The Four-Hour Work Week Book: A Biased Review

It’s been a while since I listened to the audiobook version of the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. After significant digesting, contemplating, and interpreting what the book means to me, I’ve finally reached a conclusion that I can share in written form.

Four-hour Work Week is mostly another version of Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. There are a lot of bragging in the book done by the author, Tim Ferriss, of how much money he made by selling nutritional supplements via the Internet. The way he said it makes me feel like he probably made more money selling the book rather than through his supplement business. Although I can’t really disprove his statements, they just sound too good to be true.

The major takeaway from the book is the idea of micro-retirements. That is, taking many extended vacations and making a career that you can enjoy to continue doing for your entire life. This is in contrast to keeping a job that you hate but it makes so much money that you can look forward for funding a lavish retirement at near the end of your expected lifetime. Ferris also promotes a frugal and minimalist lifestyle for both practical (less stuff to carry around) and financial reasons (more money in the bank in case you need it). He also proposes thrifty vacations in cheaper countries — he argues that any country that is not at war is safe enough. He describes his vacations in South America and Eastern Europe to show his point.

The idea of micro-retirements is pretty similar to Stefan Sagmeister’s one-year sabbatical for every seven years of business. Mr Sagmeister runs a small design company and during the year-long time off he focuses on his personal design projects to gain inspiration.

Micro-retirements resonates with me deeply especially since my retirement fund haven’t recovered after three years have passed from the 2008 financial meltdown. Given the recent macroeconomic misfortunes, my idea of early retirement may not be possible after all. The financial crisis of 2008 trigged by subprime mortgage collapse, the series of defaults and bailouts in the European Union, and the seemingly imminent bankrupcy of the United States seems to show there might be no way to passively grow and safekeep money for the rather distant future. Financial crises and inflation both work against the idea of working to invest money to have a totally passive income in the latter half of a person’s lifetime.

Another valid point from Ferris is that retirement does not always mean happyness. You can retire and never have to work again but you still can be unhappy. The key is to find an activity that makes the full use of your potential that you enjoy doing yet can fulfill your economic needs. Keeping a sucky job even though it pays a lot isn’t a good thing — the next financial crisis can wipe out the money that you earn in that job and you won’t get back the time you lost. I’ve practically experienced that last point myself: most of the extra money gained from a higher-paying job (which sucks) was taken by the financial crisis; my financial position today would be almost the same had I taken a slightly lower-paying job but didn’t invest my money.

In short, if you’re big on working hard in a sucky job just for the extra money to save for your retirement, it may be good to read Ferris’ book. The book will also a good read if you’re buried down in debt to pay for a lot of things that you rarely use. But if you’re a frugal person, have a decent job that you enjoy, and like to savor every moment of your life, probably you’re already living the book’s ideals.

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