Is Work Optional Anything New? (+Giveaway!)

Disclaimer: I received a free, advance copy of Work Optional for review purposes and personally know the author, Tanja Hester. I am not being paid to write this review, but as an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission if you click on any Amazon links and make a purchase. 50% of any profit on this blog goes directly to charity, either Givewell or charities voted on by readers.

I’ve read a lot of Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) content. Multiple late night reading binges, knowing full well I’ll regret my choices in the morning, and I follow a dozen plus blogs regularly. Your Money or Your Life was on my reading list shortly after opening my 401k, and I’ve even written my very own FIRE blog for over three years. Plus, Fergus and I are even officially financially independent right now.

So, does Work Optional offer anything new that someone can’t glean from dozens of blog posts?

Short answer: Hell yes.

Here are three main reasons I would recommend Work Optional:

(1) Fantastic Overview of FIRE Concepts, in Tidy Packaging

Writing long form is very different from blog posts, and having all the high-level FIRE concepts in one book, complete with sources and further resources, is incredibly useful. She covers the basic math, accounts, and drawdown options, in addition to covering trickier topics like healthcare and envisioning your future. Each section has a checklist, and there’s a master checklist at the end of the book (with the pretty print-out form available on Our Next Life). Some of my favorite parts were topics not typically talked about often within FIRE, like charitable giving and what it’s actually like to quit your job and define your day-to-day sans rigid schedule. 

(2) Real-World Examples

Tanja doesn’t just write about her and Mark retiring early. She sprinkles other, diverse stories throughout the book as well. Tanja and Mark do not have or plan on children, but she absolutely included sections and real-life stories of people retiring early with kids. I’m the type of person that lives for examples. It’s very easy to say something like, “well, yeah, easy for you, you don’t have to deal with ____,” so including a diverse array of examples really helps people from just about any background connect with the material, and I’d imagine the examples would also make it easier to talk about FIRE with a partner that doesn’t quite “get” why you’re obsessed with FIRE. On that note, I’d highly recommend Angela’s Women of the Financial Independence Movement list to find women bloggers of similar circumstances to yourself if you haven’t already.

(3) Reflection exercises

This is the main reason I would recommend the book to anyone already pursuing FIRE. Yes, Fergus and I are financially independent right now and are comfortable with our asset allocation. Yes, we’ve generally talked about what we’d like to do in retirement. Do we *actually* have a plan? Honestly no.

This is a big part of why I haven’t posted anything on the blog recently. Sure, we’ve had several Big Life Transitions to go through like new job (Fergus), moving cross country (Boston-> Seattle), and re-adjusting to work post-sabbatical, but the larger underlying issue is being very unsure about what our next steps are. Work Optional included some fantastic prompts I hadn’t really thought of before, and that I’d definitely not chatted with Fergus about, like, “What is the single best thing you’ve ever spent money on?”

A lot of content on this planning process is coming soon, promise, including a Financial Freedom series.

Who Should Read Work Optional

You’ll get a lot out of the book if you’re:

  • In debt and have no retirement savings (and no clue where to start)
  • New to FIRE
  • A FIRE aficionado in the saving stage that wants to make sure you’re covering all your bases
  • Confident in your financial plan for early retirement but don’t have a solid plan for after pulling the plug
  • Newly retired and very restless
  • A financial planner that doesn’t quite “get” FIRE
  • Not sure about retiring early
  • Passionate about a side-project or passion that you’d love to make fulltime

Who Shouldn’t Read Work Optional

You’re likely not going to enjoy the book if you:

  • Have absolutely all your shit together, can say with absolute certainty that every dollar you spend brings you joy, and you already have detailed retirement plans
  • Hate self-reflection (this may be Fergus…to test out your self-reflection limitations, start with the master checklist, then see how you feel)
  • Are very comfortable with your plans (and contingency plans)
  • Want detailed financial advice

My Major Work Optional Take-Aways and Thoughts

Work Optional will absolutely have a place in my tiny library as a reference, which might be the best way to consume it. For me, as someone already fairly well-versed in the numbers of FIRE, I skimmed past investing and financial picture sections but still need to fully work through my work optional reflection questions. If you’ve already retired, you probably won’t get much out of the section on how to plan your workplace exit, but the self-care section might be critical. And of course, if all the concepts are new to you, you’ll likely have to revisit over time, as you progress along your journey. All in all, I absolutely would recommend Work Optional and think most people could get something from it.

Giveaway!! Want your very own copy of Work Optional? Comment below for a chance to win, and double your chances by commenting on my Instagram Work Optional post (winner announced 2/20)! What does your #WorkOptional life look like? What’s the #1 question you have about FIRE, in general, or for your own situation?

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15 thoughts on “Is Work Optional Anything New? (+Giveaway!)

  1. Newly retired at 56 and looking for some optional work. Have I got a hard time getting out of my old comfort zone when looking.


    1. Congratulations on your retirement! Would love to hear more about difficulties of getting out of your comfort zone. It’s such a big transition, like Tanja notes in her book, and it’s hard to prepare yourself for it.


  2. I just FIREd a month ago and am still in the ‘It’s a workday and I can sleep in- neener, neener!’ stage, so I’m glad to hear there’s still time to make a plan. With all the FIRE resources out there I wasn’t sure what value yet another book would bring, but it sounds like Tanja has crafted a winner!


    1. Ha! I love that “neener, neener” phrasology (and congrats!!). I’ve been anticipating a similar stage for the first few months or so. 😉

      I’d say the life planning and transition sections are the strongest parts of the book, especially in terms of adding something new.


  3. My husband has been retired, and I have been working our entire marriage. My Work Optional life will allow me to be retired with him and give my time to him, our family, and the children (grandkids, nieces and nephews) in our lives before their lives get too busy to spend time with us! We entered early retirement a couple months ago and my biggest question leading up to it (and still…) is about healthcare. We are still designing our FIRE life but enjoying each moment.


    1. Healthcare is such a big part of retirement stability, and one Tanja definitely focuses on in the book and in her blog! There are lots of weird ways to save money on healthcare, but you definitely have to do your research. We just saved quite a bit of money using GoodRx coupon codes for prescriptions for our dog, Fluffster, even! Had no clue until the other week, and still don’t quite now how it works as a business model…but yay $200/mo (more directly from vet) -> $40/mo meds!


  4. Awesome review, Felicity! I’m super excited to read the book as I too am unsure exactly what post-FI life without a 9-5 looks like for me. The self-reflection exercises sound very helpful. Glad you enjoyed it!


      1. You have a great memory! We are there, but not quite ready to step away from careers yet. Although we are expecting a baby in August so I’m sure that will completely turn our world upside down in the best way possible! It’s awesome having the financial stability and freedom to decide if/when we step away from typical work especially with a little one on the way. 🙂


  5. Nice Review! I will be retiring in 2 weeks and it really hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m excited, but also feel like I still have some things to work out. I’m especially interested in the transition sections in the book.


  6. As a teacher, I’m not convinced I’m truly interested in the “RE” part of FIRE. I’m pretty happy with the job I have, but I do love the idea of having the option. So, of course, Tanja’s book title resonates with me. For me, the biggest question I hope to face down the road is, do I want to retire early and walk away from a good portion if the pension I would have if I work until retirement age. I guess it will depend on how much I have saved and how happy I am in the job at that point.


  7. Glad you got so much from the book even though you’re already halfway to FIRE. And it’s always nice to hear someone admit that they’ve got absolutely no plans in place even when they otherwise have their crap together.

    Hope you’re loving Seattle. I just had a dream about it last night. Well, about some of the restaurants there. Clearly I didn’t eat enough before bedtime, but man I do miss those eateries!


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