I'm retired, too, so what I did with M8 and no additional languages made me some money simply because of the ESRI mind set among government workers. The local heath department had a GIS/ESRI guy, but he didn't know how to use it. I made a case for hiring me as a consultant using the Dr John Snow information about the 1861 cholera outbreak in one neighborhood of London. I mapped the data several different ways and started with them right away. I talked to their GIS guy who said he could have done that, "but I haven't been trained on that." I got a listing of available data and asked for all of it. I sent them what I considered very basic information and it was like a miracle to them. They had no idea where their restaurants, WIX centers, libraries, walking parks, grocery stores, mini-marts, etc. were relative to neighborhoods, bus routes, bike lanes, roads, school districts, and voting precincts. I gave them a huge amount of information in layered PDF form. About a week later one of the news headlines announced the mayor's initiative to get at least one grocery store in a school district which had only gas stations providing over priced groceries to the families there. He had to have gotten that information from what I provided.
The problem with all the ESRI marketing is they end up exhausting their customers by providing piecemeal training with the promise that buying more training and software add-ons could provide additional benefits. Manifold had it all built in, and Art Lembo provided all the training needed to get going for well under $100. Small government offices generally don't have the vision to see the benefits of the training. Even in the oil and gas business I ran into very well paid ArcView, users with unlimited funding, who were unable or unwilling to draw tens of thousands of numbered, small acre parcels. Working out the kinks took 2.5 days and making the final product took half a day. Not being an ArcView user I don't get their problem.
M9 is certainly fast, but it's not entirely ready for what I needed on those projects. Making the maps is easy enough, but the final reporting is what the user wants.