Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way, by Tanja Hester, Creator of the Our Next Life blogbook

WORK OPTIONAL: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way

I’m so crazy excited to share with you at last the details of the book I’ve been hard at work on this year! Because I’m practically bouncing out of my chair over here, let’s just get right to it. Say hello to WORK OPTIONAL: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way!

Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way, by Tanja Hester, Creator of the Our Next Life blog

If you’ve been following along over here, you already know that seeing something I’d written in bookstores has been a dream of mine for longer than I can remember, but until now, I haven’t shared much about the book itself.

Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way

This is what you’ll read if you pick up the book and flip it over:

In today’s work culture, we’re expected to be reachable at all times and to hustle around the clock. But what if you could escape the traditional life path and get on an alternate one, one that doesn’t require working full-time until age 65? What if you could wake up every day without an alarm clock, and do the things you love most, instead of punching the clock for someone else?

Work Optional is more than just a financial plan. It’s a plan for your whole life – a life designed by you, not by an employer or clients. Work Optional walks you through envisioning your dream life, creating a solid financial plan to support you, and achieving a purpose-filled early retirement, semi-retirement, or career intermission with completely doable, non-penny-pinching steps.

Author Tanja Hester and her husband Mark Bunge left their latte-drinking, crazed careerist lifestyle to live their dream life in Lake Tahoe, retiring early from high-stress careers. As one of the most influential voices in the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) movement, Tanja documented the journey on her award-winning blog Our Next Life. Work Optional will help you map out your customized financial plan and health care plan, and make it easy to succeed whether you’re good at math and budgeting—or not!

 Work Optional offers practical solutions on:

  • How to build a solid early retirement financial plan
  • How to account for future expenses you can plan for—and those you can’t
  • How to retire early with kids, as a single person, or while supporting loved ones
  • How to save money fast without pinching pennies
  • How to make your plan bulletproof to withstand economic downturns

You can live a happier, more meaningful life, one no longer defined by the daily grind or the need for a paycheck. Work Optional will get you there.

And while that description sums it up well, you’re a reader here (and thus one of my favorite people), so you get the inside scoop.

While the initial math of early retirement is not rocket science, I’ve realized several things over the past almost four years of blogging about the subject:

  1. There isn’t always enough nuance in discussions of how much you need to save, and most models rely on the false assumption that your spending will be level forever.
  2. The way we sometimes talk about things — math especially — can be off-putting to those who don’t already have a deep love for spreadsheets or budgets.
  3. We tend to talk about early retirement like it’s all or nothing, not something with a million gradations.
  4. People often get hung up on us not having kids, and don’t see the many, many examples of people with kids making early retirement happen.
  5. Health care feels big and scary, so rather than think about a big and scary topic, many people put off thinking about it.
  6. The discussion often begins with money, when where it really should begin is with figuring out what kind of life you want to live.

There are some great money books out there, but none that incorporate these topics into the early retirement discussion, and that’s why I wanted to write this book.

I did a ton of research for it, and didn’t just rehash the oft-repeated FIRE wisdom that you’ve read a million times already, nor content you’ve read here before. I reviewed sociological research on traditional retirees that also applies to early retirees. And I brought expertise from my career as a consultant to help shape the exercises in the book, to make them both inspirational and actionable.

Work Optional is divided into three parts that cover in detail the biggest areas anyone eyeing early retirement should focus on:

  • Planning the life you want to liveHow you want to spend your days and how you want to spend your money
  • Determining your best financial pathPlanning for full early retirement, semiretirement or career intermission, including details on accounting for factors you may not have thought about even if you’ve been planning for FIRE for a while, making your plan bulletproof, ensuring you always have access to good health care, putting systems in place to help you succeed, and accelerating your progress by boosting your earnings
  • Transitioning to early retirementHow to make the transition successfully, how to stay healthy and happy long term, and how to use your free time for good

Work Optional is not about Mark and me. Bits of our story that I’ve never shared here on the blog are sprinkled throughout, as are stories from a wide range of early retirees from diverse backgrounds, but it’s not a memoir, and it’s not about any one of us. It’s about you and your journey.

Work Optional is available for pre-order and will be released March 26, 2019, by Hachette Books. UPDATE: WORK OPTIONAL WILL BE RELEASED EARLY, ON FEBRUARY 12! 

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Live a Purpose-Filled Life

You’re reading this post, so I already know you don’t need to be sold on the idea of not letting work define you for your entire life. And the research suggests you’re not alone! Most workers daydream about not needing to go to work anymore, about escaping the daily grind.

But as I’ve learned from talking to many early retirees and aspiring ones, and reviewing the research on traditional retirement, focusing only on what you wish to leave behind is not a recipe for happiness. We repeat the saying “know what you’re retiring to, not what you’re retiring from” often in the FIRE community, but if pressed, a lot of us can’t actually answer that question of what we’re retiring to. Or maybe we can list off some tasks we hope to spend time on, but we don’t always have a clear sense of purpose for our next phase of life.

That’s why the idea of purpose is infused throughout every bit of this book. Research has shown time and time again that seeking happiness doesn’t make us happier, but living with purpose does. And when work becomes optional for you, you can devote yourself entirely to living a purpose-filled life that you’ll be proud to look back on.

How It Happened: Answers for the Book-Curious

Since I announced back in the spring that I was working on this book, I’ve gotten a range of questions about how all of this went down, so here’s a little bit of behind-the-scenes info for those who are into that kind of thing.

About a year and a half ago, an editor at a medium-sized press called me and asked if I’d consider writing a book about early retirement. I was thrilled to know there was interest in publishing a book by me, but I was still very much in the thick of my busy work travel schedule, and had zero brain space to think about it. But I know that opportunities like that don’t come up every day, so I asked a few friends who’ve published books what they thought I should do. (That’s one of the best bits of adulting advice I can give: Learn to recognize when you don’t know the right questions to ask, and then seek out those who do.) They all gave me the same advice: get an agent. Apparently there’s a lot of predatory publishing going on these days in which small presses approach writers with lots of flattery and offer them some upfront cash but then neglect to mention that they’re asking the author to sign away the copyright and any claims on future royalties. A good agent can sniff out these bad guys instantly. (And most of these presses will go running if you mention that you have an agent, which is a dead giveaway.) I knew the publisher that had reached out to me wasn’t shady like that, but I also knew that I was still in over my head and acknowledged that I needed an agent.

I’ve been an aspiring author long enough to know that getting an agent, especially an experienced one, is no small thing, and that many authors struggle for years to get an agent to so much as return their email. But apparently it’s different if you already have publisher interest, because in what felt like no time, I had calls set up with the agents of a few friends, I clicked with one especially, and just like that, I had an agent. Though the publisher wanted a book proposal within a few months, my agent recommended I take a bit more time and figure out how I’d write not just a basic guide to early retirement, but a book that felt like me. And so that’s what I spent most of 2017 on, when I wasn’t blogging here, planning our big reveal, launching a podcast or working 60 hours a week. (Hint: I wasn’t sleeping.) Just ask Mark how long he had to trip over the index cards I had spread all over the living room floor, arranging them and rearranging them over and over for months until I was happy with the flow and content of the book.

I finished the proposal in January of this year, while on the 14-hour flight to Taipei, and sent it off to my agent when we landed. She did her agent thing, I had interviews with a number of editors, and less than a month later, I had a book deal with Hachette Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, one of the “big five” publishers. Getting to write a book at all was a dream, but getting a big five press to publish it was beyond anything I’d imagined. And to top it all off, this ran in Publishers Marketplace a few days later, and my heart nearly exploded:

Publishers Weekly deal of the day

The editor who acquired my book moved to a different job not long after this, and I was worried that my project would be orphaned, but my new editor has been wonderful, and has pushed me to take the book to another level and to make it accessible to both math nerds and those who have zero confidence in their money or spreadsheet skills. It’s a better book for her input, absolutely. And that’s made the choice to go the traditional publishing route instead of self-publishing feel extra good. Sure, I could have written a book on my own, but I’ve been so grateful to have multiple people reading it and providing the kind of input you don’t get from friends, input that has strengthened the final product. In addition to writing it and editing it, I’ve now read it eight times in its entirety, and even after that many readings, I still like it! ;-) And I truly can’t wait to share it with you.

How You Can Get Your Own Copy

I have always dreamed of writing books, and now having done it, I can say that I loved the process and want to write more. (I even have a strong vision of what I want the next book to be.) So my goal for this book is to sell enough copies that they let me write more, which is no small thing. Most authors never earn out their advance and never get another shot. I’m not in it for the money (there are waaaaaaaay better ways to make money than by writing books!), just for the writing. It would mean so much to me if you’d like to support me in reaching that goal!

You can do that by pre-ordering your own copy of Work Optional now. Then you’ll receive it on or before release day, March 26, 2019. UPDATE: WORK OPTIONAL WILL BE RELEASED EARLY, ON FEBRUARY 12! 

Strong pre-orders really help drive book store orders, so if you plan to buy the book, the sooner you do, the more it sends the message to book stores that they want to stock lots of copies of this book.

Request It At Your Library

Another great way to support the book — and to read it for free! — is to request that your local library buy a copy. If your library uses Overdrive as its e-book lending system, you can go to your library site, search for my name, and then when nothing comes up (because libraries haven’t yet placed orders for spring books), scroll down to the “Didn’t find what you’re looking for?” section, and click “Recommend” at the bottom of the book image.

Request that your library buy a copy of Work Optional!

You can do the same thing to request your library buy a physical copy of the book, but that process is different for each library. Most likely, though, it begins with logging in to your library’s online catalog, searching for the book, and then requesting a copy from there. If you have a few minutes to request your library buy the e-book and a hard copy, I’d be grateful for that, too!

A Special Thank You for Pre-Ordering

As a thank you to everyone who pre-orders the book early, I’ve put together the Early Retirement Health Care Checklist, a detailed resource that I’ll never share here on the blog, and that supplements the health care info in Work Optional. Health care is a huge source of stress for early retirees and traditional retirees alike, and the checklist will give you peace of mind to know you’ve thought of everything.

To receive the checklist, simply forward your purchase receipt no later than December 31, 2018, to WorkOptionalPreOrder [at] gmail dot com.

A Thank You to Everyone!

This book wouldn’t have happened without you reading Our Next Life. Yes, YOU! Though publishers are made up of people who love books and ideas and who don’t want to have to worry about how well something will sell, the fact is that it’s still a business. Your support and engagement showed just how much interest there is in this topic, and that’s why I’m sitting here today, a nearly published author, and why you’re reading this post about my dreams coming true. I’m forever grateful. Thank you. I’ve tried hard to return the favor by writing a book I think you’ll love, too.

P.S. The cover image on this post was NOT taken by us, as every other cover image has been. This one comes from Hachette Books, my publisher. Can we talk about how much I loooooooove the book cover?!?!?! I never dreamed that, as a first-time author, I’d get exactly the cover I asked for, but that’s what happened.

P.P.S. The Amazon links to the book are affiliate links, in line with my affiliate link policy. If you’d like to buy the book on Amazon but without an affiliate link, here’s the basic link. The links to other booksellers are not affiliate links.

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53 replies »

  1. Now that you’re off writing books, wouldja mind sending all of your blog traffic MY way??? ;-)

    Seriously, congrats!!! The cover looks amazing — but the content I’m sure will change lots of readers’ lives. I’ll be ordering mine real soon, once I finish my latest book on Hygge. (That’s right Tanja, I’m going to BUY your book… While sipping a latte… ;-) )

  2. Congrats! Your dedication to your goals and dreams and utilization of your new found freedom are something to aspire to.

  3. I am so happy for you (and all of us readers)! Pre-ordered and can’t wait to read the book. Am very excited that the book will deal not only with the math, but also with articulating the type of life we are moving toward.
    Looking forward to meeting you at the Colorado meetup in early November. Congratulations!

  4. Freaking awesome. I can’t wait to open my mind up in new ways and gain some more FI knowledge to apply to my life. You planning to slow down next year? Maybe a little? ;)

  5. Congrats! I was going to ask about that photo since you do take some really nice photos. I’m fairly cheap but I think I may have to do the pre-order on this one.

  6. Pre-ordered! And placed a hold for the e-book and physical copy at my library! Can’t wait to read it!!! Congratulations, Tanja! The cover is beautiful!!

  7. Congratulations! Based on the thoughtfulness and quality of your blog, I’m sure it will be very useful and fun to read. Pre-ordered on AMZ and trying to request it on our library’s page, but library has transitioned to cloudLibrary service from Overdrive and can’t seem to find a way to request it there. Any hints/experience with that?

  8. This is so exciting! Huge congrats to you for all your hard work and this long-time dream coming true. You’re an AUTHOR :)

    Of course, placed my pre-order, requested at the NY Public Library, and am actually thinking of who i can maybe buy a copy as a gift. This is going to be a great addition to my personal library, but moreso to the collective knowledge we can all learn from. Thank you!

  9. Congratulations!!! What an incredible past year you’ve had with the big reveal, Fincon, podcasts, and now a book launch. It’s been exciting following over the past couple of years before you guys “retired”. With how much you enjoy writing, I’m sure you have tons more topics to come and I bet maybe a followup to the book? I can’t wait to see how more of your early retired years turn out since we’ll be in the same boat sooner or later. Thanks for all the fun reading you’ve put out there over the years. Cheers and good luck with the launch!

  10. I can’t wait for your book to come out. You think of things in such a unique way. I love the in depth posts on healthcare, w/d rates, etc. whenever I read your posts, it gives me perspective and that’s what I need more than anything else in my journey towards fire or just financial independence. Congrats on all the success you’ve seen. So well deserved.

  11. Requested from Seattle Public Library! It easy to request the book online, as well as the e-book.

  12. Hi Tanja. Just finished reading the blog from first post to the last. Love it!!! I just ordered your book as well. What a fantastic accomplishment, you should be so proud:) Working toward FI…getting very close… We are really trying to take the time to work out our PURPOSE…otherwise what is the point? The most important part of FI to me is using it do something worthwhile. I have loved following your adventure so far…may the fun continue!

  13. Very smart recommending that the library should stock your book – you know your audience :P I will be doing exactly that as I don’t spend money on books, this way I will be able to read the book for free and still not ripping you off, and the library will have an interesting book on their shelf that many other people can also read!

  14. Tanja, can you talk about how you protect investments while retired or link me to a blog on this: So if you retire how do you protect yourself to make sure you saved enough money, you talk in your blogs about protecting assets against healthcare expense or other issues.

  15. Excited that there will be one more FIRE book in the literature. Given the volatility of the job market, Work Optional is not just about FIRE but good career insurance as well — you don’t know if or what work will be available, so when work is optional, you can wait for the right opportunities and not settle.

  16. Was debating whether to wait for the audiobook but decided to go ahead and pre-order. Congratulations!!

  17. Absolutely, no more penny-pinching! It’s a jungle out there is the real world. I’m swinging from money tree to money tree, like a squirrel, trying to gather me acorns and build a nest egg so big that work will indeed be optional!!! Just trying to diversify my earnings.


  18. Lake Tahoe is such a great place to retire! We just were there about a year ago swimming at the Sand Harbor beach. What a beautiful place to swim!

    Overdrive is also a great app to download free books from the library. I also use one called Hoopla. Definitely check with your local library if you don’t have one of these apps yet.