What’s Your Ideal Income And Amount Of Work A Day?

Lake Tahoe VistaBecause I had a $100,000 income target in mind while in college, I set out to work in an industry which would allowed me to make such an income.  Industries such as consulting, finance, legal, high tech, and medical are such industries.  The problem is getting in and surviving for a long enough time to reap the financial rewards.

I see many people bail out before the income really gets good because they just can’t take the work hours, pressure, and stress anymore.  I understand completely since not everybody is cut out to work 50-80 hours a week and constantly compete for their lives.  Eventually, we all burn out.  I’m just surprised how quickly some of the younger folks burn out nowadays.

As a middle-aged man now, I’m no longer naive about the world.  $200,000-$250,000 is my ideal income for maximum happiness, but at what cost?  If I am to spend more than 50 hours a week trying to make $200,000, that’s not very impressive.  If I could spend just 20 hours a week making $200,000, then I think that would be mighty fine.


My ideal amount of work  a day is roughly four hours. I like to get up early and work from 7:30am to 11:30am non-stop.  I find that I can maintain a maximum focus of up to four hours, by which time I start to fade if I work any longer. My concentration deteriorates, and I start to get fidgety and want to go outside.

From 11:30am-1pm, I take a leisurely lunch break. Afterward, I enjoy a nice 30 minute siesta on the couch before I go and perform some physical activity to try and stay in shape.  I might sprinkle some afternoon errands and by the time 6pm roles around, it’s date night and relaxation time.

There will often be times when I have to get on the computer and work at night due to clients in Australia and Asia. However, I don’t plan on spending more than 45 minutes online after dinner anymore because I want to spend time with my loved ones instead.

I encourage everybody to get a sense of what their optimal work hours are and find a way to get there. I know if I only worked for one hour a day, I’d feel unproductive. Meanwhile, each hour after four hours of work gets less and less enjoyable to the point where I will start hating work after the twelve hour mark!


Making $200,000-$250,000 a year working just 20 hours a week is no easy task. I’ve reset to zero now that I’ve retired from corporate life and look to build multiple income streams online instead. Although the task may be difficult, if I give myself a long enough runway, I believe I can make it happen.

By December 31, 2015, I aim to generate over $200,000 a year in operating profits from my entrepreneurial activities.  I know that if I stick to building up my consulting practice, producing products, writing consistently online, and networking, I will get there from scratch. I’m going to invest in new ventures as well.

I’m excited about this three and a half year goal. Perhaps I will fail, but at least I will try. Perhaps I’ll get tempted to go back to the corporate life before then. That doesn’t mean I still can’t strive towards my goal. All I know is that I’m going to focus on the journey and have fun trying to get there!

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I never thought I’d be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai actually makes more than my entire passive income total that took 15 years to build. If you enjoy writing, creating, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, see how you can set up a WordPress blog in 15 minutes with BluehostYou never know where the journey will take you in 2015 and beyond!

Work When You Want: I’ve recently tried out driving for Uber because they are currently giving up to a $300 bonus after you make your 20th ride. After 125 hours and 53 rides, my gross pay is $32/hour, which is not too bad! I can see how people can easily make an extra $2,000 a month after commission and expenses with Uber or any ridesourcing company. I’d definitely sign up and drive until at least the bonus . Every time I plan to drive somewhere, like my main contracting gig down in San Mateo, I’ll just turn on the Uber app to try and catch a fare towards the direction I’m going. Why not make extra money?

$32/hour is a huge pay cut for me and it’s a humbling experience as well. But discovering the whole ridesourcing experience first hand is fascinating! I’ve got so many stories to share in the future about my experiences picking up random people. You can make $40,000 a year easily if you work a normal 40 hour a week shift based off my experience.

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Updated for 2016 and beyond

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    My ideal with be six figures (both of us combined) with maybe 30 hours max for each of us a week. We live in the Midwest, so everything is very cheap, so even high 5 digits would work (if we had no debt).

  2. says

    We make a modest living and live in a very inexpensive area. Our combined income is about 100K right now and it is more than enough to provide for what we need, save for retirement, and pursue other financial goals. I work 40 hours a week now and it is fine with me. However, in the future I want to work much less. I want to quit my 9-5 job sometime in my 40’s and possibly do something part time. We plan on being fully retired at 55 other than managing our rental properties.

    I like working….for now.

    • says

      It’s great you like working for now. I hope you will keep on liking it for as long as possible. I could have gone to age 40, but after that, I think I would start dreading work.

  3. says

    I would be a happy little clam if I made 100,000 working 20 hours a week. I don’t need much, and someday I would love to only work one day a week at my nursing gig and spend the other time on other stuff, like investing in real estate and my blog ;)
    – Nurse Frugal

    • says

      Ah, but once you start investing in real estate, your number of work hours will go up, unless you find that key property that always attracts key tenants who never welch! 100K is definitely good though for 20 hours!

  4. says

    I had never thought about it this way before! I would need to do some serious thought on the dollar amount but ideally I’d probably like to work around 20 to 30 hours a week. Income would be tougher for me to determine at this point but ideally my minimum would probably end up at least 100,000.

    I need to think on this and set a similar goal for myself.

  5. says

    At my stage of life, I have a different goal in mind. In 5 years, I will be debt free earning somewhere $100-150K a year. More than enough to do all the things I want to do. I like multiple income streams so I will continue blogging and see where that takes me. I have some ideas, but it is on the back burner for now. I feel opportunities present themselves all the time, so who knows.

  6. says

    Hey Sam! This is a great question, and I don’t think anyone has ever asked me this before! My life is so simple right now uncluttered by things and without kids yet, but I think I could be happy as a clam in a really pretty, small house, working 20 hours a week making 50-80kish a year. With kids, maybe working less and making more (that’s the dream right!?) My only really big expenses would be travelling because I love to do so! I wish you all the best in your 3 year plan. I’m amazed how my own little corner of the internet grows each day, so it’s exciting to see others who are ahead in this type of work and doing well like yourself!! Oh! and P.S. I just wrote you an e-mail but I forgot to tell you that yes! You SHOULD definitely come and visit us in Grenada. I will show you around! It’s a pretty little island. We are here until Dec 2013. :)

  7. Nun says

    I think my ideal would be $100k right now. I think what you are aiming to do is extremely awesome. That $100k would be enough to cover living expenses and provide enough to make life comfortable and to help save a good chunk as well. Late 20’s and relatively single so expenses are menial. I think I would like to keep my course load as well which means as a professor I’d be over the 20hr limit but the rest still applies. I don’t think I’ll ever stop especially because my students love my take on econ and finance…sorry I’m kind of proud :)

  8. Chris says

    My magic number at this point in my life is $150k. I’m only 22 so that’s WAY more than enough. I would like a 20 – 30 hour week. That’s cool that you mentioned your optimal work hours. The past 2 week I have been rewiring two of our offices so I have to be at work when nobody is there. I go in at 5:30 – 8:30 and come back at 3:00 – 8:00. I’ve identified my perfect work time. It may be because nobody is there most of the time I am working, but I’m pretty much ready to work at 4:00am when I wake up. I can go all the way until about 9:30, and I’m ready for a nap. I would skip all the way until 5:00 when most people are getting off I would work until 8 or 9. That is more than 20 – 30 hours, but I like to work. I would prefer it be on my own endeavors though and not for somebody else:).

  9. says

    My ideal income would be $300k combined. This would allow us to take many mini vacations, give more and just live the life we want. We should be there within a couple of years. 20 hours a week would be ideal. I’ll have to really try hard to get there.

  10. Mike Hunt says


    I like your targets, both the number of hours a week / day and the income. Is this income on top of all your passive income that is coming in?

    How are you going to spend all that money? We are spending less than $50k a year and it seems like a lavish lifestyle (although our abode is pretty small).


  11. MD says

    This is a good question Sam. Ideally you want to put in less effort and make more money. However, it doesn’t always work out like this. I like your routine of 4 hours. I would be happy with 4-6 hrs of work M-F and making $100k per year.

    • says

      MD, speak to me about folks in your generation. Do you think there is an unrealistic approach to making $100K a year working 4 hours a day? Or, is now easier than ever thanks to the internet?

      • MD says

        Um it depends on what you’re into to be honest. I don’t have too many friends that have that entrepreneurial spirit that we all share on here. I have friends that make good money in construction and other fields. The brutal truth is that I don’t know too many people making over $100k per year lol.

  12. Bogey says

    Assuming all my debts were paid off, which should happen by age 35 or so (including mortgage), I’d be happy netting $80k to $100k per year.

    I plan to do this by owning several rental properties. Realistically, the latest I see myself being able to live this lifestyle is 45 years old, and potentially by age 40.

    Managing the properties myself might average 10 hours per week, perhaps less. It would depend on how much repair/remodel work I did myself.

    The rest of my time would be spent playing golf at my country club and taking a few trips each year.

  13. says

    Ideal Income: $189,000

    I won’t go into all the details why I have such a specific number- but I will say it’s mostly due to specific tax issues. To offset those tax concerns- I’d have to bump up the number to $300k+.

    Ideal Hours: 34

    5-6 hours Mon-Fri and a couple hours each day on the weekend.

  14. Virginia says

    I would be happy with 20 hours a week and $50K a year. It seems like it should be feasible but there don’t seem to be a lot of well paying part time options out there.

      • virginia says

        I live in the dc area. You are correct. I would need my husband to keep working for a similar amount or pay off my mortgage (which I hope to do in a couple years) to live comfortably. I would need more if I was to be the only one working tomorrow.

  15. says

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately Sam, I only do an 8 hour day, but still feel that it is too much. 4 hours sounds about right, you need a bit of time to get a run at things without them building up. As for income, there are a few variable involved, but $150K – $200K would be pretty solid I would think. If I could go out and achieve that myself the way you plan to, I’d be more than happy… something to focus on anyway.

    Love your goal by the way, look forward to watching you make it happen.

    • says

      Man, if I only did an 8 hour day (does that include or exclue lunch), I could probably work EASILY for 10 more years in my previous career! I don’t know anybody who works 40 hours a week or less in my immediate circle.

      It does feel good to do so though!

  16. says

    I think $200,000 sounds like a good number for me to shoot for, but I think I would like to work 4 hard (normal) hours, and I’d like to get to a point where I also work 2 soft hours. The soft hours would be something that I could do at the same time as I’m doing other tasks or in a doctor’s waiting office, or really doing anything that doesn’t require 100% (or really even 50%) of my concentration. So a 6 hour workday would be ideal for me.

  17. Dillon says

    I currently have a federal job and I must say, 9 hour (a day off every 2 weeks) and 10 hour (a day off every week) options are great compared to the more traditional 5 day work week. That said, ideally I think 30 hour work weeks split up into 10 hours on say, Tuesday through Thursday would be good for me. A hh income (assuming I won’t be having any children for several years) of 120k would be fine. Add kids and move to a house and bump the hh up to 150k and set on inflationary autopilot.

  18. says

    My ideal income would be 150K working about 25 hours a week. I think with this income and being debt free it is more than enough to pay for rent / mortgage expenses and just enjoy life.

  19. says

    I am a bit of a workaholic lately so I would be happy to work 6-8 hours a day all in with weekends to do whatever I please. Right now I am not getting enough as I want done during the week between my jobs so I use the weekends to catch up on things. I am probably way too attached to my computer than for my own good. I’m sure if my body needed less sleep I’d probably work more than I already am. Hmm I think I need to go to workaholics anonymous.

  20. says

    I would like to not ever think about income, or # hours worked per week, ever again.
    And be able to do whatever I want.
    That is MY dream.

    • says

      That is one definition of Financial Independence!

      I’ll tell you a secret though. Once you have FI, then it becomes even MORE fun to think about work and income because you don’t need to do either!

      • says

        That is exactly my intention.

        I once saw a video of sergiy brin from google. He spoke to a class, at either Berkeley or Stanford I forget–to us East Coasters, there is little difference :-)

        Anyway, he said he doesn’t really lose sleep because of his competition. But, when he thinks about possibilities, what CAN be done in the world, and he gets excited…THEN he loses sleep.

        • says

          Awesome. There is a good feeling of getting so excited you can’t sleep. I’ve been feeling this way for the past 3 years with my online activities. I wake up at 5am-6am b/c I can’t wait to see what happened in the world while I was sleeping!

          It’s crazy nuts, and crazy fun!

          Berkeley is far far better btw!

  21. pcash says

    This is the best question to be asking people. Time is the most limited resource we all have, and it should always be considered when discussing employment. Would you rather have C-level type job that pays $800000 a year but forces you to travel all the time and work roughly 60-70 hours a week (with loads of stress) or have $20 million in the bank earning $250k a year in interest from a CD? After a while, no matter how much you think you’re passionate about work, it is in the end, work. People get paid gobs of money because it is hard, stressful and just plain not fun.

    I’ll take less money and more time any day. For me, if I can get a combined household income of $150-200K (in today’s dollars), while working less than 40 hours a week, without the stress of losing this income stream, I’ll take it over a stressful C-level job any time. My route to achieving this will via numerous income streams (real estate, programming side jobs, and of course saving up a sizable nest egg). I hope I’m not being too unrealistic, but I think it is a possibility.

    • says

      Don’t think you’re being too unrealistic at all. Doing the “C-level” job was basically what I did for the past seven year so I could amass my NUT. I coudn’t do the job at a later age b/c I wouldn’t have the energy. I knew the party would eventually end. Just didn’t know when.

      Now that the Nut has been created, along w/ various income streams, I want to take it easier in my 30’s and beyond.

  22. says

    I’ve already reached my objective (100K – 30 hours) but now I’m trying to find a way to increase the income while decreasing the hours of work. As you said, this is more complicated!

    I need to focus on what is “scalable” so I can multiply each hour I work into multiple dollars. this will be interesting to follow your quest to drop your workweek at 20 hours and generate 6 figures!

    • says

      Sounds good! Are you happy with your asset base? One of the things I wanted to accumulate was a large enough asset base (NUT) so that it could throw off enough passive income to retire.

      In my question to work 20 hrs and make $200,000, I am going to exclude the ~$80,000 annual passive income I generate from CDs, dividends, and rental income to make things harder. Let’s see!

      • says

        My biggest assets are my 3 kids and my wife. I don’t care about the millions, I’m already richer than that ;-) The money I make is only the gravy.

        I’m very curious to see your progression, will you do income updates? 20 hrs, 200K this is quite a challenge ;-)

  23. says

    Personally I can live on a lot less than $200,000. I own my home, my two children have good jobs, I have a ten year old car that is like new, I have a very small pension and I love to invest through selling options. I found a mentor almost 4 decades ago and that changed my way of investing. For the first 20 years I invested everything and compounded every trade. But since then I have basically lived off my investing. I don’t make 200,000 a year but then I don’t need that amount either. I figured out that my time was worth a lot more to me than I thought and I couldn’t place a dollar figure on it. Family and friends is what i focus on.

  24. says

    $200,000 on 4 hours a day would be sweet. ;) I don’t have any doubts that you can get there, Sam. However, I would actually still be fine with half of that for 8 hours a day, honestly. The reason is because that is still better than I would do as a pure dev in the market here, and I still have the freedom of making my own hours.

    Right now I’m at more like 50 hours to 60 hrs a week (it used to be more but I would say the average has come down over the summer). I don’t burn out because I change gears, or take a day off in the middle of the week, or whatever I need to do. I don’t think this could last for the long term though so bringing this down to 40 hours and increasing earnings will be a good challenge!

    • says

      Cool. Yeah, everything is relative. I already know I can make $100K/year at 4 hrs a day in operating profits (not revenue), so I want to challenge myself more to double. If I fail, at least I know I will have tried.

      Work the hardest and longest while you still have the energy as you are now! Everything will fade eventually.

  25. Carl says

    Hi guys,

    I was born and I live in Western Europe where prices are super high (3-bedroom flat in a town approx. $250k and we pay up to $100 for full throttle of petrol for my VW Rabbit).

    As an college educated expert I work in Fortune500 corporation and I currently earn around $33k/year before taxes, working approx. 50 hours a week.

    My dream is to earn around $150k and work 40 hours/week what is fine with me. To reach this level in Europe there’s only one legitimate way, one must establish a company :)

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