Why Work Optional Matters to Us

Two weeks ago, Angie and I were sitting on the patio contemplating the future. I had just started reading Work Optional by Tanja Hester (of the blog Our Next Life) and we were brainstorming a list of ideas for what we thought an early retirement might possibly look like for us.

We’ve never had a specific goal to retire early but we have always had a “work optional” attitude. Angie retired from formal employment in 2012, right before we moved to Florida, and I have worked only part-time for the past 3 years. We’re not high wage earners yet we still manage to live on only 63-65% of our current income. Ridiculously frugal. That’s how some folks describe us. (At this point, you might be thinking that those expensive ice cream bars we blew our budget on a few weeks back weren’t all that frugal. Well, guess what? We used a coupon! 😊)

Anyway, back to the point…

Though we’re not in a position to fully retire right now, we are in a position to start thinking about the next chapter of our own work optional story. This is exactly what we were trying to do that day on the patio, but life happened, and that is the real point of this post.

Our great-niece was supposed to stay with us for 3 days while her little brother had an exploratory procedure in preparation for open-heart surgery in July. He was born last December with a congenital defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome and will require a series of three surgeries to repair his heart. The exploratory procedure last week did not go as planned and the doctors had to move up the timeline. On Friday, the little guy had surgery to place a shunt between his pulmonary artery and his heart. He is doing better than expected but will still be in the hospital for several weeks, during which time we have a very energetic 3-year-old house guest to entertain.

While this leaves little time to breathe, much less write a blog post, it has really highlighted one thing – if we were tied to normal jobs on a traditional career path, we would not be able to do this, at least not without the fear of losing our security. As a grant writer, my work is driven by deadlines but the work itself is flexible. No one cares if I write proposals before dawn, midday, or after dark…as long as the quality is good, and the deadlines are met. (I’m an early morning person, in case you’re wondering.) No matter what the next steps are in our work life, the one thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to jeopardize that type of freedom in any way. Work optional only works when the work is truly optional. (Say that three times fast!)

Angie and I will resume our brainstorming and planning when the time is right. Absolutely nothing needs to be decided today…except what to pack for a picnic at the playground, because that’s what a certain little one said she’d like to do today.