Author Topic: A year off?  (Read 5528 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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A year off?
« on: May 29, 2013, 06:20:29 AM »
It's been awhile since I've been on the boards, but I could really use some help!

Should I take a year off from work?

Situation:  Working a term-limited appointment, which is supposed to end in August 2013 (they might ex.   I have been asked to write my own job posting for my next position at the organization of "transition manager" or something like that.  I have no interest in this position/role, no matter how I write it up.

If I do not accept a position at my company, I am eligible for a "retention bonus" for staying until the end of my term (about 6 months of living expenses).  I have another 4 months of living expenses coming my way in the form of a vacation time payout if I leave.  So that's 10 months or so of a break

Pros of leaving
- No more work stress
- Great timing - my position is officially being eliminated, so I'm not really quitting (company saves face, not viewed as disloyal, greater possibility of rehire down the road)
- May be offered sporadic part-time or consulting work, I think my company will need me a few times over the next year to help with audits
- Want a year off before starting a family (I'm 32, so there's time, but not much)
- Might find something I like doing
- I always wanted to work from home, maybe when I go back to work I'll find a more flexible situation

Cons of leaving
- Partner works at my company, we like working at the same organization
- Fantastic match and retirement options (10% match, up to $34K/year into 457/403/401 accounts)
- No income, so no more purchasing rental properties
- No concrete plan for what to do with the time off (too burnt out to dream, or have any idea what I would pursue)
- May never get hired again (I had a REALLY hard time finding jobs with decent pay)
- My company might become a cool place to work after I'm gone (i.e., maybe it isn't as dysfunctional as I think it is)

Thanks in advance for any insights/stories/facepunches!


  • Stubble
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Re: A year off?
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2013, 07:17:27 AM »
Probably not what you want to hear, but I don't get the impression that you're anything close to FI. I'm also assuming your salary is doing more than "meeting living expenses" like your severance would, so

So taking a year off doesn't seem like a great idea to me, for the following reasons:
  • If you can take a year off at some point, spend it with your kid(s). If this idea doesn't appeal, maybe having kids isn't your thing (and that's OK!)
  • What about your partner? He/she might feel somewhat unfairly treated by having to work while you are taking a year off, especially when there are no kids to be looked after.
  • The best time to look for a better job is when you already have one. You'll seem more attractive to employers, you can negotiate terms from a stronger position and wait to find just the right position.
  • If you find another position you're more excited about, you might be able to spread the end/start dates out to get some time off in between. This could apply staying at the same place as well, in a new position.
  • Wouldn't you be entitled to that vacation amount whether you stay or leave?
  • No savings for 1 year. How to get FI that way?
  • No job is perfect. They are all seemingly dysfunctional. I'd even say they all pretty much suck; that's why early retirement is so attractive! Just always be on the lookout for a better job option.
  • Why are you set on 1 year? Would 1-3 months be enough? Can you take an extended vacation? Or some leave without pay? You state you have some vacation entitlements.
  • It sounds like they are trying to keep you on - getting you to write a job posting is a pretty big hint IMO. How would not trying for that position be viewed positively from the company's POV?

It sounds like what you need is a decent vacation (3-4 weeks), and that to leave your current lucrative employment before you are FI is quite a risky move from your description of your situation. If you had stated your boss is mentally abusive, or working conditions were intolerable, that's one thing. But it doesn't sound any worse there than any other normal place of employment from what you described.

If you land a full-time permanent job there, maybe you can talk to your doctor about going on stress leave for a few weeks. I'm not sure how that works in the US, but to me it seems a lot more efficient than forcing people to either keep working while burnt out, or chase them out of a job and have to train someone else.

Sorry, hope I don't sound too harsh! I know the feeling you're going through though, as I've got to get through another 5 years at my place with similar feelings!


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: A year off?
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2013, 09:10:20 AM »
Do more research about sabbaticals to collect your thoughts on this. Personally I am interested in doing something like this myself.

Is it this particular job itself that's getting to you, or is it work in general? If the former, it may simply be a matter of switching jobs. If the latter, time off to reset yourself could be refreshing.

About this:

No concrete plan for what to do with the time off (too burnt out to dream, or have any idea what I would pursue)

Here's your homework, try to come up with a bunch of ideas and potential projects that you can play with. What I've been doing so far to prepare myself is to write down the list of things that I'd like to be doing during my time off. I imagine this will help give a starting point, provide structure and keep me productive.


May be offered sporadic part-time or consulting work, I think my company will need me a few times over the next year to help with audits

This is positive. If you decide to go ahead with this, let your company know that you're happy to pick up some work if they need you. It'll probably make it easier for you to go back full-time there down the road, too, if that's what you want.

Check out Stefan Sagmeister who is well-known for taking one year off every seven years. Here's kind of an FAQ:

And this bit is what he said in regards to how he planned his time during his time off:

I discovered fairly quickly that my initial desire to conduct this year without a plan ("a vacuum of time") was ill fated, and I came up with a very tight hourly plan. I looked through my diary and wrote down all the instances where I had complained about how busy I am and that I would really like to do "X" if I would not be so busy. I added to this list, ordered them by importance into three, two and one hourly segments and wound up with a schedule, just like in grade school.

This guy is obviously a super-motivated and creative type of person, and his sabbaticals are very productive. Some people may prefer a more relaxing sabbatical and that's good too if they enjoy it. I'm probably somewhere in between - I don't think I'll be following any strict schedule, but I will have a to-do list which I will play with, along with anything else that may come up.

I think a year off can be worthwhile if you can afford it and you're doing it after having thought it through and it's for the right reasons.

Think about what you want out of it, what you want to achieve. Think about how it will fit in with your goals and what you want in your life.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: A year off?
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2013, 09:43:24 AM »

I did it.  It was fabulous.  I took 3 years off.

* I had the FU money to do it and live on savings
* I picked up and moved... and finding work where I landed was challenging.  (I really had intended to take about a year off.  The 3 years just happened because jobs in my field were thin where I landed.)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: A year off?
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2013, 12:27:31 PM »
Ishmael:  Thank you--you're right on a lot of counts.  My instinct tells me a departure would be reactive and rushed.  I'm just afraid that I'm letting fear hold me back, and that I could be doing something truly fulfilling, if I only had the courage to make a change.  But my fear is probably well-founded.

Limeandpepper:  Great information on sabbaticals, especially on formulating a plan.  I've been thinking that I need to be committed enough to the idea of a year off to make it a very productive (and planned) time.

Spork:  Thanks for sharing--did your FU fund cover all three years?  Did you start to panic, or were you able to truly enjoy the entire time?

The advice is really helpful.  I'm leaning towards a long vacation.  I will write up the new position, apply for it, and come up with a plan to save a year's worth of FU money (in addition to what I'm squirreling away for FI).  Maybe I'll hit my FI goal first, and won't need to use it.  :)


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: A year off?
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2013, 01:04:40 PM »

Spork:  Thanks for sharing--did your FU fund cover all three years?  Did you start to panic, or were you able to truly enjoy the entire time?

It covered.  I mostly enjoyed the whole time, though there were certainly moments of panic.  20/20 hindsight: the panic was mostly self manufactured.  I could have gone a whole lot longer -- but that would have required me to sell stocks/funds, which we didn't want to do.  (My FU fund was in very safe and very-low-return accounts.)

We also scaled waaaay way back.  I wouldn't say we were scaled back to ERE...  but it was very low living.*  We were living in a 600 sqft workshop.

*I say low living, but it was comfortable... and I did make at least one major purchase during that time (a tractor).

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

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Re: A year off?
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2013, 08:32:17 PM »
Good luck with whatever you decide! I took a year off, but it wasn't planned. I quit a job where I was unhappy. I had plenty of FU money (back before I even knew that term,) so I wasn't stressed out at all. I assumed that I'd take a few weeks off, then get a job, simply because that's what I'd always done. But I was still feeling burned out after a few weeks, so I decided a couple of months wouldn't be too bad. And, well, I kept stretching it out and it was more than 6 months before I started to look for work and then another 6 months before I got offered the right position. Having FU money allowed me to turn down a couple of offers I didn't like.

Now that I'm aiming for FI, I realize that that year off set me back, but I have no regrets. I used that time to work on some personal projects that had always previously ended up at the bottom of my to do lists. I learned to cook (at last!) I spent quality time with family and friends, including some who lived out of town. I joined a gym and got into a regular exercise routine. I volunteered at a nonprofit twice a week. I read a lot. It felt fantastic! I also did a few weeks of consulting to earn some extra cash, and I lived quite inexpensively.

At the end of the year, I had new skills, completed projects, a healthier body, a relaxed mind, and a new job that was more in line with what I wanted. I had less in my savings, but not as much less as I'd predicted, thanks to my frugal ways.

If you think you might "waste" that year by watching tv and wallowing in your unemployment status, then it isn't the right move for you. If you're comfortable with your financial situation and you can imagine fun, interesting, and productive ways to use your time off, then it might be worth trying. Also, you might not want to take a year off. It might be that you only need 3 months to reset your frame of mind.

I hope that whatever you do, it turns out great!


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Re: A year off?
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2013, 02:20:59 AM »
I hate to say this because I know what it's like to not like your job and I love to see people chart their own path, but the timing seems really bad since you want to have kids soon.   What if you take a year off,  then have a hard time finding a position at your previous salary, so you're behind schedule with your baby related financial planning. And after the kids are here, what if you really really want to leave your job then, but you're strapped financially.
BUT you do have a lot of vacation. Maybe you could take that, or look for another position that excites you. Or maybe there's a way to rewrite the position description drastically into something that's more palatable.
**I couldn't tell from your post if you're a woman, if so, I strongly recommend reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg before you make this decision. She writes about how women who leave the workforce often lose ground in responsibility, earning potential, etc. and often never make it up again.  She makes a compelling case. It was sobering for me.


  • Stubble
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Re: A year off?
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2013, 04:07:23 AM »
I did a sabattical for three months. It was amazing.

Two things I did differently than you are contemplating to do:
- I did it for three months only, then followed up with one month of holiday.
- During that time, I worked as an intern at a startup in the Philippines. They paid US$750 plus my ticket.

It was amazing. Don't hold back, just do it.


Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!