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Make smart choices about your money, time and productivity

Feb 18, 2019

#178: Tanja Hester retired at age 38.

She had a negative net worth until her late 20's, thanks to a combination of student loans, buying expensive cocktails and clothes, living far beyond her means, and not paying attention to her money. If you were to have met the 27-year-old version of Tanja, you wouldn't guess that she'd be a likely candidate for retiring early.

Yet a decade later, she's saved 40x of her annual cost of living.

How? Tanja worked as a political consultant in Los Angeles, and during her career, ascended to important high-ranking roles. Every promotion came with more grueling hours, accompanied by a raise.

Tanja maintained her same standard of living, banking every raise. This simple strategy allowed her to rapidly grow her net worth.

She didn't obsess about penny-pinching. She didn't clip 50 cent coupons for shampoo and soap. Instead, she focused her efforts on getting that next promotion, that next raise, and when it arrived, she saved and invested every additional cent.

Today, at age 39, Tanja has published her first book, Work Optional, about saving enough to retire and live a lifestyle in which paid work is an option rather than a necessity.

She joins us on this week's podcast to talk about the lessons she outlines in Work Optional.

Here are 5 takeaways from this conversation.

#1: We're taught that "you are what you contribute to the economy." Most of us learn, either explicitly or implicitly, that our self-worth is directly correlated with our economic efforts. This is an idea that we need to unpack and process as we face retirement, a mini-retirement, or any career transition.

#2: Research shows that we perceive all change as loss, even if the change is positive. Retirement is a loss of identity. It's one of the most stressful and anxiety-producing life events.

#3: Retirement and wealth will not create happiness. Money won't magically fix your life, health, relationships, outlook, or anything else. It's a tool that can help, but it's not a silver bullet.

#4: A morning routine is grounding. It's an effective way to start your day feeling centered and calm. I'd recommend this for everyone, regardless of whether you're retired or not.

#5: The easiest way to save is to keep living at the same level you're currently at, while earning more.

Enjoy the podcast episode!

For more information, visit the show notes at