Review of Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny Pinching Way
scenic view of a mountain lake

Money at 30: “Work Optional” Book Review

Work Optional book coverPrior to attending last year’s FinCon expo, I had certainly heard about FIRE (short for “financial independence, retire early) but it wasn’t until I arrived at the conference that I realized how large the movement had grown. Of course, with popularity comes backlash, as some so-called “gurus” have questioned the fundamentals of the movement, while others have taken issue with what actually qualifies as early retirement. Nevertheless I’ve found myself quite interested in FIRE and how I can grow my passive income, which is why I was delighted when the publisher behind the upcoming title Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way by Tanja Hester reached out an offered me an advanced copy to review. After reading the book, I’m already mapping out changes in my life and putting some of Hester’s advice into practice.

Before I get too much into my overall thoughts, let’s me back up and discuss what I appreciate about Work Optional. Incidentally the first thing I love is the title. Speaking to the concerns about what “early retirement” actually is, Hester opts not to focus so much on that particularly terminology (although it’s obviously present — such as in the subtitle) but instead offers tips for achieving a lifestyle where you’re not financially obligated to work. Similarly, she looks at many different forms of a work optional lifestyle, including semi-early retirement or work sabbaticals.

Another deft touch is that, since she can only speak from her own experience, Hester includes a few anecdotes from others throughout the book, providing some alternative points of view. Along those same lines, the author is also quick to note that no two financial paths will be the same as what might work for one person might not be an option for another. For example, she points out that while downsizing or moving to a lower cost of living area can be a great way to save significant amounts of money, family, jobs obligations, and other such factors mean that such a plan isn’t possible for some. Acknowledging these realities openly means that the book manages to avoid feeling condescending, judgemental, or critical of what readers choose to prioritize — it merely presents ideas to consider.

Next, while it can be enjoyed cover to cover without interruption, Work Optional also does a great job of walking readers through various exercises. Early on Hester helps you envision what a work optional life would mean for you and determine what value such a proposition would offer. If you’re really ready to jump in, you’ll also gain the tools to calculate your “magic number” that can make early retirement (in whatever form of it you choose) possible. I also appreciated how each chapter ends with a checklist, quickly reviewing what we learned over the previous few pages. Plus the book has a supplemental website where worksheets and other resources will be available.

As much as I loved those elements of the book, my favorite aspect of Work Optional is that the advice and information that the author provides throughout is enormously helpful for anyone looking to improve their finances regardless of whether they’re whole-heartedly pursuing FIRE, early retirement, or a work optional lifestyle. To that point, while I’m not quite ready to chase early retirement myself, this book opened my eyes to many aspects of personal finance I hadn’t yet considered and motivated me to make changes. In fact, if you read my “Money at 33” yearly goals entry last week, you’ll know that I’m already planning to increase my passive income (or, as Hester calls it, “magic money”) through investing.

Fair warning: given the topic at hand, the book does include a lot of math. That said, while it can get a tad tedious at times, Hester manages to keep it all palatable for the most part. This goes doubly for the investment section of the book that offers easy-to-understand analysis of different options, noting the pros and cons of each along the way — something that certainly could have been a daunting read in the hands of other authors.

If there’s any critique I have of Work Optional it’s that the last section does feel somewhat anti-climactic. That’s simply because the ending few chapters look at how to prepare for and make the transition to early retirement after you hit your magic number. Obviously these are important topics to cover in a book such as this but it is a bit jarring to go from actionable advice and goals you can set now to talking about things you won’t likely deal with for several more years. However, if you do skip most of the last section, I do still recommend reviewing the final chapter where Hester drives home her message in an impactful way.

Quite honestly, if checking my credit score for the first time three years ago was my financial awakening, reading Work Optional has sparked my second. As much as I’ve talked about the concept of using money as a tool to prioritize your passions in the past, Hester managed to introduce me to several more ways to do that — perhaps even leading me toward a lifestyle even I didn’t think possible previously. Whether you’re curious about FIRE, want to map out a path to early retirement, or just want to learn how to become more financially secure, I highly recommend checking out Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way by Tanja Hester when it’s officially released on February 12th.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Head Writer ~ Fioney
Kyle is the head writer for Fioney. He is a personal finance nerd, constantly looking for new apps and services to test and incorporate into his own financial game plan. In addition to his role at Fioney, he's written for other publications including Born2Invest, Lifehack, and Laughing Place, as well as his own site Money@30. He also creates personal finance and travel-related videos for Fioney's YouTube channel, which has garnered more than 2 million views. Currently, Kyle resides in Springfield, Missouri with his wife of 10 years. Together, they enjoy traveling (including visiting Disney Parks around the world), dining, and playing with their dog Rigby.

Other Articles by Kyle Burbank

Bilt and Blade logos on NY skyline

Bilt Announces Partnership with Blade Helicopter Service

Bilt is bringing more perks to its most loyal customers thanks to a new partnership. About the partnership: This week, Bilt Rewards revealed a collaboration with Blade. As part of this partnership, not only will Bilt members earn bonus rewards on Blade bookings but elite members will also enjoy special benefits from the helicopter taxi service. Now, Bilt Platinum elite customers will receive one complimentary Blade flight per year. This...
Ramp logo

Spend Management FinTech Ramp Raises $150 Million

The FinTech startup Ramp has revealed its latest "mega-round." About the round: This week, Ramp announced that it had raised $150 million. The Series D-2 was co-led by Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund. Additionally, new investors Sequoia Capital, Greylock, and 8VC joined existing investors Thrive Capital, General Catalyst, Sands Capital, D1 Capital Partners, Lux Capital, Iconiq Capital, Definition Capital, Contrary Capital, and others in participating in the round. To date,...
man holding a small model house

Lessons From a First-Time Home Buyer: The Worst Parts of Homeownership So Far

As you can probably imagine, making the jump from being a long-time apartment dweller to a first-time homeowner has been drastic. On the whole, the changes have been positive (which is why we chose to buy in the first place). But, of course, there are some downsides too — including some that I didn't really think about ahead of time. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of...
The "Email" field is empty, you must enter some text to proceed.The text you entered in the "Email" field appears to be invalid, please edit it and try again
Get the Latest News Delivered to Your Inbox

A Guide to Building Credit and Increasing Your Credit Scores

When it comes to credit, there’s some good news. The average credit score in the United States has been steadily rising in recent years, coming in at 715 in 2023. That may be because, today, consumers not only have more ways to access their credit reports and scores than ever before but also because there are an increasing number of options that Americans have for building credit in the first...

2024 SoFi Checking and Savings Review

Ever since I started taking an interest in the FinTech sector, one company whose name I’ve seen pop up over and over again is SoFi. Lately it seems as though that theme has been sent into overdrive as the company has not only become a household name thanks to its stadium naming rights deal but also because of the company’s continued product expansions. The most interesting development in my mind...
Brim logo

Brim Financial Raises $85 Million as It Eyes Global Expansion

Toronto-based FinTech infrastructure startup Brim Financial has announced a new funding round. About the round: Brim has revealed an $85 million round. The Series C was led by EDC Investments while new investor Vistara Growth and returning investors White Owl Group, Epic Ventures, and Zions Bank also participated. To date, the company has now raised $110 million including a Series B in 2021. According to Brim, the latest funding will...
Chase Freedom Flex card

Chase Reveals Q2 2024 Freedom 5%(+) Bonus Categories

Chase has announced its bonus category picks for the second quarter of 2024 — including some interesting twists. About the categories: As April approaches, Chase has revealed what categories Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can earn bonuses on. From April 1st through June 30th, customers can earn 5% (or more) in three categories: Amazon.com, Hotels, and Restaurants. Similar to how Chase embraced a "New Year, New Me" theme last quarter,...

FedEx Announces Winners of 11th Annual 2023 Small Business Grant Contest

Nearly three months after the entry period ended, FedEx has announced the winners of its 11th annual Small Business Grant Content. This year's event saw more than $300,000 in funds going to a variety of small businesses across the nation. Last month, the company revealed 100 finalists, with that list now being narrowed down to just 10 winners. This year's grand prize winners included KindVR, The Cupcake Collection, Up In...