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What Percentage of Your Life Will You Spend at Work?

I was extremely disappointed with the results returned when I typed the question above into Google – so I thought I’d do the calculations myself.

NB – I’ve limited my definition of work to mean ‘paid employment’! 

Average working hours UK

If you work for the entirety of your adult life until pensionable age in the UK then you will be engaged in some form of paid employment from the age of 18 years to of age to 68 years of age, which is an equivalent of 50 years of paid-employment.

If we take the average amount of hours worked per week, which was 39.2 hours in 2014 according to the annual survey of hours and earnings, then you will work a total of 92 120 hours in the course of your working life (based on a rough calculation of 39.2 hours *(52-5 = 47 weeks to take account of holidays)*50 years).

Expressed as terms of a percentage of your life, this 39.2 hours a week spent working is equivalent to

  • 14% of your total time over the course of a 76 year period (based on the average projected life expectancy of 76 for people born in the year 2000 according to the ONS’s National Life Tables for the United Kingdom.)
  • 23.3% of your total time during the course of a 50 year working-life period
  • 21% of your total waking hours over a 76 year lifespan, assuming 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • 35% of your total waking hours over a 50 year working-life period assuming 8 hours of sleep a night
  • 50% of your total waking hours during any given working day.

Of course the above amount of time actually spent working will vary depending on a variety of factors, not least on your income and expenditure, but also on the generosity of your parents, any inheritance you might receive, returns on investments, and any time you spend on benefits, but the most crucial variable (or combination of variables) which determines how many hours you are going to work over the course of your life is, for most people, the amount of income you earn in relation to your expenditure.

In short, the less you spend in relation to your income, then the less income you need, and the fewer hours, days, weeks, months and years (whichever is the least painful way of counting it!) you will need to work.

The maths behind this (thanks to Jacob Lund Fisker) is actually surprisingly simple – If you take home £20 000 a year, spend £18 000 and save £2000, then it will take you 9 years to save up enough to live for a year (£2000 *9 = £18000).

If you can inverse this ratio, and save £18 000 a year and get used to living off only £2000 then if you work for one year you will have saved enough to live for another 9 years.

If you look at this over the course of a working life, if you can keep the first scenario up (saving £2000/ year) then over 45 years you would save enough to live off for five years, meaning you could retire 5 years earlier, at 62 years of age. In the second example, you could work for 5 years and then retire on your savings at the age of 23, albeit on a lower income.

The first ‘hypothetical’ example is pretty close to the norm in the UK today. In 2012-13 the average personal annual income after tax for the 50th percentile income-earner was £18 700, while the average annual expenditure for the middle quintile of single person households in 2013 was £16016, leaving a potential savings capacity of approximately £2700 a year for those of middling income and expenditure. (based on the ONS survey of personal income and Equivalised income.)

The second example above is, for most of us, going to remain hypothetical because it is just too extreme. However, consider the half way situation – If, on an average annual take-home salary of £20 000 you can learn to live off £10 000 a year and save £10 000 – you could potentially only work for 25 years…. meaning you could retire at age 43.

Related Posts

How to Avoid Working for a Living

Experiments in alternative living (1) – or 5 ways to avoid spending less than £250K on housing

15 Seriously disturbing facts about your job (in which they cite 90 000 hours, which is similar to the figure I got)

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62 thoughts on “What Percentage of Your Life Will You Spend at Work?

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  2. […] placed to pick up on whatever these habits might be; after all, they are the people who spend the most amount of time around […]

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  5. […] can help your team relax and connect on a personal level outside of work. They spend as much as 35% of their waking hours together — so connecting and being able to relate to each other is […]

  6. […] to pick up on whatever these habits might be – after all, they are the people who spend the most amount of time around […]

  7. […] to be honest; would you be happy to be in the same career in ten years time? You’ll spend up to one-third of your whole life working; a statistic that might not sit well with you if you’re frustrated in your career. But what can […]

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  12. […] said their job was very stressful. That sucks when you consider that an average person will spend a fifth of their lifespan at work and that stress can be a major contributing factor to anxiety, […]

  13. […] whether you are happy in your current job or career is still what you want to be doing as you spend 35% of your waking hours at work over a 50 year working career so no matter how much money you are making it’s worth considering if something better is out […]

  14. […] we spend one third of our adult lives at work? By another estimate, Americans spend a total of 92,000 hours at work, if you work from age 18 to 67. By that count, that’s over 1,800 hours per year, and if […]

  15. […] we devote so much time to the thing that pays our bills (92,120 hours over the course of a lifetime to be exact)  our sense of self-worth has become beclouded. Of course, a delusion of purpose […]

  16. […] of us spend between 21 and 35 percent of our lives at work or dedicated to working. That’s a huge chunk of time; it’s no wonder […]

  17. […] a 50-year career, you’ll spend 92,100 hours at work — roughly 35% of your total waking hours, to be exact. That’s a lot of […]

  18. […] average worker spends about 92,000 hours at work in his or her lifetime. It’s an impressive amount of time, during which many goals can be […]

  19. Hi – Karl Thompson

  20. Who wrote the article on what percentage of your life will you spend at work?

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  24. […] is said that office workers spend around 92 – 120 hours working until they retire, which is about eight hours a day. But reports claim that people spend way too […]

  25. […] most people’s careers, they now spend more than a third of their waking hours at work. Estimates have the average person spending more than 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, […]

  26. man it’d be great to get 5 weeks vacation a year I’m lucky If i get 1 week.

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  30. […] thanks for ReviseSociology for doing some of the calculations for […]

  31. […] show that the average person will spend about 92,120 hours at the workplace. That’s a lot of […]

  32. […] Look at this breakdown on how much we work in our lives. The percentage in our lifetime that we spend working varies but it tends to be around 25-35%. That is a lot of time! If we spend that much time working it should be productive and sustainable. […]

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  37. […] it's cliche, life is simply too short. You'll spend about 35% of your waking hours working, so why not take a shot at earning a living by doing what you […]

  38. […] interesting is that the average person spends 39.2 hours/day at work, which cumulates to 1,842 hours worked/year and 92,120 hours worked in a […]

  39. […] average person spends 39.2 hours/week at work, which adds up to 1,842 hours worked/year and 92,120 hours worked in a […]

  40. […] is one of the above. Anyone reading thinking of their boss? What’s interesting is that the average person spends 39.2 hours/day at work, which cumulates to 1,842 hours worked/year and 92,120 hours worked in a […]

  41. […] mind is one of the above. Anyone reading thinking of their boss? What’s interesting is that the average person spends 39.2 hours/day at work, which cumulates to 1,842 hours worked/year and 92,120 hours worked in a […]

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  43. […] health, sometimes wearing them down until they literally can’t go on. Since people spend an average of 80-90,000 hours working over their lifetime, doesn’t it make sense to make that time as […]

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  50. […] you are going to be working for on average 50% of the waking hours of your life you should do something meaningful, difficult and worthwhile. This, to me, is the […]

  51. […] you know that the average man spends approximately 35 percent of his lifetime […]

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  54. […]  Want to know a secret?  Most of us spend close to 40% of our waking hours either working or commuting, so there’s nothing wrong with following your heart when it comes […]

  55. […] of their age, gender or profession deserve a great workplace. After all, on average we spend 23.3% of our total waking hours over a 50-year working life-period at work! That’s quite a lot, so you […]

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