Most people associate retirement with walking sticks, nursing homes, grandchildren and wearing funny slippers.
But that’s what your grandparents did.
Times have changed.
‘Waiting until retirement’ was a catchphrase that benefit everyone except the actual retiree. The government got as many tax dollars out of you, with no guarantee that you’d live to get them all back in pension. Corporations got the best hours of your days during the healthiest years of your life to earn as much money off you as possible. And you were forced to wait until the very end before you actually got to do what you wanted with your life.
Emerging today is the concept of the mini retirement. Instead of waiting until your sixties to enjoy life, people are taking their retirement in bursts, spacing it out over the course of their careers.
Typically, we think of life like this:
A mini retiree’s life looks more like this:
Perhaps you earn a little less money, perhaps you don’t own an enormous house and perhaps you don’t become the CEO. But what you do get to do is enjoy the freedom of retirement in your twenties, thirties, forties and fifties, you still get to have a career and you get the chance to enjoy the world throughout all periods of life. You will likely be healthier, better travelled, less stressed. You might even enjoy your job for once. How’s that for crazy?
Why mini retirements make sense
I don’t want to trivialise the importance of work. I work. You work. We all need to work. But by adding this element of balance into life we can make our work more purposeful. Instead of just working until we die, we can work towards something real, something we want. Not only does it make our work meaningful but our lives, too.
You can experience the joy of retirement during your youth
There are certain things that you can’t do (or can’t do as well) when you’re 65 and up, especially physical things such as kite-surfing, climbing mountains, enduring 20-hour train rides, cliff jumping – the list goes on.
When you take a mini-retirement at 30, you can still do all these things with your youthful body. Your hips won’t die on you when you sit on a bus for hours, your back won’t buckle when a wave throws you off your surfboard at 20 miles an hour. It’s not only more fun, but it’s safer and healthier.
Your mind is also young. You learn things easier, you remember things better. You get the chance to become a student again while your brain is still fresh and clicking. I’ve met many older folk in my language classes that talk of difficulties in remembering vocabulary and conjugations, and I’ve also experienced this as the years click on.
As the old saying goes, youth is wasted on the young.
You open yourself up to new career paths
When you work continuously for 40 years, you tend to stay on one career path. You study accounting, you become an accountant, you stay an accountant forever. That’s easy, it’s where your career is stable and it’s right in the centre of your comfort zone. Ask your accountant how long they’ve been an accountant. Probably their whole life. Ask your doctor how long they’ve been a doctor. Most people don’t change careers.
When you take a break every few years, your options open up. You might take your first mini-retirement and get a job teaching English. You may love it so much that you decide to go to teacher’s college. You might do a yoga course and decide to get certified as a yoga teacher. You might spend your retirement writing poetry or a screenplay and realise you’re actually really good at it. You might even do something crazy like, I don’t know, start a blog.
Most people don’t change careers because of the risk. You need to take the time to re-educate yourself and find your way in a whole new field. But I have never met a person who changed careers and regretted it. And I’ve met a lot.
The job you hate becomes more bearable
How many of you hate your job? If my old office is an accurate sample size, around 98% of you.
However, I don’t believe it’s the job itself that is that bad. It’s the monotony of it. It’s the thought that you’re going to be doing this every day for the rest of your adult life.
I’ve got to do this for the next 40 years?
If my old 9-5 was just a one or two year gig, it would’ve been fine. There would’ve been light at the end of the tunnel. I just need to guts it out for a couple of months and then I’m free. That’s a bearable thought. It’s actually quite a nice thought – I’m here to earn some money for a bit, then I can go and enjoy it. Work and play.
When you take mini retirements, the end of the tunnel is always visible. Just a few years and then I’m mini retiring. Even if you loathe your job, you’re there for 4-5 years at the most. That’s much easier to digest than 40 or 50. Put your head down, save some cash, hand in your notice and chase some dreams.
You increase your time wealth, which leads to a life of greater balance
Most careers are engineered towards amassing financial wealth. We don’t mind taking on more stressful roles and longer hours to fatten the paycheck and stockpile as many dollars as possible. In the midst of the hustle we tend to forget why we’re working so hard.
By taking mini retirements throughout your career, you allow yourself to appreciate the importance of time wealth as well. As your life goes on, you’re able to see the value in having time to read, take long walks, spend an entire week relaxing with your boyfriend/girlfriend at the beach. Many of us lose sight of the value of time wealth until we’re reminded of it’s beauty, often through unexpected circumstances like a redundancy or other unexpected downtime. Mini retirements are the perfect way to ensure balance in your life – a great career but also hobbies, travel, healthy relationships and a wealth of free time to pursue your passions too.
The Practical Side
What kind of career will you have? What do you do during a mini retirement? How do you pay for it?
People think a big gap on their resumé looks bad. I have never known this to be true.
Do you know what lands you a job after an interview? It’s not having a great report card. Any dummy can memorise a textbook. It’s not having a really nice tie and good manners. Dummies can do that too.
It’s being interesting. Having ambition, being a risk-taker, having tenacity, thinking on your feet, embracing challenges, standing out from the crowd.
If an employer asks what you were doing during a two year break and you tell him you were playing Xbox, then a gap on your resumé looks bad.
If you tell him you built a motorcycle and drove it across Europe, worked in rainforest conservation in Ecuador, volunteered as a special needs teacher in Uganda and then self published a book of poetry, your resumé looks pretty good. It might go straight to the top of the pile. People want to be around inspiring and interesting people. And they know if you can do such incredible things out in the world, you’ll definitely be able to handle anything they throw at you in the office.
Another common reason people give for not taking big breaks from work is they think it will negatively affect their career progression.
“If I take a year off, everyone will surge ahead of me and I’ll never get that promotion.”
“I want to take a gap year, but I’m scared I won’t find another job when I get back.”
It’s never been true.
When I visited my old office after coming home, I had barely been there five minutes before my old boss offered me my job back. “If I find out you’re working anywhere else in town I’ll be very disappointed!”
This has been true for many of my friends on the road. They travel around the world for a year and walk straight back into their old job. Not only that, they get begged to take back their old job. After having to hire people for my own projects, I understand why this is. Good people are so hard to find. If you’re a star, people don’t want to see you go. They’re ecstatic when you come back.
Lastly, you might think the gap makes you look unreliable. I can’t hire this person, they’re going to quit after two years. Want to know a secret? Everyone quits after two years. Employers know and expect this.
The point I’m trying to make is, you will be okay. If you had a great career before your mini retirement, you’ll find or continue a great career after it. And if you had a shitty career before your mini retirement, then who cares what happens to it?
The secret to a mini retirement is to be a diligent saver. Saving for your mini retirement is no different to saving for a house deposit or a new car. In that sense, you are simply transferring your savings from a new car to a mini retirement.
I’m a little biased, but I would guess that a mini retirement will add much more to your life than a new car.
If your mini retirement is going to be two years, maybe you’ll need about $20,000. If you plan to work for five years, you’ll need to save $4,000 a year. That’s $333 a month, or $76 a week.
Too hard? Take a shorter mini retirement, or work another year.
Too easy? Take a longer retirement, or work a couple of years less.
Also, because you won’t be travelling in the tourist sense of the word, most of your expenses during your mini retirement are going to be things like rent, food and hobbies. Normal stuff. Those are the same things you buy at home.
Thinking about it like this removes a lot of the mystery.
And here’s your secret weapon. If you already own a car, or a house, you can lease your house and car. That gives you an income during your mini retirement. If you can’t find anyone, offer it to someone you know at way below market (even a little income will go a long way). If you don’t want to fluff around with arranging any of that, you can simply sell the car (yes, you can always buy a new one). Finding someone to rent your house shouldn’t be as difficult, and you could also do a Home Exchange as another option.
If you’d like a blueprint on saving for a mini retirement, I cover the subject extensively in my free ebook.
What to do
A few ideas:
This is actually my favourite style of travel, and I’ve done it all over the world to learn martial arts, surfing, dancing, languages and more. In fact, my first solo travel experience was a Spanish course in Spain. Obviously, the longer you have the more you will learn which makes this style of travel perfect for mini retirements. I meet many people at language schools that only get to stay for two weeks and are heartbroken when they need to leave so soon. During a mini retirement you can spend a good 3-6 months really exploring and learning your craft, whatever you choose it to be. Paired with the experience of being in another country and these really can become life-changing adventures.
I booked my first learning holiday through STA Travel. Now I just find my opportunities independently, but their learning section is still a great place to find ideas.
Working during retirement?
Bear with me.
There are many working holiday opportunities out there – you can be a skydive instructor, a surf coach, a yoga teacher – pretty much any passion that you have can be turned into a job.
Even though the pay might not be great, you will still be topping up the bank account, putting less stress on your finances and allowing you to live a little larger while you’re out there.
There is an abundance of these opportunities – you’ll just need to ask around. I would suggest not planning your entire mini retirement around something like this, but stay open to it. Perhaps you want to extend your mini retirement from one year to two or three, and a short working holiday might be the kicker you need to make it happen.
Caz and Craig have some good info to get you started. But Google will give you all the info you need.
Nothing fancy. Just go see the world.
Volunteering is an amazing experience, one that I’ve done various times. There is an element of responsibility and awareness to consider when you decide on a project, especially when working with children, and also on the organisation (if any) you affiliate yourself with. However, when done right volunteering is a magical ride.
Do your homework on your project. If you’re paying money, make sure you know where it’s going (to a needy cause or into a corporation’s pockets?). Ask yourself if you’re doing the project for the right reasons. Would you do it if you couldn’t take your camera? Ironically volunteering can be a somewhat selfish endeavour; we do it because it makes us look good and feel good, and that’s okay. Just make sure there are many good reasons behind your work too.
Shannon has a great grassroots project you can browse here.
Go back to school! Educate yourself on something new, get qualified for a job you always wanted to do, or upskill in your current field without the pressure of a job to go to each day. Many people go through life wanting to try something unconventional like acting or dancing, but never find the time to dedicate to it. I wish I could learn that, but when will I find the time to go back to school and study again? During your mini retirement, bro.
A year after I left my job, I moved to Shanghai and went back to university for a year. I was 25 at the time and it was an incredible experience.
Even if you don’t study towards a certificate in an official university or institution, you can still dedicate time to educating yourself on your own time. Go to the library, take online courses, read books, self study, find something on Udemy. It’s all possible.
Enjoy your retirement,
Your site is always an inspiration. Thanks for sharing!
This is a fantastic post on how to take your first mini-retirement! I’m currently on my fourth mini-retirement and have adopted them as a way of life. Once you successfully complete one, it becomes easier to do it the next time. When you explained about how one could open up their career path, that really resonated with me because, as an accountant, I couldn’t imagine doing accounting for 40 years. But by taking these breaks during my career, I’ve been able to change sectors and reinvent myself when I’m ready to enter the workforce again or even work on my own ventures. My path hasn’t always been linear but I no longer equate success with working up the corporate ladder and amassing financial wealth. You really hit the nail on the head when you mentioned “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel” – mini-retirements have been the main motivator to do work that I’m not always thrilled with but because I know it will support the next adventure right around the corner.
Hey Jeff, congrats on your success with the mini-retirement lifestyle, I’ve also found it very fulfilling and it has afforded me a few career changes too, clearly. Keep travelling!