Nov 25, 2008

Choice Between a 4 Day Work Week or More Money

As I have stated before, I am aiming to achieve my goal of retiring at 40 whilst at the same time working a four day work week. Yes, I know it's insane but it's good to have goals.

Besides, if I miss it at 40, then I'll probably hit 45. But that figure isn't the most interesting one. To me the most important figure above is that I'll be doing it whilst working a four day week.

Initial Thoughts

Calendar Card - January
Photo: joelanman

My four day work week started in September and almost as soon as I started doing it, I was blown away by how good I felt. I decided to take Wednesdays off to split the week up and just the thought of only ever working two days on the run, before having at least one day off, was probably the best decision I ever made.

I had various detractors including people saying "but then you get two Mondays" to which I counter "yes, but you also get two Fridays!" And besides, all the people I knew who took Fridays off wanted to have a long weekend so they could go away every now and again - unfortunately, they never did.

However, no-one said that a four day work week was bad and in fact, a good percentage of people started thinking whether they could do the same.

As it turns out, Wednesday, for me at least, turned out to be a magical day. Almost like going to Disneyland every week - it was a dream come true.

A Change of Lifestyle

Early on I realised that my life had changed quite dramatically. I finally had more time to do things. being able to cook more often, eat better and exercise more has been refreshing and of course, the ability to do other things I enjoy, like walking, cycling and taking photographs meant I was distinctly happier than before.

It came at a cost though and that was a financial one. My pay was instantly 20% pro-rata lower than it should have been. In reality it really didn't bother me as much as I thought it might since I had already altered my lifestyle enough such that I'd stopped spending enough money on frivolous things that it actually cover this difference. On reflection then I was no worse off than before (luckily I'd also had a pay-rise a few months earlier which also helped).

It Lasted Two Months

You might be able to guess that my four day work week is no longer - temporarily - but for the moment it is but a dim and seemingly distant memory. At the start of November, work asked me if I could go back to five days a week until the end of the year. It is only two months and I knew the question was coming anyway so I happily said yes since I like to think I'm quite agreeable in these situations...

...not that I knew what I was letting myself in for.

The first week seemed to go quite fast, the second a bit slower and now, in my fourth week back at five days, life seems to slowly grind onwards ever inching towards that singular Friday when I finally get time to myself. It's not so bad but I have already realised that my life is the worse off, in a number of different ways, for it.

I have less time, my diet isn't as healthy as it was, my exercise routine has waned and I feel a little more stressed about a number of things. I certainly have less time to do bits and pieces as you'll have noticed by the dip in the number of posts in November.

Time Deficient

Now, I'm sure that there may be some readers who'll be saying "We've all got to do a five day working week so just live with it" but here's my case as to why I need a four day work week (and not just for mental reasons).

As a single guy, I inherently get less time than couples do (and here, I mean couples with no kids - couples with kids certainly get less time to themselves than I do). Let me justify that by saying for my situation, I'm the one who has to tidy the house, I have to do the shopping, I have to cook for myself, I have to do the washing up and the washing, I have to pay the bills and talk to the bank/utility/phone companies. Oh, and I also have to earn a living. With couples, they can at least share a number of these chores.

A number of my friends go out cycling while their partners shop and cook. While they clean up afterwards, their partners can get on with other things. If both of them tidy up, it takes half the time and in some cases less.

So you see, by having that little bit more to do what sometimes feels like an infinite number of chores really helps. This way I can at least spend proportionately more time doing the more feelgood activities like recreation or hobbies.

The Extra Pay

When I started back at five days, I knew I would probably enjoy getting my increased pay-packet but in reality, what I got extra - whilst significant - doesn't really compensate for all of the negative things I have already been feeling whilst back up to five days. I'm usually a happy person, and that's still the same, I'm just not as happy as I was in September and October.

I knew that over these two months I would switch my thoughts between sticking at five days (to help my finances and retirement plans) or four days (to enjoy life a little more) and wait until the New Year to decide which I wanted to stick with, but I think I have already made up my mind.

I shall go back to a four day work week come January and not care about the extra money. It's a call between my head and my heart and unusually for me, whilst my head has invariably won in the past, this time my heart has won out by a large margin.

As one of my friends said to me a few years ago "You can always earn more money but you can't earn more time". And that is why I shall go back to just four days in the New Year.

I'm curious as to what you would do, so if you were in my situation, what would you choose? Please explain.


Trendy Indy said...

I would take the 4 day work week and run. I think that's an excellent idea. Like you, I would also take Wednesday off for the same reason you mentioned. However, I would use this day to do something that I absolutely love and could never do becuase of time or 9-5 constraints. Some of those things include tutoring at a teaching center. May be tutor GMAT. The best part is they pay around 75 dollars an hour and the hours are very flexible and you don;t work more than 2 hours at a time. Keeps my brain sharp at the same time. I might also try some trainee positions with real estate agents to know more about the biz and the list can go on and on. I am happy for your anyways.

chilliboy said...

I would take a 0 day week if I could afford it!!! 4 days better than 5 and just think for these 9 weeks or so you'll have 20% extra to help pay directly off your mortgage should you chose to do so.

4 day weeks rule and I should know I've been doing them for 19 years now!! ( but still a 42 hr week )

retire-at-40 said...

Well it seems that feedback, both on and off this post, indicates that I'm probably right in choosing a four day week.

I certainly knew that when I told a lot of people prior to going to four days, the usual response was "I wonder if I could do that too". Maybe this is a primitive goal of almost everybody who works :-)

oldbones929 said...

As far as I'm concerned, the 5 day work week is cruel and unusual punishment and luckily, over the last 20 or so years, I've been able to have a variety of non-traditional work schedules such as the 4 day work week, or when I was a firefighter we worked 1 day (24 hrs) and were off for 2 days. My personal favorite now is 3 12 hr shifts, which is considered full-time in the hospital I work in. My goal is to work the least amount of days possible and still have enough money to pay the necessities and to have enough extra every month to make a substantial dent in my debt.

Mobile Home said...

Four eight hours days, split in the middle, as you have been doing would make the most sense to me. If you take the three day weekend approach, you tend to do less with your free time. If on the other hand your have a specific side project, then a three day week would be better, providing you could afford it. Keeping days to eight hours long is important. I've worked nine hour through to 14 hours shifts, in different jobs and have discovered (much like our forebears did) that eight hours is the magic number, if you are to have plenty of energy left at the end of the day to do other things.

Amanda said...

I work 40 hours over the weekend, and it's the best thing that has ever happened to me! I'm in healthcare, and my shift starts at 3:30 saturday and ends 7:30am on monday. I don't do a great deal of work during this time, and I do get to sleep, otherwise it would obviously be too exhausting. But even though my husband and I do not have the same days off, I love it. 5 days off during the week is the best thing ever. And when we have kids it will save a bundle on childcare. I hope I never have to work five days a week again!!