You may have seen headlines splashed across major sites talking about the FIRE movement, which stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. There are people out there who’ve chosen to take an unconventional path with their finances by being frugal and investing large amounts of cash so they can retire in their 30s or 40s.
The justification for early retirement is that you can do what you love without worrying about money. However, is this the only way to have a life worth living?
Not at all. One option is to simply take a mini-retirement instead.
What Is a Mini-Retirement?
Think of a mini-retirement as a sabbatical in which you take time off from your normal work routine. The term was coined by Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, where he writes about taking breaks from a standard career path.
The idea is that you can experience what it’s like to be retired before you actually take the leap. What you want to do during your time off is up to you – whether it’s to take a break from a hectic work pace, travel around the world or work on hobbies you’ve been putting off.
You can also take as much time as you want or are able to. Some, like Michael Robinson, took 10 months off from his business to travel Ecuador with his wife. Jillian Johnsrud took a few months off after miscarrying and traveled coast to coast with her best friend.
“We had long conversations driving across the Midwest and had a ton of adventures,”
she says. “It was exactly what we both needed, and I wouldn’t trade that trip for anything.”
During a mini-retirement, you’re not actively earning any income, with the exception of any hobbies that earn you a little bit of money or any other passive income sources. When the mini-retirement is over, you then return to full-time work.
Why Opt for a Mini-Retirement?
It might sound a bit nerve-wracking, taking extended time off from work. Even if you’re a highly valued employee, you may not be guaranteed your job when you return. Or if you decide to quit your job, it may be challenging to explain to a prospective employer your gap in employment.
However, the rewards may be worth it. For one, you may be able to experience doing things you’ve only dreamed about. By taking time off now, you’re essentially taking advantage of your youth instead of waiting until later on. Not that you won’t be able to go traveling or take on hobbies when you’re in your 60s or older, but you may have more opportunities the younger you are.
Perhaps the best reason for a mini-retirement is to give yourself space to really start thinking about what you want out of life.
“Sometimes your life is so stressful it’s hard to even think about what you really love to do,” Johnsrud says. “Mini-retirements give you space for the dreaming, planning and getting going.”
In other words, if you’re intentional about the purpose of your mini-retirement, it could potentially take you on a whole new path. You could find that what you do during your time off can turn into a new career path or give you a new sense of purpose. Maybe that new hobby you decided to tackle ends up making you enough money to earn a full-time living.
Preparing for a Mini-Retirement
Before looking at the logistics of a mini-retirement, it’s important to first make a few mindset shifts. While the idea of taking time off sounds super dreamy, there needs to be a clear purpose to your mini-retirement.
Both Johnsrud and Robinson recommend starting with why a mini-retirement is important to you. Take a look at what you hope to accomplish and how it relates to your values. You can visualize what an ideal day looks like or even who you want to be and what you want to have by the end of your time off.
Johnsrud has successfully navigated five mini-retirements and each one had its own purpose. Some were mainly for travel and others were for purchasing and renovating rental properties.
“It’s only scary when it’s a big, vague idea,” she says. “Once you start with the why, then you can start planning.”
Another idea to consider is to take small breaks here and there to see if you like the thought of taking extended time off. Instead of planning a year-long sabbatical, try two or three weeks. If you want to travel, start small and see if you even like it. That way, you won’t waste time if you find that you really enjoy what you’re doing right now.
When you do start planning, you want to ensure that you have enough money saved. The last thing you want is to not have enough planned for your time off. Even if you have enough for your expenses, you’ll want to have extra money in case of emergencies or unplanned expenses such as home repairs.
Some steps you can take to start saving money include cutting back on current expenses or earning more money through side hustles. You can also find some way to create a passive income stream to take care of some of your bills while you’re on your mini-retirement.
Robinson and his wife rented out their home on Airbnb each time they took their mini-retirement. They were able to recover their upfront costs and made enough to cover their travel expenses.
Once you’ve figured out your income and budgeting situation, then the next step is to figure out what you want to do with your current job. There is the option of quitting and looking for something else later, but you’ll need to be able to explain the gap in employment.
You can also consider requesting a leave of absence. It may seem hard, but Robinson has done it successfully twice. As an employer for the past 10 years, he understands the importance of keeping good employees.
“I can assure you I would much rather grant a leave of absence to a valuable employee than see her leave,” he says.
Would you ever embark on a mini-retirement? Share in the comments below!
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