If you've spent any time reading about personal finance lately, you've likely heard about the “FIRE” movement. FIRE means Financial Independence – Retire Early.
Suze Orman got headlines by announcing she hated the FIRE movement (but she changed her position a few weeks later.) While Clark Howard “FIRE'd” before it ever became a popular thing to do. (If you think “retire early” doesn't pertain to you, I strongly urge you to keep reading!)
Whether you agree with people who want to retire early in their 30's or 40's or not, it's not hard to support the idea of becoming financially independent. Making work optional at some point so you can choose how to live your best life makes good sense.
Tanja Hester and her husband, Mark Bunje – left their careers behind to retire early (at ages 38 and 41) after reaching financial independence. Tanja's new book, Work Optional – Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way teaches you how to get there too – no matter when you start or what age you'll be when you leave work for the last time.
Retiring Is About Your Life, Not Just Your Money
It's hard to think about retirement without focusing on money. After all, retiring without a solid financial plan – especially retiring early – is a recipe for disaster.
Tanja clearly explains what a bad idea it is to think you can just get back into the workforce if you run out of money in retirement. Her conservative advice is to Make Your Plan Bulletproof by diversifying your “magic money” sources.
Tanja doesn't just tell you what to consider. She provides action steps and detailed information on ways to shore up your finances before quitting your day job for good.
What I really love about Work Optional is how Tanja embeds the importance of financial planning within retirement life planning. She redefines money as a tool to “help you live your best life as soon as possible.”
This helped me think about early retirement less as a race to get done with work but as a path to defining “living” according to your own terms.
Work Optional is organized in 3 main sections:
- Determining what kind of life will thrill you
- Creating a conservative financial plan to be able to live that life
- Adapting to live your best “post-work” life
You can see that crafting and living your retirement dreams bookend the part of retirement planning most people really focus on – money. But Tanja doesn't let you skip the tough questions you need to answer in order to transition to living the retirement you want.
She knows there is more to it than money, and she asks you to dig deep and engage with the most critical person in your retirement planning – YOU.
You Have To Do More Than Read
If you're on this site, you probably listen to podcasts and read plenty of articles, blog posts, and books focused on personal finance. When I started on my own FIRE journey, I read everything I could find. Even with all of the information I had, I was still hesitant to act.
Did I really understand what I was reading? What if I missed something and made a mistake? Did new information come out that would help with my retirement planning?
I wish Work Optional was around back in 2012. I would have used it as a key source in answering questions I had about preparing for retirement. Work Optional is an excellent review of all of the information I had to go and search for over the years!
But you have to do more than just read. Even though I'm semi-retired, I am going to go back and do all of the exercises Tanja teaches in Work Optional. I have a conservative financial retirement plan figured out, but I've never defined a life that thrills me.
I also know from experience, daydreaming about what you'll do each day in retirement and actually doing it are two different things. Retirement is a transition you shouldn't take lightly at any age.
Take Advice From Someone Who's Living It
As someone who has written a dissertation with 25 pages of peer-reviewed sources, I struggle to read and believe “expert” advice at times. But, as a reader of Tanja's blog, Our Next Life for a few years, I knew I could trust what she writes about and suggests in Work Optional.
I realize much of what I read about personal finance is people's opinions, and their advice often comes from personal experience. While I believe there is a lot to learn this way, I also think there's much to question.
I appreciate Tanja's focus on teaching how to live a Work Optional life through stories, statistics, and researched information. Along with actually retiring early and living a work-optional life, Tanja supports her claims throughout the book with credible sources.
You won't read Work Optional and come away thinking that you read a textbook. But it won't be like reading a string of blog posts either. You'll learn what you need to do to take charge of planning your best life – and Tanja will teach you how to do it sooner than you thought possible.
Read Work Optional To Live Your Best Life Sooner
Don't worry if you are nowhere near retirement or if you are off to a late start. Work Optional is your guide to start. It will also keep you focused along your path to retirement.
You may have to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck or go against the norm of keeping up with the Joneses to get there. You may have to continue building out your financial house. And that won't be easy. But living life on your terms, according to your own definitions is priceless.
You'll likely want to take notes in the book – you can grab your copy of Work Optional here. Make it a manual you'll use rather than a book to put on a shelf. Find motivation in checking off the boxes on the checklists at the end of each chapter!
Finally, remember what Tanja says – you have the freedom to define retirement for yourself. Don't get stuck on an arbitrary number tied to walking away from work or to anyone else's definition of what it means to be retired. You're breaking the rules to create a thrilling life. A work optional life.