Before 1926, the standard workweek was six days on with one day off. But that year, Henry Ford introduced the concept of working for the weekend when he instituted a five-day, 40-hour schedule that endured as the wage earner’s standard for decades to come. Now, there’s a growing movement to condense the workweek once again.
Belgium, Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Germany and Japan have instituted or started experimenting with the four-day workweek concept. While Monday through Friday is still the gold standard in America, employees are starting to demand a more equitable work-to-play ratio — but not if it means going broke.
Whether your company is receptive to the idea or not, you might be able to work just four days per week — or even fewer — while still building wealth and enjoying financial security. Here’s how to do it.
Although the path toward achieving it is neither short nor simple, the most direct route to perpetual three-day weekends is a position that pays 100% salary for four days of work. It’s more prevalent than you might think.
“The four-day workweek is a growing movement,” said career coach Phil McParlane, founder of 4dayweek.io, which bills itself as the world’s largest job board dedicated to short-week positions. “In a post-COVID world, companies are offering employee benefits that differentiate them in a tough hiring market — and the four-day week is one of them.”
Unsurprisingly, many of them hail from the same industry.
“As of August 2023, 300-plus tech companies are offering full-time jobs that only require the employee to work four normal-length days,” said McParlane, who sends weekly job alerts to more than 100,000 members. “And just because they work fewer hours, this doesn’t necessarily mean they pay less salary.”
He offered the following examples of current open positions with four-day workweeks:
- Software developer: $195,000
- Product design manager: $260,000
- Financial analyst: $110,000
- VP of sales and marketing: $185,000
Zoe Wallace, chief human resources officer at Culture.org, agrees that “the best way to get rich while working less than the standard five-day work week is to choose high-paying careers.”
But how can you prepare so you’ll be ready when you get to McParlane’s job board? “Do relevant upskilling, gather certifications and experiences, then brand yourself as an expert,” said Wallace.
That, of course, is easier said than done.
“Though the process is relatively simple, it takes a long time to do it all and become an expert,” said Wallace. “Studying the basics and then upskilling takes a considerable amount of time, plus you have to gain experience, too. Hence, the earlier you start, the better, so you can maximize your earnings immediately.”
Largely echoing McParlane, she cited data science, software development and marketing as fields with high potential.
Not everyone is going to land a job that gives you three days off and pays six figures — but they might be able to build their own business instead of working for someone else’s.
“Becoming self-employed is the best way to get rich without working a standard five-day workweek,” said Laura Adams, MBA, an award-winning personal finance expert, author and host of the “Money Girl” podcast. “For instance, based on your skills, interests and experience, you might become a real estate agent or freelance as a consultant, writer, virtual assistant, graphic designer, website developer, audio editor, video producer, bookkeeper, or tutor. Offering professional services with potentially high revenues and work flexibility could be the ticket to earning more on your schedule.”
It can start as a side hustle — just don’t quit your day job until your pay matches your passion.
“You might start growing a business on the side to eventually make a full-time income by working part-time hours,” said Adams.
Adams mentioned consulting work, and if you’ve spent years in a high-pay, high-intensity job that requires long hours for a big income, the knowledge you’ve accumulated along the way might be the ticket to regaining your life without downgrading your lifestyle.
“If you possess expertise in a particular area, I highly recommend becoming a consultant,” said Alasdair Cunningham, entrepreneur, business coach and mentor. “This line of work allows you to leverage your skills to help others while working on your own terms. As a consultant, you can set your own rates and choose the projects that interest you, providing flexibility in your work schedule.”
When you think of consulting work, the fields of law, politics or medicine might come to mind. However, nearly every industry is willing to pay a handsome sum for specialized institutional knowledge.
“Sрeciаlized skills like prоgrаmming, design, оr mаrketing саn fetсh greаt hоurly rаtes,” said Shri Ganeshram, who was recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30, is the CEO of the real estate platform Awning.com and managing partner at Fresh VC. “Severаl plаtfоrms аllоw professiоnаls to offеr thеir serviсes оn а project bаsis.”
Among them are Comatch, Catalant, MeasureMatch and Zintro. And once you build a network, a few good clients are all you might need to shorten your workweek while building your wealth.
“One of my friеnds, а grаphic dеsignеr, wоrks just three dаys а week but eаrns mоre thаn hеr рeers in full-time positions, аll thаnks to hеr niсhe exрertise аnd а strоng рersоnаl brаnd,” said Ganeshram.
There’s No Substitute for a ‘Healthy Relationship With Money’
In the end, your financial lifestyle will play the biggest role in your ability to achieve a healthy work-life balance. The sooner you start focusing on it, the sooner you’ll be able to stop toiling away five days out of seven just to pay the landlord.
“Compound interest and a healthy relationship with money are the greatest wealth generation tools, period,” said Marly Garman, creator of the lifestyle and financial site SimplyLivingHappy. “Establishing investment funds as close to 18 years old as possible is the surest way to find financial security as an adult, no matter your income level. Pair this with choosing to live happily below your means, and you’ve created a formula for success.”
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