“If the FIRE women have a matriarch, it’s Tanja Hester.”

— New York Times

“A female financial influencer you should be following.”

U.S. News

Tanja Hester, author of WORK OPTIONAL: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way, is a former many things: a former political communications consultant, a former public radio journalist, a former yoga and spinning teacher, a former civil servant, and even a former money novice. Since retiring early from formal employment at the age of 38 along with her husband Mark Bunge, she devotes all her time to fun and purpose: writing her award-winning financial independence blog Our Next Life, podcasting on The Fairer Cents, gathering women together to talk about financial independence at Cents Positive retreats, volunteering in her community, traveling the world, and skiing, hiking, biking, paddling, and climbing around her home in North Lake Tahoe, California. Basically: living the dream.

Tanja has researched and explored every aspect of early retirement, from the best strategies for saving to redefining your identity without a career, and applies those lessons every day in her work-optional life. She has a regular column on MarketWatch, she’s spoken at Google, Tesla and at conferences around the U.S., and she has been featured in the New York Times, TIME, MONEY Magazine, Vice Media, Yahoo! Finance, Forbes, LifeHacker, Bloomberg, Buzzfeed, and media outlets around the world.

From New York Times:


Before retiring early, Tanja spent her career promoting progressive social change, branding cause campaigns and organizations dedicated to making the world a better place, and electing Democrats to national, state, and local office. She has also worked as a public radio journalist and DJ. Tanja is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Before moving to Tahoe, she spent most of her career in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.


  • 2019 Plutus Awards Best New Personal Finance Book: Work Optional (top honor in the personal finance media community)
  • 2019 Plutus Awards Best Personal Finance Podcast for Women: The Fairer Cents
  • 2019 Plutus Awards Community Builder Award
  • 2018 Plutus Awards Blog of the Year: Our Next Life
  • 2017 Plutus Awards Best FIRE/Financial Independence Blog: Our Next Life
  • U.S. News female financial influencer you should be following
  • Forbes, one of “The 9 FIRE Blogs You Should Read”
  • The Balance best podcast for women and top 8 finance podcast of 2019
  • Mic, a “podcast worth your time”
  • Forbes, “podcast you should be listening to”
  • Essence Magazine recommended podcaster

Approved photos:

Tanja Hester (photo Mark Bunge)
Tanja Hester (photo Mark Bunge)
Mark Bunge & Tanja Hester (photo Mark Bunge)
Tanja Hester (photo Nick Mendez)
Tanja Hester (photo Nick Mendez)