It’s Been 12 Years Since ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ — Are We Any Closer to Achieving It?

By GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

By GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

In 2007, Tim Ferriss published “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which promised that anyone could “escape 9-to-5, live anywhere and join the New Rich” if they followed the guidelines outlined in the book. “The 4-Hour Workweek” went on to become a No. 1 New York Times best-seller published in 35 different countries.

But since 2007, the economy has made a 180-degree turnaround, with banks failing, retirement funds shrinking and many Americans losing their jobs. So, how do the book’s money lessons stand the test of time?

Geber86 / Getty Images

Lesson No. 1: Retirement Is Insurance Against the Worst-Case Scenario

Ferriss said in “The 4-Hour Workweek” that retirement should not be the ultimate goal.

“It should be viewed as nothing more than a hedge against the absolute worst-case-scenario: in this case, becoming physically incapable of working and needing a reservoir of capital to survive,” he wrote in his book.

Ferriss said that if you like what you doing, there’s no need to retire until you absolutely have to. He also noted that even if you have $1 million saved, it’s “chump change in a world where traditional retirement could last 30 years. … The golden years become lower-middle-class life revisited.”


Make Your Money Work Better for You
skynesher / Getty Images

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

Even though Ferriss wrote his book in 2007, $1 million is still commonly believed to be the golden amount needed for a retirement nest egg. Ferriss said that $1 million wasn’t enough to live a good life back then, and in many cases, it’s not enough to fuel you through retirement now.

He also said that it’s important to do work you love so that you won’t feel the need to retire as soon as you hit 65. This advice is sound in 2019, when many people won’t be able to retire at that age even if they wanted to — a GOBankingRates survey found that 42 percent of Americans will retire broke.

eclipse_images / Getty Images

Lesson No. 2: Limit Tasks and Shorten Work Time

Ferriss stands by the 80/20 principle — that 80 percent of outputs result from 20 percent of inputs — and Parkinson’s law, which states that a task will become as large and complex as the amount of time allotted to complete it.

Combining these two rules, Ferriss said that you should limit your tasks to only those that provide the most output, and cap the amount of time you give yourself to complete tasks by setting short and clear deadlines.

Make Your Money Work Better for You
eclipse_images / Getty Images

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

If Ferriss’ lessons were taken to heart, Americans should be working fewer hours now than they were in 2007. According to Statista, the average employee worked 34.6 hours a week in 2007, and 34.3 hours a week in 2019 — the latest year for which data is available. Although the decrease in work hours is barely noticeable, it could be the result of efficient task prioritization and deadline setting in some cases.

Rawpixel / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lesson No. 3: Check Email Only Twice a Day

Ferriss called email “the greatest single interruption in the modern world.” To be the most productive, he said people should only check email twice a day: once at noon or just before lunch, and once at 4 p.m.

“[Noon] and 4 p.m. are times that ensure you will have the most responses from previously sent email,” he said.

To implement the rule, Ferriss said you should first talk with bosses, co-workers and clients to let them know about your schedule, and set up an auto-response directing people to call you in the case of a true emergency.

Make Your Money Work Better for You
Rawpixel / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

In a world where everyone has a smartphone and expects you to be reachable 24/7, it’s hard to imagine following Ferriss’ rule. However, this wasn’t the case when “The 4-Hour Workweek” was originally published. The first edition of the book came out in 2007, which was the same year that the first iPhone arrived — and the phone wasn’t even released until June of that year. In comparison, people are much more connected to their email in 2019.

Jaymast / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lesson No. 4: The Cubicle Is Your Temple

“The cubicle is your temple — don’t permit casual visitors,” Ferriss wrote. He believes co-workers who come to your cubicle are “invaders” and should be dismissed or ignored so that you can concentrate on your tasks at hand.


Xavier Arnau / Getty Images

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

Cubicles are so 2007. As of 2017, 70 percent of U.S. offices had low or no partitions, the Chicago Tribune reported. It’s much harder to dodge co-workers when they can walk right up to your desk rather than just peer into your cubicle space.


Make Your Money Work Better for You
Chainarong Prasertthai / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lesson No. 5: Hire a Virtual Assistant

Ferriss dedicated a whole chapter to automation and said the first step is to hire a virtual assistant — even if you’re not an entrepreneur. Doing so will free up more of your time to complete meaningful work that’s worth more.

Some tasks that virtual assistants can do include scheduling interviews and meetings, conducting research, running personal errands, making online purchases, proofreading and transcribing.

PeopleImages / Getty Images

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

It’s never been easier to hire a virtual assistant, and costs can be minimal. Ferriss gives an example in his book of someone who makes $50,000 a year — or $25 an hour — and pays another person $30 an hour to do tasks that eliminate eight hours of their work per week. Although this ends up costing $40 a week, he said that the cost is worth it to free up an extra day.

Now, you can hire virtual assistants for even less. For example, the site TasksEveryday allows you to hire an assistant based in India or the Philippines for just $6.98 per hour.

Make Your Money Work Better for You
Lovgretphoto / Shutterstock.com

Lesson No. 6: Automate Income Streams

The crux of Ferriss’ book — the part that will make you one of the “New Rich” — is to automate your income stream. He suggests doing this by launching a product-based business, and elaborates on the different ways of doing this: resell a product, license a product or create a new product.

Ferriss recommends product creation as the “least complicated and most profitable option open to most people.” Rather than selling a physical product, Ferriss said to sell an information-based product, such as a book or DVD based on your expertise.

LStockStudio / Shutterstock.com

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

Are people still buying books? Although book sales had previously been declining, they’re on the rise again, according to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook report — so writing a book isn’t a bad business idea.

However, physical disc sales fell 14 percent between 2017 and 2018 due to the popularity of streaming, according to Variety. So, unless you land a deal with Netflix, dispensing your information in DVD form likely won’t be profitable.

Make Your Money Work Better for You
MStudioImages / Getty Images

Lesson No. 7: Expand Remote Time

The subtitle of “The 4-Hour Workweek” promotes the idea that you can “live anywhere” while continuing to make money. And, whether you have fully automated your income as an entrepreneur or still work for someone else, Ferriss said to negotiate with your employer or employees to work remotely as much as possible.

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

Since 2007, working remotely has transitioned from a niche practice to one that’s extremely commonplace. A 2018 study conducted by remote workspace provider IWG found that 70 percent of employees around the world work remotely at least one day a week, and 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week or more.

“The biggest driver is digital changing every industry in the world,” IWG chief executive Mark Dixon told CNBC. “On the one hand, it’s changing how real estate needs to be offered, but it’s also companies wanting something different in the digital world.”

Dixon said that allowing employees to work remotely benefits employers in two ways: They save money on real estate, and it can also make employees more productive.

“If you offer workers the chance to work where they need to be, and not where they are told to go to, it completely transforms their view of the company — they are more productive,” he said.

wundervisuals / Getty Images

Lesson No. 8: Replace Vacations With ‘Mini-Retirements’

Since retirement isn’t the goal for Ferriss, he believes in “redistributing” 20 to 30 years of retirement throughout your lifetime. He recommends relocating to a place you want to visit for one to six months at a time so you can fully enjoy it. There’s also an economic argument for this lifestyle, he wrote, as living abroad is often significantly cheaper than living in many of America’s biggest cities.

By GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

Does This Lesson Hold Up Today?

If you work remotely or as a freelancer, there’s no reason why you can’t take Ferriss’ advice and spend months at a time living abroad. And, his argument for moving abroad still stands — many countries have a much lower cost of living compared to the U.S. Because of this, even if you do want to have a traditional retirement, living outside of the U.S. can help you save money and retire sooner.

More on Making Money as an Entrepreneur