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?