The 15HWW Definition Of “Work”

As a blogger, I have been quite lucky.

I have received many positive comments about my ideology and writing and even in my more downbeat times (like this and this), I have received plenty of encouragement from readers.

Seriously, I am quite surprised that I have not really had anyone lampooning me for espousing a 15 hour work week. Or accusing me of being part of the strawberry generation, one who does not want to work hard and long hours and at the same time, expect life to be a bed roses.


It also probably does not help that Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said: “If native Singaporeans are falling behind because the ’spurs are not stuck into the hide’, that is their problem…”


So, What’s My Defence?

But really, when I advocate a 15 hour work week, I do not expect or anticipate the rest of my hours to be filled up by just golf, travel, TV and video games.

In fact, it’s not leisure that I yearn for. It’s freedom. Freedom to do what I value most. 

Like how Mr Money Mustache puts it in this article on

“What if work were something that you did only when it worked for you? If you could go at it with gusto on certain days, or even certain seasons or years, but then shift to other things for a while when your priorities changed? You might spend most of your 20s burning up the corporate ladder or being the workhorse that keeps a startup company in the black. But then your 30s might be mostly consumed by bringing up young children, your 40s might see you starting more companies or reclaiming your youth as a touring rocker, and your 50s and 60s are yet to be charted. Now that I’ve met a large number people who have actually followed this path, I can see that financial independence isn’t so much about freedom from work. It is more about freedom to do your best work, without money getting in the way.”

What If Money Was No Object?

What Would Be Considered “Work” To Me

Hope you enjoyed the Zen Pencils comic in the above link.

Much as I love Alan Watts’ ideals, I do understand that it is a tad impractical for most people “to forget about the money”. When one is not born with a silver spoon and is just starting out, quitting his job to spend his afternoons writing articles on a financial blog becomes pretty naive and financially risky.

So instead of asking “What would I do if money was no object?”, I believe a more reasonable question is this:

Would I do this job if the pay was halved?

Not the greatest of examples, but hopefully you get the point

In my humble view, if my answer was”no” and I was working way more than 15 hours a week on that job, it would be time to conjure up a plan and find something else to churn out the money. 

For example, if I were paid $200 a week to maintain this blog and I spent approximately 10 hours on it, my hourly wage would be $20/hour. (I am dreaming, I know.) I do believe that if the pay was halved, I would still want to continue doing it and thus, the 10 hours I spent on writing would not be considered “work”.

Therefore, now that my primary occupation is a tutor, by the time our passive income doubles or triples, I would unlikely spend more than 15 hours a week on those assignments which I would not have accepted if the rates were halved.

Therefore, my definition of work is this:

Something that I wouldn’t have done if I were paid less than half of what I was receiving.

My belief is that spending at most 15 hours on “work” that’s mainly for the sake of generating income during semi-retirement provides a good balance. The other hours can be spent meaningfully generating value for ourselves or others, even if we are not paid a single cent for our endeavours.

What’s unpalatable is spending 40 hour weeks for 40 years working in a job I would flee the moment the pay is halved. 

That’s a pretty miserable existence, no?

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16 thoughts on “The 15HWW Definition Of “Work”

  1. Tacomob

    I think we are way too conformist people. Who says that one has to work 40 hours a week and who says that life is to be lived linear. Like we start off with learning, then earning and finally yearning for that retirement.

    Why can’t we mix it up a bit? Of course the basis is learning, but then the earning period could be 20 years instead of 40 years, followed by 10 years of enjoying a retirement sprinkled with some additional learning, giving and educating children (maybe even a bit of earning on the side). And then followed by another 10 to 20 years of earning as to ones liking or physical abilities.

    Sounds too good to be true? I am convinced that it could be achieved when someone is frugal, prudent with his/her money, starts investing right from the start of earning and does not over-commit to an expensive house.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Tacomob,

      What you have just described sounds like what I am doing right now.

      Hopefully I am able to pull it off.

      If it doesn’t work out? I just have to go back to full-time employment again. 🙂

  2. B

    Hi 15hww

    Good post 🙂

    Definition of work is definitely going to be different once you have found the holy grail of working. It may seem 15 hours per week to you but im sure you wont budge doing them for 40 hours per week.

    Good luck on your tuition endeavors in the future.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi B,

      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. Things are still moving slowly but at least we are not in deficit (yet) in terms of monthly cashflow.

  3. Frugal Daddy

    Hi 15hww

    Your goal has been consistent and original – 15hww. For this, you deserve a pat on your shoulder.

    No one has the right to judge what you think is right for you and your family. So, you don’t really need to bother too much about how others thinks. Of course, it will be best if everyone is supportive and having faith in your decisions, which is in the case of what you shared above.

    I agreed the financial independence end game is not about relaxing and slacking, but to achieve freedom in a modern world. I think defining a work that I am willing to work for free is extremely challenging, as what I like doing may not be the same after repeating it everyday, especially with money starting to get involvement like the Zen Pencil comic that you have shared. Who knows whether you will like riding after doing it every day for 5 years? Even you do, teaching or serving customers to ride a horse may not be the cup of tea. It is a different thing altogether. Just like I enjoy playing game, doesn’t mean I will enjoy developing games.

    In short, I felt achieving financial independence is a must and working part time is a smart and sustainable long term plan, however, the tasks of part time may evolve, at least in my instance. Or else, the part time tasks may slowly devour me too.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Frugal Daddy,

      Guess both of us like a variety of work instead of specialisation, which is the trend nowadays in corporate environment.

      It makes a lot of sense from the macro view since it’s more efficient but from a personal perspective, it’s drudgery to have to more or less repeat things for 40 hours a week for 40 years.

  4. Ellaa

    Hi Mr15HWW,

    I have been reading your blog for 1.5 years already (silent supporter!) and only have begun to blog a little about my own story. I always find your advice a good middle path and well suited for my current situation. Keep up the good articles!

    By the way, I am currently on a 7 to 10 hours work week (excluding transport but I always hunt for nice food along the way so it’s OK). I am on a huge pay cut vs my previous full time job, but on a per hour basis, I earn almost double doing my freelance work. Awesome because I love seeing my students 98% of the time. I teach yoga btw.


    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Ellaa,

      Thanks for your kind words and interesting story you have there. Of course, many similarities (like bailing out at 29) too!

      Perhaps one day when I decide to learn yoga, I can approach you for a friendlier rate? =p

        1. My 15 HWW Post author

          Wow, only toddlers. That’s really niche.

          Actually, I was thinking, to teach toddlers, you would need to be benchmarked to higher standards? No?

  5. Jes

    Hi 15HWW,

    I don’t think you need a defence because everyone’s idea of retirement is different. But the idea is the same whereby you can do what you like and not what you have to because of money. I strive for that too 🙂

    Anyway, I would still do my current travelling job for half the pay, not because I really love it, but because of the high potential to climb up and earn more money. Haha, guess I am still in the rat race.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Jes,

      Hah! I have to admit I dislike being labelled “lazy”.

      Recently, I read some article on why some people refuse to retire early. It’s because the rewards at the top is just too enticing. Hope you get there sooner rather than later. 🙂

  6. Kelvin Tan Tuan Wei

    One good thing about being a private tutor is that you have a great deal of control of how many hours to work. Did you study economics in the university?

    For most other jobs, even if you want to work more at the going wage, its really hard, and you end up being unpaid for those hours.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Kelvin,

      Yes, I studied Economics. The problem with jobs I have done so far is that I spent most of the time surfing the net and felt guilty doing so. :p

      1. Kelvin Tan Tuan Wei

        Nice, then you might understand when I say being able to control your working hours more effectively allow you to reach the optimum solution for the leisure-work decision. Right now, I can see you have come to the 15 work hour per week as your optimal solution which is great.

        For other people, we may prefer to allocate more time to work instead of leisure, but with most jobs paying you only on a fixed hour workload basis, we are unable to reach our ideal “first order condition”. =)

        1. My 15 HWW Post author

          Hi Kelvin,

          I think a mindset change is required from both employees and employers to reach what you call a “first order condition”. That will take a lot of time, if it even happens at all.

          Anyway, I have no accumulated enough to go on a 15HWW yet. But hopefully, that will be possible in a few years’ time.