Looking through bookstores over Christmas, I decided that I ought to read what some others have written about working reduced hours. The first that I got around to reading was Nik Halik’s Five Day Weekend (apparently a registered trademark).
Halik’s basic method is to do whatever work is necessary to build some wealth, then live off the proceeds of investing it. He refers to the income derived from work as active income and the income derived from investing as passive income; the idea is to move from an active income to a passive one so that one can enjoy the eponymous five-day weekend. He gives numerous tips on ways in which to raise money and invest it, many of which may be reasonable enough, though many also seem to require spending a lot of time doing things that I personally don’t have much interest in doing, like managing real estate or driving for Uber. He never specifies the length of time for which one needs to build one’s wealth, but I’ve read of other people with similar strategies who expect to work (hard) and live frugally for ten or fifteen years before reaching the live-off-investments stage.
Halik insists that the method is proven though he doesn’t detail who proved it or how; presumably he regards himself as an exemplar but the book makes only passing references to anyone else achieving the same thing. The article linked above refers only to people who plan to execute the strategy and not to anyone who is actually living off their investments so accumulated, and includes plenty of scepticism from academics who doubt that lower-income-earners can really save significant amounts of money or that higher-income earners can reliably predict their future costs.
The book is written with the kind of up-beat you-can-do-anything tone that I associate with self-help gurus, and, like many who talk up entrepreneurialism and risk-taking, goes on at length about willing to risk failure but follows up with stories in which no one ever seems to fail. Still, Halik denies that the book is a get-rich-quick scheme and much of the advice he gives about finding purpose, enjoying life and managing one’s time is consistent with that given by other reputable sources.
Aside from the risk that one might spend years obsessed with the accumulation of wealth while never quite reaching the promised five-day weekend, there seems to me to be some irony in needing to engage people earning an active income in order for five-day-weekenders to earn a passive income. Halik, however, doesn’t seem to see any irony and such people sometimes seem to be suckers waiting to be fleeced by five-day-weekenders willing to exploit them—though a charitable assumption (never mentioned by Halik) might be that these people are the ones engaged in the work-as-much-you-can phase of the plan.
Given that I’ve earned an active income from doing something that I’ve largely enjoyed and that has been sufficient for me to live without having to worry (much) about where the next dollar is coming from, I guess I’m happy enough to have taken twenty years to get to where I am now, and I’d probably rather spend three days a week being paid for something that keeps me engaged with the engineering and academic community than two days a week moving money around. In any case, I’m at an age where obsessively accumulating money for the next ten or fifteen years would allow me to retire only a little earlier than usual, while losing most of my middle age to said accumulation. No thanks.