Author Topic: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?  (Read 9848 times)

Trudie

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Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« on: October 16, 2015, 02:18:39 PM »
My absolute FIRE timeframe is 5 years, but lately I've been thinking about taking a sabbatical year after four years.  Did anyone else do this to make the transition to FIRE?  I'm interested in your tips and experiences.

Perhaps saying that I am taking a "sabbatical" is just semantic (because I would quit, but with a plan), but what I'm coming to grips with now is that right now work/life is so demanding that I don't have time to take steps to prepare for certain emotional and practical aspects of "FIRED" life.

A few examples:
(1)  I have decided that the idea of continuing to do contract assignments or seasonal tax work (I am a CPA) in FIRE appeals to me.  Getting the necessary CPE/training to do so takes time and conflicts with my current schedule.  A sabbatical/transitional year would help with this.  I have spoken often about the frustrations of my job, but the truth is there are still aspects of accounting and financial planning that I very much enjoy and can lose myself in.  I would like to help others.  I actually can still think of some aspects of my profession I would like to learn more about.  I enjoy managing my own finances.
(2)  A move is most likely in our future after FIRE.  I would like some time around our house to handle this transition.
(3)  Emotionally/spiritually/psychologically I am very self-aware about the need to retire TO something and not just FROM something.  I feel like I need to nurture myself a bit more than I am currently able, if that makes sense.
(4)  I want some freedom and time to set up the infrastructure of our POST FIRE lives -- making contacts in the town we hope to move to, dealing with ACA insurance, possibly setting up some contract work.
(5)  I have some other personal goals -- like running another marathon.

Basically my relationship to work is this -- in 5 years I won't have to work (if all goes as planned), but there are still projects I think I'd enjoy.  I'd like to control how much of the year and when I work.  There is lots of temp/seasonal work for people with my credential.  I have decided that I will keep my CPA license active for awhile.  It's a good thing to have.

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2015, 06:48:58 PM »
I did. Sort of.

Actually expecting not to go back to the job, I spent my first year of unofficial FIRE on call.  I maybe worked 10 hours a month from home.  This gave me the time and thinking space to get my ducks in a row.  I never went back.

Good luck.

Thinkum

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2015, 09:16:57 PM »
I am currently on a sabbatical of sorts as a pre-run for FIRE. Quit in February and have just being enjoying life, plotting the next step(s). Having the time to actually do stuff is priceless. I would say if you have the funds to take some time off without any worry or stress about it, then by all means do it. Time is the one thing we never get more of so you have to make the most of it while you have it.

flyfig

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2015, 09:34:13 PM »
I took a 7 week sabbatical, went back to work and FIRED a month later. My old company offered paid sabbatical after working a certain number of years and if I didn't use it, I would lose it. Was good and taught me that I needed to do some mental prep before FIRE.

Moustachienne

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2015, 09:51:21 PM »
This blog post does an excellent job of setting out the pros and cons of a pre-fire sabbatical.

http://livingafi.com/2015/08/04/taking-a-gap-year/#more-6268

Really glad your question set me looking for the topic!

I have had an extended break about 2 years before I plan to FIRE.  I recommend it highly for the same reasons as other posters.  It was a break and a preparation.  Go for it!

Doubleh

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2015, 01:29:14 AM »
I've had two breaks from paid work, each of around a year, in the last few years and have found them invaluable in better understanding myself, my motivation to FIRE and what life will be like when I finally get there. I'd definitely recommend it and surprised that more people don't do this. I find it helpful to think rather than time off work, as front loading your ER.

Definitely second Dr Doom's article linked earlier for anyone considering this

desk_jockey

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2015, 08:50:10 AM »
Doubleh,  tell us more about your sabaticals.

DoubleDown

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2015, 09:16:41 AM »
I took one year off as a trial run for FIRE. It was great and cemented for me the decision to make retirement permanent. When it was over, I went back to work for 6 months and then left permanently. Of course, the one downside is that it's a form of "OMY" and you still have in the back of your mind the nagging notion that you have to go back (unless you're just going to put in your notice while on the sabbatical and never go back).

Urchina

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2015, 07:24:14 AM »
I took five years off when my kids were born,  then went back part-time and now work full-time. 

I learned that I'm a happier and more balanced person working part time,  and that my sweet spot is between 15-20 hours a week. I value flexibility highly in my jobs.

As a result,  we are focusing on FI as opposed to RE. 

Trudie

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2015, 01:47:06 PM »
@ Thinkum, Moustachienne, Doubleh, Double Down --

Care to offer any details on how you spent your sabbaticals?

Some specific questions:
(1)  Did you use it as an opportunity to tweak expenses, adjust to life at home, finalize other aspects of your FIRE plan (ie. health insurance)?
(2)  Did you do any prep for contract or part-time work (either new credential, or CPE in an area in which you currently work?
(3)  Did you do family stuff you'd been putting off?  Did you did "friend stuff" you'd been putting off?  Did it help or hinder your relationships?
(4)  Did you pursue any goals?  Fitness?  New hobbies?  Volunteerism?

Thinkum

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2015, 01:54:21 PM »
@ Thinkum, Moustachienne, Doubleh, Double Down --

Care to offer any details on how you spent your sabbaticals?

Some specific questions:
(1)  Did you use it as an opportunity to tweak expenses, adjust to life at home, finalize other aspects of your FIRE plan (ie. health insurance)?
(2)  Did you do any prep for contract or part-time work (either new credential, or CPE in an area in which you currently work?
(3)  Did you do family stuff you'd been putting off?  Did you did "friend stuff" you'd been putting off?  Did it help or hinder your relationships?
(4)  Did you pursue any goals?  Fitness?  New hobbies?  Volunteerism?

1) Part of the reason was to do some stuff around the house.
2) I took a PT job a few months in and after 3 weeks quit. It was not a good fit and I missed having my days free. I have contemplated taking a class or two to get some training/certs in my field, but have so far abstained from doing so.
3) Part of the plan for quitting was to travel with my SO and visit family in our home state. We did travel for a few months and it was beyond great. However, she got a job opportunity she couldn't really pass up so she went back to work and my travel plans have been pushed out some.
4) I have volunteered and am currently still volunteering. I am also going to try and take up kayaking. I have got into gardening and growing some veggies and herbs.

livingthedream

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2015, 02:33:55 PM »
We did in 2008 for almost three years and are months away from quitting again this time for good. We sold the house and traveled (posted a write up here http://www.becomingfi.com/mini-retirement/) My wife's former boss called her 8 months in and made her and offer she couldn't refuse to freelance part time on her own schedule with a free cell phone, hotspot, and laptop. I did a few small side projects so there wasn't much in a gap on my employment history.

We really loved the experience and my said if we were going to take another sabbatical it had to be permanent. 

Cookie78

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2015, 03:26:57 PM »
I'm contemplating doing this myself. I'm planning on FIREing in a little less than 2 years, but want to take a 6 month leave next summer/fall to spend time with family. It'll bump my FIRE date back pretty close to my 40th birthday though, and I want to be FIREd by then no matter what. On the other hand, I want to be with my family NOW.

I did take a very enjoyable 6 month leave 2 years ago before I knew about MMM or Early Retirement.

Moustachienne

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2015, 11:13:37 AM »
@ Thinkum, Moustachienne, Doubleh, Double Down --

Care to offer any details on how you spent your sabbaticals?

Some specific questions:
(1)  Did you use it as an opportunity to tweak expenses, adjust to life at home, finalize other aspects of your FIRE plan (ie. health insurance)?
(2)  Did you do any prep for contract or part-time work (either new credential, or CPE in an area in which you currently work?
(3)  Did you do family stuff you'd been putting off?  Did you did "friend stuff" you'd been putting off?  Did it help or hinder your relationships?
(4)  Did you pursue any goals?  Fitness?  New hobbies?  Volunteerism?

Hmmm, during a 5 month leave I:

1) did think about/adjusted to life at home.  I experimented with "loose" scheduling, i.e. doing something in 2 of the 3 time slots of morning, afternoon, and evening. 1 scheduled thing per day wasn't quite enough, 3 was too much.  So a great day would be focussed reading on a topic I was studying, then lunch out with a friend or a long walk on a local beach.  Or focussed reading/writing (I had a study project), then an afternoon walk around a local park and an evening watching a movie with DH.  Very little spending on most days but I did find that I needed to purposely schedule active time outside the house.  I didn't spend as much time on finalizing FIRE plans as I'd hoped to - it felt too administrative and too much like work.  :)

2) did think about prep for contract or part-time work after FIRE but didn't work specifically toward it.

3) did do family and friend stuff I'd been putting off, especially the friend stuff.  It was wonderful to see already retired friends and older family during the week in a non-pressured way, and also great to see working friends and family on the weekends without feeling that my precious off time was being squeezed. 

4) had planned to pursue volunteer opportunities but found I didn't want to take on commitments during this short time "off".  I had to really focus on staying active, as I noted above, because my natural tendency is to hibernate.  :)  I think I was really decompressing as many people say they need to to do at first after FIREing. 

Because I used this time for massive decompressing, it was really quite hard to rev back up to workplace speed.  I had been warned about the re-entry challenge and thought I was prepared but the struggle was real!   The time away was still very worthwhile though, as I did decompress and I got a vision of myself and my life beyond work-filled days.

LiveLean

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2015, 09:27:44 AM »
I took a sabbatical early in my career. My employer insisted on it because I was working on a book and they wanted me to get it done. It wasn't taking away from my work - long story - but I had to do it. No guarantee my job would be waiting for me, but it was when I returned three months later. The experience confirmed that I could go self-employed and work for myself (what I call "semi-FIRE") on the road to FIRE. I went self-employed four years later (in 1998) and never looked back.

zephyr911

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #15 on: October 22, 2015, 09:34:32 AM »
Thinking hard about this myself, since I can apparently take up to a year's unpaid leave as a permanent FT federal worker without any downside.

It'd be a nice risk-free way to validate that my current side gigs can pay the bills while I keep reinvesting rental profits.

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2015, 04:34:37 AM »
I retired in April and got some foolish worries so took a job in August and resigned Monday. That will be my last sabbatical.....barring something that I just couldn't pass up or would really want to do.

Doubleh

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2015, 06:15:53 AM »
Sorry for not responding sooner, I hadn't seen the updates and info requests.

My first sabbatical was split between the first six months sailing in the UK with my wife, and the second six months helping a friend set up an online business using a specialist skill he had, together with my business and finance experience.

Sailing is a huge part of the reason we want to FIRE so that time was a great help in building our skills and more importantly learning that we can do it, can hack being together 24/7 and actually enjoyed it enough that we still want to do it. In this respect it was a conscious trial run of our FIRE plans. The business was an amazing learning curve and while unpaid I (only half jokingly) say that it was like a free MBA. The business is still going and we still have shares so it may yet pay of in a financial sense but I'm not counting on it in my plans.

The second break was more family focussed with six weeks spent together with my wife and then one year old daughter, after which the wife returned to work and I took on primary childcare for six months - initially full time then part time as she transitioned into daycare. The latter few months were spent trying to find a new work role in a down market and were pretty frustrating at times. I took advantage of the time to research things like portfolio allocation and taxes and reorganise our investments which are pretty complex due to two countries and tax juristictions.

After the first sabbatical I took a deliberate move into contracting in the same field of work. It is less secure but better paid and has helped significantly in moving us towards FIRE. My industry can be pretty demanding and each time I have taken a sabbatical a feeling of burnout has been a component of the desire for time off. By doing this and decompressing I have enabled myself to come back refreshed and able to stick it for another couple of years!

Sure I could have knuckled down and kept working through, and may be closer to FIRE financially now - although without that first break I would probably still be a full time employee and have made no more despite working two years longer. But without the experience and knowledge gained from the time off I would be nowhere near as prepared for the non-financial aspects of FIRE and would have missed out on some wonderful opportunities.

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2015, 11:02:45 AM »
I took a 3 year sabbatical -- if you want to call it that -- in 2006.  I called it my "pretirement."

I had been working in the same place for 18 years... and things were changing in ways that were probably good for the company, but not particularly good for me.  I was becoming somewhat depressed and was really over-exaggerating (to myself) just how "awful" work was.

So the wife and I decided just to pull up stakes.  I gave 2 weeks notice.  We sold about half of our stuff.... and we moved to a 600sqft metal shack out in the country that was close to both my family and my in-laws.

As to the previous specific questions:
(1)  Did you use it as an opportunity to tweak expenses, adjust to life at home, finalize other aspects of your FIRE plan (ie. health insurance)?
We cut expenses to the bone.  We had a big FU stash but were not FI.  The town we moved to had very little opportunities for my existing experience.

(2)  Did you do any prep for contract or part-time work (either new credential, or CPE in an area in which you currently work?
No.  I probably should have.  I did apply for every job that I found posted that was even remotely related to my field.  However, that pretty much meant I applied for 1 job every 6 months.  I generally got interviewed.  I got one offer I refused.  And finally got an offer I accepted about 3 years after the start of pretirement.

(3)  Did you do family stuff you'd been putting off?  Did you did "friend stuff" you'd been putting off?  Did it help or hinder your relationships?
This was really part of the reason for leaping.  Both my parents and my wife's parents were in their late 70s.  I knew our time was limited.  We made efforts to have (minimally) a weekly get together with both my family & hers.  Since 2006, both she & I have lost 1 parent -- and the time we got with them was priceless.

I'll also say I think the 3 years of daily togetherness was really good for DW & me.  We've always been close/good friends.  But ... those years living in the shed & doing lots of outdoors labor together (gardening/clearing land/etc)... I'll remember those days forever as some of the best times I've had.

(4)  Did you pursue any goals?  Fitness?  New hobbies?  Volunteerism?
Not exactly.  We did do a lot of manual labor, which probably contributed to fitness.  Our budget was really tight, so most hobby pursuit was very restricted.

Frugal-Investor

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2015, 08:15:58 AM »
I did as well, but didn't call it that.

When I was financially ready to leave my job, I stayed a while longer. About 2 years. The forcefield of trusted colleagues, interesting work, great pay and great benefits was strong. My FIRE plans were vague.

When I felt emotionally ready to leave my job (and a little burned out from some big projects), I pulled the trigger. I was 53. I launched into all sorts of activities that had been starved for time - spent more time with family, got way more fit, put in a great garden, and started volunteering. This played out like a sabbatical in the sense that it enabled me to gain perspective and fully separate from work. It also pressure tested some of my prior planning.

About 6 months later, it started playing on my mind that the option of doing consulting in the future or going back to employment would close in a few years if I kept on the FIRE path. It wasn't that I wanted to work again, just got the willies about closing off the option permanently. About then, my former boss called me about some work, which I turned down even though it feels great to be needed. Then I called back...so that I could have the following experiment: if I configured my work conditions so that they were perfect for me, would I want to continue working? Or would the pull of retirement overcome all?

I asked for and received part-time, narrow scope of work, highly flexible hours and location, and limited travel (along with former pay levels, interesting work and great colleagues). If the most perfect work assignment was no longer for me, my confidence level in my former decision would go to the sky. And it did. Without the break, I wouldn't have had the perspective to design that path.

steveo

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #20 on: October 29, 2015, 02:02:54 PM »
I'm not FIRED however this is definitely my intention but I can't see myself going back to work.

Landslave

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2015, 01:38:14 PM »
  Wife and I took off a year 2011-2012 to sail.  It was great.  We were sorry we had to come back.  Looking for more adventure in the future.

Money Badger

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2015, 05:50:45 AM »
I took some time off and there's been a realization here that I'm in the wrong house and a HCOL area because of ego (grew up damn poor).   So that's been invaluable to realize and now taking steps to FIRE "to something that i know makes me happy" instead of "just to get away from work".   Seems so simple, but when you're working, traveling, going, going, it's easy to trap yourself.

A neighbor/friend of mine who is a few years older is about to do the same thing and move back to his happy place all the way across the country in Washington state.   He didn't realize he had to go to Japan and all the way to the east cost just to be happiest where he started.   Know thyself is a hell of a lot harder than than it sounds!

Trudie

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2015, 07:31:08 PM »
I'm enjoying reading these sabbatical stories.  A common theme seems to be that for many the experience was a "clarifier."  In some cases, people decided to go back to work or consulting.  In other cases, people were able to "pressure test" (I like this term) their planning.  And in some, people realized that they needed to make new choices (different house or relocation); it sort of lifts a veil that's present when you're always running, running, running...

A friend recently shared this on Facebook, and I've been thinking about it a lot:
VACATIONS LIE. Culture tells us to spend an entire year saving for a week to escape our life. We call it vacation. Even as I'm on this incredible road trip across the Northwest with my family, something doesn't feel right. Vacations are meant to be new, they are meant to be fun, but they are not meant to be better than your normal life. I've been all around the world, and I would never trade travel for what I have at home. Life isn't about the 50 vacations you'll take while you're on this planet. It's about the 25,000 days between them. Stop creating a life that you need a vacation from. Instead, move to where you want to live, do what you want to do, start what you want to start, and create the life you want today. This isn't rehearsal people. This is YOUR life. ‪- Dale Partridge

ozbeach

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2015, 09:21:21 PM »
I plan on doing this. I have agreement from my employer to take 12 months leave starting November next year (I'm trying not to count down, but it's one year and one week away...) As far as my employer is concerned I will be returning to work following this sabbatical. As far as I'm concerned, I might. Importantly, I will be at FI, so I don't have to. I think if I knew I had to return to work, I would subconsciously treat the break as a giant holiday and not get into the groove. This way, it will be a true trial-retirement.

[Edit: congrats to me on reaching stubble status with this post!]

RosieTR

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #25 on: November 06, 2015, 12:00:34 PM »
We want to do this in a couple of years, so I'm posting to follow. We are close to bare-bones FIRE but would probably like more padding (esp since the market is currently fairly high and the recent corrections are small). I don't know if either of us could take a leave without pay for some time, though I may ask at my job and DH at his. Just starting on the planning stages at this point!

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #26 on: November 09, 2015, 09:22:31 AM »
I get really bad vacation "hangovers".  I couldn't imagine what it would be like going back to work after a month or three off. 

Tyler

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Re: Did anyone take a sabbatical or leave BEFORE fire?
« Reply #27 on: November 09, 2015, 10:56:08 AM »
Pre-FIRE, instead of taking sabbaticals I just job-hopped.  I was always on the lookout for a better situation where I would enjoy what I did every day.  There was only one time when the work situation was so bad that I needed to quit without having my next gig lined up ahead of time.  But that resembled a prison break more than a sabbatical.