Work Optional – Your Money or Your Life for the Modern Pragmatist

If you write, read, or even dip your toe into the financial independence space, then you’ve read Our Next Life. In only a few years of existence, Tanja Hester’s blog has rocketed from a brand-new site to Rockstar Finance mainstay to 2018 Blog of the Year. Tanja has become a major community builder in the personal finance space and has launched a podcast (with plans for another) and hosted her own conference.

On top of all that, she has a new book coming out today! The book is Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way. I’ve read it, and I wanted to share a few thoughts.

As a note: Tanja is a friend, I’ve been reading her work for a long time, and she sent me a copy of the book. I make no claims of being unbiased. 🙂 That said, I fully believe and stand by everything set forth below.

A Modern Your Money or Your Life

Pretty much everyone in the financial independence space has read Vicki Robin’s book, Your Money or Your Life. And there’s good reason for that! Your Money or Your Life really laid out the groundwork for the whole financial independence movement.

It established why financial independence is important and how early retirement is possible. It took a broad overview of the numbers and really pushed people to make changes to their lifestyle in the short term to lead a better life in the long term.

I say all of this because reading Work Optional felt like reading a modern version of Your Money or Your Life. A version that has been updated with more details, more nuance, and more pragmatism.

From Start to Finish

Like Your Money or Your Life, Work Optional covers financial independence from beginning to end. And it does so with the mix of education and entertainment that readers of Our Next Life have come to expect.

It covers everything from what early retirement is and why it might be attractive to you, to making and adjusting your plan, through the ins and outs of the accumulation phase, all the way through telling your boss, planning your withdrawals, and building your new life.

There are detailed, step-by-step instructions where appropriate and anecdotes from Tanja’s life and the lives of others where those would be more relevant. There are checklists and exercises and everything you could possibly need to make your plan.

This is the part of the book that felt like an updated modern version of Robin’s classic. Where Work Optional takes it to the next level, however, is in diving deep on the hard questions.

Tackling the Tough Issues

Where others tend to brush off real concerns on tricky issues, Tanja tackles them head on.

Concerned about health care costs in retirement? Good! That’s a very important cost to worry about. But Tanja’s got you covered.

Skeptical of the idea that you can just go back to work if you start having money issues in retirement? You should be! Tanja walks you through a whole bunch of options to work around that problem.

Nervous about finding meaning or keeping a social life after you retire? Those are legitimate and oft-overlooked concerns and Work Optional addresses them fully.

The Perfect Balance

The vast majority of books in the personal finance or financial independence space suffer for either too much focus on the numbers and the mechanics or too much focus on the emotional and mental barriers.

This makes sense, of course. It is tempting to boil down any exploration of money topics to a simple question of math and numbers. And it is easy to see a space filled with math and write something that overcorrects in the other direction.

Work Optional does a better job of threading that needle than any other book that I’ve read. It contains all the math and numbers and structural mechanics that you could possibly need to reach your goals. But it never loses sight of the fact that money is an emotional topic or that it is simply a tool, one among many, that we can use to live a better life.

Ultimately, that’s how I view Work Optional. It’s an instruction manual for living a better life.

And one that a lot of people could benefit from reading.

One thought on “Work Optional – Your Money or Your Life for the Modern Pragmatist”

  1. Thank you for all this detail. I haven’t yet read Work Optional, but this provides some good reasons to get a copy. I did read Your Money Or Your Life and it’s a great read. The most interesting book I have read recently is Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubranyam. It releases end of March and is an allegory about an econ professor who misses winning the Nobel Prize, which sets off a journey of personal reflection. It’s not a finance book or a FIRE book but it is about rethinking life choices and learning to look at things differently, which I do think fits with the mindset of the typical FIRE proponent. Just FYI, in case you enjoy allegories.

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