- I hear it all the time from clients and friends: everyone experiences some level of burnout.
- I recommend taking a sabbatical or an extended break from work, if you need to reset.
- This article is part of the “Re/Thinking Re/Tirement” series focused on inspiring financial planning for a different kind of future than the 9-to-5 life allows.
The past two years have been stressful for many of us. Whether I’m talking with friends, colleagues, or clients, I notice that everyone experiences some level of burnout.
Do you feel like you need a break from the daily routine that one or two weeks of vacation is not enough? Has the pandemic caused you to rethink your priorities and your career path? Being away from work for a long time – otherwise known as a sabbatical – has many benefits. It can help reduce stress and give you the time you need to relax. It can also be an opportunity to learn new skills or plan your next move.
A sabbatical can seem far-fetched if you don’t have a lot of money. With the right planning, however, it may be closer to your reach than you think. Here are some tips for planning a sabbatical and making the most of your absence.
Get your financial ducks in a row
Very few companies offer paid sabbaticals to their employees, so having a plan for your finances is essential if you’re looking to take an extended leave. If your company offers a paid sabbatical, review the policy in detail. If there is no sabbatical policy, you need to consider several factors.
Start by looking at your current income and expenses. How much do you need to cover your basic living expenses? Will you need additional funds to cover the hobbies, travel or education costs you have planned? How much money have you put aside? Do you have a spouse or partner who can help cover expenses or dependent children from your income? You’ll need enough cash to cover your bills while you’re away from work, as well as an extra cushion to cover any unexpected expenses that may arise. Save as much as you can in advance. The more you can save, the better.
In addition to living expenses, consider the impact a sabbatical might have on your long-term retirement goals or financial freedom, as you likely won’t be able to save while you’re away from work. Depending on how much time you want to take, a sabbatical could also affect your future earning potential. You may be extending the timeline for a promotion or missing an opportunity to advance your career. Understanding this from the start will help your decision-making process.
Decide how you want to spend your time
Do you want to travel or spend quality time with your loved ones? Are you considering a new career and need time to develop new skills? Is it a good time to pursue a passion project or give back? Thinking about how you will spend your sabbatical in advance will help you make the most of your time outdoors. Having an idea of what you want to do gives you an idea of how much time you might need, what time of year makes sense, and how much money you will need.
It is ultimately up to you to determine why you are taking a sabbatical and what you would like to accomplish while you are away. Make a list of all the possibilities, brainstorm and narrow down the list. Then consider the associated costs and time required to achieve your goals. Whatever you decide, take the opportunity to relax and unwind as your sabbatical begins. This way you can return to work or start your next endeavor with a clear head.
Create your own paid sabbatical
It’s not always possible to be away from work for long periods of time without pay, but you might still need a break if you’re suffering from burnout. Consider the right time to take time off. Assuming you plan to return to your current company, you want to feel secure about your position and prioritize any important projects or deadlines.
It’s a good idea to start a conversation with your employer early. Explain why you want to take a sabbatical and how the timing was well thought out. Be prepared to discuss how taking time off can benefit your employer, how long you’d like to have, whether you’ll be accessible, and whether you’ll return to the same position. Sharing details of your plans, especially if they involve learning new skills, can help your employer get involved.
I’ve had a few clients with unlimited paid time off (PTO) who have taken extended vacations of up to six weeks. An easy way to do this is to plan around existing holidays. For example, it may be possible to take off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day or between Memorial Day and Independence Day. Even with unlimited PTO, your employer may need to approve a long period of absence from the office.
If your employer denies your request for a sabbatical, you might consider quitting your job. Or your leave could be sandwiched between jobs or a career change. Factor this into your budget so you’re in a good position in any situation.
Having time to rest and recharge throughout your career instead of waiting for retirement can be a game-changer. If you are lucky enough to work for a company that offers paid sabbaticals, take full advantage of this rare opportunity. If not, don’t worry! Sabbaticals can be possible and meaningful with proper planning.