everyone I met, from sun-blackended little Japanese farmer’s market sellers, to grocery store clerks. “Hm, can I afford to rent a snorkel?” “Two oranges and a half-tub of tofu for dinner will keep me from feeling hungry later.” It was deeply restoring, and I wrote some of my best words.

    Like

  66. I really love your “time is currency”. It doesn’t make sense do be a trillionaire if you can’t use some time to do what you absolutly want to do. It’s like living a life only for the mission of feeding your childrens greed when you die. How fun and inspirational is that on a scale of 1-10:)?

    Like

  67. here goes a long comment but pertinent i think:

    I personally decided to skip hating my life until that elusive day of retirement and instead traded a cubicle and the hum of florescent lights for the rainforest and an unlimited supply of sugar bananas. At 22, I went straight from business school to Costa Rica (subsequently ping ponging around Central America to land in Nicaragua for the time being). 3 years later and still living it up, I couldn’t shake the nagging doubt and uncertainty about when this trip was supposed to end. Was it all too good to be true? Were the US immigration authorities going to drag me back to the land of traffic light cameras and tabloids?

    The 356,928th “when are you going back home?” question prompted me to start questioning my style of life: no TV, selective media exposure, taking Mondays or Fridays (or Monday through Friday) off, getting just as much enjoyment out of perfecting my raw coconut ice cream recipe one day as I would jet setting to a bachelorette party in NYC another. Is this allowed in real life??? All family, friends, acquaintances and clients had either written me off completely or would use guilt to try to bring me back permanently to good ‘ol America: Land of the Free, Land of Reality TV.

    Had it not been for my little sister idly coming across 4HWW at her college bookstore and subsequently gifting it to me, I might never have realized this existed. Never again will I doubt my very non-boring life, my intuition or the truth that if you chase only money, you will never be satisfied or fulfilled, or grossly misinterpret money for success until it’s too late. I encourage all of you to do something you’re passionate about, and quit what you’re doing if you’re unhappy immediately if at all possible. I’ve found that when you’re out of your comfort zone, your built-in, subconscious human safety net will kick in and somehow, it always works out…

    Right now I’m at chapter 7 and completely amazed (and a little weirded out) regarding how much the book parallels my life. Tferris, if you happen to be in Prague in September, LA in October, Cartagena in December, Central America through June or Bali next summer, look me up.

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  68. Hey bubba,

    Listen I just finished reading your book and I thought it was brilliant. I honestly think holding a competition here for the folks for a night on the town with you and hell I dunno Bono or something like that somewhere remote and completely unorthodox (Eastern Bulgaria? XD) would be a pretty swav event after reading what you did at the university during your “seminar” on selling drugs. I’m a first time poster on here and I figured I would start by firing ideas up. Hopefully one of them hits home? Being 18 my “creativity” tends to come out a bit wack sometimes :P

    Anyways, thanks for your time,

    Kelson

    Like

  69. Tim,

    your book has been very difficult for me to read. I’m only into the second chapter and almost crying. What gets me is not the realization that all of this is possible, it’s knowing that I already knew it was possible and was simply not willing to figure out how. The quote from JFK really hit home “Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens in your life.” I’ve always felt I didn’t need much and I’m a pretty smart guy so everything was always easy for me but instead of choosing to make more with my life, i simply chose to be mediocre which was still better then my peers, but it did not satisfy me; correction, it DOES not satisfy me.

    I took a job as a consultant because I could take a lot of time off and travel around the country while on the job. Every year, I backpack around the world for 6 weeks straight, so I’m on the right path, but when I’m working, my job is soul sucking and lifeless. Six years in, I have kept in contact with a third of the friends I used to have and don’t feel socially connected anywhere cause I’m gone most of the time. When I complete your book, I’ll put myself to work at building that social foundation again and just staying put for a while. it’s on my list -> http://www.zachstravels.com/101things

    I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    Like

  70. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Excellent work!

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