This page will get you started on some of the content here at Our Next Life that’s most relevant to you. If you want to learn more about Tanja Hester (the author of the blog) and Mark Bunge (the behind-the-scenes money accomplice), check out About Tanja (& Mark), or read up on the Early Retirement Financial Plan that let us make our career exit when I (Tanja) was 38 and Mark was 41. For all the information and caveats you deserve to have as a reader, check out my Transparency Policy.
Our Next Life is a place where I’ve sparked thought and discussion since 2015, when we were deep into our savings journey toward early retirement, and that often means looking hard at the numbers and money, but then delving deeply into the aspects of early retirement that aren’t strictly financial — what we dream about in retirement, how we define ourselves post-career, how we’re healthier (but not magically cured) after ditching the job stress (and what we do for health care!), what we actually miss about work, the new anxiety that could arise when there’s no steady paycheck coming in — the stickier issues that sometimes get overlooked while plotting out retirement income or savings rates.
Our Next Life includes hundreds of posts, so below are shortcuts to some of the best posts by category, along with other places ONL has been featured. Enjoy!
Our Overall Financial Approach
We committed several years ago to quitting at the end of 2017, whether or not we reached the magic number we had in mind. Fortunately, we blew through that number, and we retired at our stretch goal! We’re both allergic to budgets, but had great success with a pay-yourself-first strategy that we elevated to an art form — that is, we’re super good at hiding money from ourselves before we can think to spend it, a great tactic if you’re like us and struggle to save regularly. And we’ve done a lot of thinking about how we can be flexible once we do retire, fitting our lifestyle to whatever funds we’ll have available to us.
- The Full Financial Breakdown at Early Retirement
- Don’t Get Discouraged by Slow Initial Progress // A Blast from My Financial Past
- Our Full Financial Plan and Philosophy
- Waking Up in a Paid-Off House // A Farewell to Our Mortgage
- The Simple Math of Lifestyle Stagnation, the Biggest Secret of Our Success
- Decide For Yourself What Spending You Value, and Then Spend Without Guilt
- Our Big Epiphany: We Will Earn Money in Retirement
- How We’ll Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Budget // Finances in Retirement
- What’s Our Money Really For? // There’s More to Life Than Future Goals
- How We Pay Ourselves First // Advice for Money-Conscious Non-Budgeters
Transitioning to Retirement
I write a lot about what it means day-to-day, and for our sense of self, now that we no longer have careers that define us. We definitely had careers that you could call “high powered” — consulting for powerful people, fancy titles, lots of travel, more pay than we required. While that came with a lot of stress that we eagerly left behind, I also wondered if we’d feel an unanticipated void when we quit.
- Two Years of Early Retirement // Impact, Lessons and Future Changes
- One Year of Early Retirement, Part 1: Biggest Lessons
- One Year of Early Retirement, Part 2: The Adventures
- One Year of Early Retirement, Part 3: What We’re Changing
- We Retired Early! // Our Next Life Begins
- Who Left These Kids In Charge?! // Adapting to Life With No Structure
- Replicate What You’re Great At in Early Retirement
- Retiring Early in the Face of Fear
- Don’t Stop at One Audacious Goal // After FI, What’s Your Next One?
- When We’re No Longer “Important” // Ego, Invisibility and Early Retirement
- How to Define Ourselves in Retirement // Creating a New Vision of Self Worth
- Making Sure Our Retirement Is a Long and Healthy One // Planning for Longevity
- The End of the Perks // Preparing to Say Goodbye to the Upside of Work
- Consider a Side Hustle Year to Begin Early Retirement
- Don’t Let Life Get Too Easy in Early Retirement
Writing My Book, Work Optional
Writing this blog (and retiring early, of course) are what allowed me to write my first book, Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way, which was released in February 2019 from Hachette Books. I’ve shared some of the behind-the-scenes process here.
- When Early Retirement Makes Your Dreams Possible // I’m Writing a Book!
- WORK OPTIONAL: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way
- Behind the Scenes of WORK OPTIONAL: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way, Now Available Everywhere
Health Care for Early Retirees
Something we’re suuuuper focused on is staying healthy and living long, active lives. That means ensuring we always have access to high-quality health care that doesn’t destroy our budget. Unfortunately, that’s not a given in our current atmosphere of political health care uncertainty, but I’ve stayed on top of the twists and turns in the health care debate, and have covered it extensively.
- Signing Up for ACA/Obamacare Health Insurance for Early Retirement
- What We Know — and Still Don’t Know — About Early Retirement Health Care
- Health Isn’t Something You Can Plug Into a Spreadsheet
- Think Health Care, Not Just Taxes and Weather, When Deciding Where to Retire
- Staring Into the Early Retirement Health Care Abyss
- Death and Divorce and Unhappiness, Oh My! Might Early Retirement Actually Be Bad for Us?!
- What the Election and a Trump Presidency Mean for Early Retirement
- Optimizing Our Retirement Income // ACA and Taxes Vs Actual Cashflow
- The Power of a Low Income in Early Retirement
- Planning for Health Care in Early Retirement
A Two-Phased Retirement Approach
While a lot of folks recommend using your tax-advantaged savings well before reaching traditional retirement age, I advocate thinking of early retirement as an entirely different financial phase, one which you might choose to live more cheaply to keep more money in place for later. Here’s more about our approach and why we feel so strongly about it.
- How We Calculated Our Numbers for Each Phase of Early Retirement
- The Comfort of a Big Nest Egg… for Later
- How We Calculated Our “Enough” Number for Early Retirement
- Don’t Forget About Your Later Years // Planning for Early AND Traditional Retirement
- Protect Your Early Retirement From Sequence of Returns Risk
- Minimizing Early Withdrawals in Early Retirement // Hang On to As Much As You Can for Later
- The Case for Conservative Early Retirement Investment Projections
Financial Independence Blog Community
We’re huge fans of the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) blog community, and feel lucky to be a part of it. Sometimes that means writing about blogging, building community or fighting back against those who don’t believe that what so many of us are doing is truly possible. And sometimes it means calling out our community when we’re not collectively being completely transparent with readers.
- What FIRE Bloggers Owe Readers // A Blogging Manifesto
- Don’t Listen to Us // Blogs Don’t Tell the Full FI Story
- The Power of Community, at #FinCon17 — and Everywhere Else
- Creating Your Community // #FinCon16 Recap
- Financial Independence, Fight Club and the Mindless Consumer Zombie Narrative
- A Thought Experiment for the Retirement Police // Where’s the Line on Retirement?
- Not Fostering Comparison // Are We the Joneses?
- The Survey Results Are In! All About Our Next Life (and FIRE Blog) Readers
- How Blogging Has Sped Our Progress to Financial Independence
- Reconciling Our Online Selves and Real Life
Surviving Work En Route to Early Retirement
Though early retirement is the starting line, not the goal post, it still takes most of us many years to be able to walk away from traditional work. We thought a lot about how to get through those working years.
- The Importance of Pacing Yourself on the Road to Financial Independence
- Why We’re Not Going to Complain About Work Anymore
- How to Use Your FI Freedom to Agitate for Others at Work
- 2017: The Year of “No”
- Conquering Impatience on the Road to Financial Independence
- To Care or Not To Care // The Work Mindset As Retirement Nears
What We Dream About for Retirement
Like most aspiring retirees, we spent a lot of time during our planning and saving years reflecting on what we wanted our lives to be like after we ditched the careers, what we think of as “our next life” (a next life that we’re now living). We imagined a lot of time to travel, get outdoors in our mountain town, and discover what our true life’s purpose is — and all of that has proven to be true!
- Our Changing Definition of Early Retirement and the Power of the Freedom to Fail
- The Unstructured Early Retirement Dress Rehearsal
- What Do You Want Your Tombstone to Say? Defining Our Purpose
- Crafting a Life That Keeps the Stoke High
- Craving the Open Road // Our Early Retirement Travel Vision
- Living Simply with Plenty of Stuff // Why We Never Plan to Downsize Radically
- Should You Move to Retire? // Why We Moved to a Small Town
Questioning Social Norms
I love thinking not just about early retirement, but social norms in general. Obviously retiring early is a big diversion from “normal,” so for those of us who are already accustomed to thinking differently, why stop there?
- Of Boosts and Bootstraps // One Story, Two Ways
- How Subsidies Make Early Retirement Possible, Even Without Obamacare
- A Love Letter to the Atypical, Unfrugal Early Retirees
- Why “Financial Freedom” Means Something Different to Me
- Go Beyond Gratitude // With Great Wealth Comes Great Responsibility
- The Use It Up Challenge, and Our Nothing New Year
- The Road Less Traveled Challenge
- Why Married Early Retirees Should See Our Marriages As Our Most Important Investments
And sometimes I just like to tell a good story about things that have shaped our lives, or experiences that are too powerful not to share.
- This Is Not My Beautiful House // This Is Not My Beautiful Wife
- The Best Bad Money Decision We Ever Made // The History of Us
- The Flight Attendant Who Blew Our Minds // Life Lessons at 30,000 Feet
- Our Sliding Doors Weekend // The Expensive Future That Could Have Been
- Why The Urgency // Why We’re In Such a Big Hurry to Retire Early
- None of This Feels Real // On Big Numbers and Abstract Concepts