Author Topic: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?  (Read 12006 times)

earlyFI

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At my organization no one retires earlier than 60, most at 62-65. We have a pension that is based on age and years of service. If you take the pension before you are 65 the amount drops significantly, so most stay for the full amount. I am significantly younger than that and co workers would think I am crazy.

I am planning to take an unpaid years leave of absence to transition into ER.

Has anyone else done this? I would be interested in hearing about your experience.

sol

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I haven't done so, but would love the opportunity.

steveo

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I'm a long way from that point however this is my intention.

clifp

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I did. I took a year long leave of absence.  (Which was 6 months after my 10 week sabbatical.)  Emotionally I was genuinely unsure if really ready to retire.  Financially it made lot more sense to cash my options my remaining vested options next year and in a state other than CA which taxed them so heavily.  I was pretty upfront that I might not be returning, but considering the VP was a woman who had taken a pretty long leave absence after kids, I think she was sympathetic.

Bjorn

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I did it for 3 months in a LCOL country between jobs and that's what made me realize there's so much to life outside of work. At the time I wanted to extend those 3 months into 12 months, but needed money to survive so came back and found a new job.

I don't know how relevant my experience was in this case, because at the time I was just fed up with work and just ending a relationship and I needed a break. I chose to leave the comfort of life in Norway to live with a poor family situated in the slums of Kenya. We were 5 people living in 2 rooms. Electricity would go off now and then. My toilet was a shithole in the ground, mice and cockroaches would come out from time to time. I woke up every morning to the sound of one of the neighbouring kids being beaten up by his mom. My iPhone got stolen at some point.
After a while I joined up with an organization that worked with kids in the slums and got to know more locals as well as foreigners who had come to do this work.

It was the best experience of my life. To get out there and learn how different you can live but still be happy. One morning I would wake up to some nice music being played down the street, and just appreciate being alive and happy. Everyone around me was happy despite the shitty (by "my" standard) conditions. Every 2 or 3 days I got a bucket of boiled-warm, soapy water to wash myself. Felt like a blessing compared to the cold evening showers on stainy floors where I had to use an old Nokia as flashlight due to lack of electricity. The thing is, people always want more. If they live in a 90 sqft room in the slums, they will aim to get a 150 one instead like the guy down the street. If they don't own a phone, they will envy the guy with an old nokia. The old nokia guy will want an iPhone. Etc. But what became clear to me is that despite people's wants, they would usually appreciate what they already have, because there is always someone in your neighbourhood who has less than you.

I also got to travel abit at the end of my stay and had some wonderful experiences that was on my bucket list (safari, corals snorkling, animal sanctuary, hiking adventures and more). In a way it made me hungry for life and dreadful about dull office work :p But the key point from this is that the most beautiful moments came without costing a dime. Going for a safari was a really enjoyable experience, but only because of the people you share those memories with. I had just as much fun playing cards with my host family, making new friends or trying to learn a new language.
I met many people in the same situation as me, plus alot of students of course. I stayed in touch with many of them and now have friends from all continents who wouldn't mind hosting me if I want to go travel to their country!

During that trip I realized that so many people from "western" societies don't know what travelling is. They leave the comfort zone of their home, get on a plane to somewhere, only to end up in a hotel at a place where they meet people from their own culture and have the same facilities and living conditions as where they just came from. They rarely get to know locals, infact many just stick to what is familiar and don't go out of their comfort zone. It may sound like I'm criticizing it (and maybe I am) but I just want to say that if you want to experience a different way of life (even if its just being in your house without a job for a year) you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone abit to get a meaningful experience. What that will mean to you, I don't know. You will have to define it yourself. And take whatever you feel is relevant from this post. I just know that I travelled. Travelling is not just going from A to B. It should be like a year of absence (or 2 weeks), where you actually try out something else and not just faking it.

Now, 3 years after my trip, I still think back on that time and it is working as a vision for me to where I want to be in a few years - only this time with the means to do it forever if I wish so.

I am about 3-4 years from being able to FIRE in a LCOL country, or 7-8 years from FIREing in my current country. I can definetely see myself doing a year of absence eg. 5 years from now, as my passive income-stache would keep growing in a LCOL country at that point. Then come back and make some more money to be able to live in Norway as well, or any other HCOL country.

earlyFI

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Thanks for the responses

I did. I took a year long leave of absence.  (Which was 6 months after my 10 week sabbatical.)  Emotionally I was genuinely unsure if really ready to retire.  Financially it made lot more sense to cash my options my remaining vested options next year and in a state other than CA which taxed them so heavily

It sounds like you handled this really well both emotionally and financially.


I am emotionally ready to retire, and in my mind the start of my leave of absence will be my retirement. There are a few perks in taking a leave of absence rather than quitting outright...a few months insurance coverage, and some  pension accrual, and on a smaller note the door Is still open if I need to go back for unforeseen medical reasons. Kind of like writing my own severance package.

I see no other way to retire and not have it be a big deal at work as it is so usual. I have chosen this route because the culture at my company is that if you leave the company (except for a traditional retirement, at a a traditional age) you have been incredibly disloyal. It sounds a bit crazy, I know. But I have listened to other employees talk about past employees who have moved on to another job as if somehow they failed by leaving. I just kind of want to slip off the radar instead of being talked about for years.

RootofGood

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My wife is on a paid 3 month sabbatical.  She promised to return to work in August, but gave no period of time in that promise.  :)  So for us, the answer is "not yet" but maybe in a few months?

I'd say take a sabbatical or LOA if you're ready to ER anyway.  Time off will be a great test run.  You can always go back or find other work. 

sequim

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I was going to quit my company but I instead I applied for and got a personal leave of absence for three months.  Doing this is a cheap way to get health insurance.  A happy coincidence is that it was benefit enrollment time, so I added my husband who had gotten laid off and missed the Obamacare deadline in February.  So I will only pay the normal amount that would be deducted from my paycheck for our policy.  In July I will decide whether to pursue part-time or flexible work with the company or quit altogether.  I could take a longer leave but then would have to pay Cobra which would be quite expensive.

arebelspy

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We tried to do this, but my employer only does leave of absences for certain approved reasons (medical, family medical, getting degree in something related to job), not just "i want time off."

So we resigned instead.
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about me, this Business Insider profile tells the story pretty well.
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sequim

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Yeah...you have to "present" the reason the acceptable way.  :)    I said it was a family reason - my in-laws were moving from Texas to Utah where we would be moving and then needing care.  Regular family leave didn't cover in-law assistance, but personal leave was approved!  I lied just a little...eventually they will move there in order to get help from family.

Daisy

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This is a great idea. I'm stubbornly waiting for a layoff that may never happen. (I know Dr. Doom...I should get this thought out of my mind).

But if I get to the point where I feel I am ready to FIRE and the layoff or voluntary severance hasn't happend, reading these posts has me convinced asking for a leave of absence is the way to go. It gives me health insurance coverage during that time. Also, just the act of asking for it could put a (welcome) target on my head for any layoff considerations management may have.

I've got elderly parents that really need a lot of help so that's my go-to answer. It is true that sometimes I find my time now juggled so much with work, my life, and taking care of them that I cautiously consider just quitting many-a-times.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2015, 05:30:10 PM by Daisy »

sequim

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Yeah Daisy!  It is good to have the LOA in your mustachian toolkit.

earlyFI

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This is a great idea.

But if I get to the point where I feel I am ready to FIRE and the layoff or voluntary severance hasn't happend, reading these posts has me convinced asking for a leave of absence is the way to go. It gives me health insurance coverage during that time. Also, just the act of asking for it could put a (welcome) target on my head for any layoff considerations management may have.

I've got elderly parents that really need a lot of help so that's my go-to answer. It is true that sometimes I find my time now juggled so much with work, my life, and taking care of them that I cautiously consider just quitting many-a-times.

I will get from 3-12 months medical coverage at my normal monthly cost. So it will help transition to ACA. I do plan to help my elderly parents as well during that time as well.

At my company it is pretty rare that someone takes a year off, as they can't afford to live without pay for that long, but it works for people looking to retire early, and makes for an easy transition from full time work to retirement if it is an option.

DoubleDown

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I did exactly this, taking the year off before officially resigning. I thought it was a pretty great way to do a test run and see if I wanted to make it permanent. I was already 99% certain I would make it permanent, but figured it would be good to be able to take my job back if I changed my mind. I also figured if there was some gigantic market crash, I could always go back and avoid the risk of bad sequence of returns early in retirement.

As it turned out, the time off was fantastic, and markets did fine so our net worth grew even more. It cemented my decision to make it permanent.

As a Fed, there was also an added bonus of getting 6 months of that year off counted towards years of service for my (future) pension calculation, plus I got to keep health insurance coverage the entire time.

I will caution there's one (small) downside to this strategy, as I see/experienced it: Taking a sabbatical prior to permanent retirement left that little, itty-bitty, tiny tug towards One More Year (OMY) syndrome, all year long. Because you have the option of going back, you're not quite 100% gone and can still have that pull to go back.

RootofGood

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I will caution there's one (small) downside to this strategy, as I see/experienced it: Taking a sabbatical prior to permanent retirement left that little, itty-bitty, tiny tug towards One More Year (OMY) syndrome, all year long. Because you have the option of going back, you're not quite 100% gone and can still have that pull to go back.

There's probably less mental anguish from "should I go back for OMY" than there is from "oh crap, did I really quit my job?  Should I keep my linkedin profile active just in case I need/want to go back?".  I had at least a little of those latter feelings, though not enough to actually try to get a job (after my unemployment ran out anyway). 

Tyler

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When I told coworkers I was leaving to take a personal career sabbatical, one person commented over a beer that they wished the company had an official sabbatical policy so that they could do the same.  I replied that if you're serious about it and plan properly, a break from work is one request that is impossible to deny.  That's about as close as I came to telling people I didn't need the money, and after a moment of contemplation where I could see the wheels turning it facilitated a friendly raising of glasses. 

I understand that certain corporate retirement benefits make that a little trickier.  For those like me without any form of golden handcuffs, I submit that there's no difference between a LOA and simply leaving on good terms.  Even after officially quitting, I know I'll be welcomed back with open arms if and when I ever want to return.  That's why it's important not to burn bridges.  I also appreciate the clean initial break, as I know they will not be calling hectoring me for a re-start date.  Honestly, I think it's better for both sides. 

Rika Non

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I am currently part way into an un-planned 6-12 month LOA.  This is due to market forces so not by choice which is a little but different.  But I am close to FI so to me it is a sort of test-run.

I might be an out-lier on this message board, since my LOA has made me realize I do want to go back to work. 

RetiredAt63

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I changed teaching jobs very suddenly, and ended up taking a personal leave.  That was mainly for my old department since replacing faculty on leave gives more leeway than hireing a new hire.  By two years into my 3 year leave, I knew I wasn't going back.  My new job was a 3 year contract, so when it ended I was retired.  Even though there were many aspects of the second job that I missed, I didn't have the emotional attachment I had to the previous place, so it was easier. 

There are aspects of both places that I miss, but then I just go visit for a day and I am fine ;-)

lagniappe

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I started with a 3 month leave of absence.  I kept extending it, because I just couldn't face going back to work.  When I hit one year of extensions, I finally resigned.

ozbeach

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2015, 10:44:07 PM »
This is my plan. At the end of next year (2016) I will be able to take twelve months leave at half pay. This has the advantage that I am able to continue maxxing out my superannuation for another year, while also giving me a test run at early retirement. If I think it's too early, I'll be in a stronger position to negotiate to return at 50 or 60% rate.

sequim

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2015, 07:52:43 AM »
I started with a 3 month leave of absence.  I kept extending it, because I just couldn't face going back to work.  When I hit one year of extensions, I finally resigned.

Ha ha.  While I was still working, possibly finding part-time work with my company sounded good.  Now that idea is becoming fainter and fainter as a possibility.  I could extend but will lose my cheap health benefits so not much reason to keep going with them.  Everything about the corporate world now seems so distasteful even though it would be nice to have the easy money.

Cherry Lane

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #21 on: June 06, 2015, 09:51:10 AM »
As a Fed, there was also an added bonus of getting 6 months of that year off counted towards years of service for my (future) pension calculation, plus I got to keep health insurance coverage the entire time.

I've been trying to figure out how to take a LOA as a Fed.  Thanks for sharing that benefits continue - that gives me more incentive to try to make it work.  I haven't found any formal sabbatical or LOA program, and according to OPM, a supervisor is not required to approve such requests.  How did you negotiate this?  I can't imagine my organization would look too kindly on a request like this, especially if it leaves a gap in their workforce.

spokey doke

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2015, 08:17:18 AM »
I'd love to do this and am eligible for a sabbatical in a couple years...but when you go on sabbatical you sign an agreement that you must either work another year after you return, or repay the salary you received over the sabbatical. 

While I have read that such agreements are rarely enforced (and difficult to do), I'd rather not test it. 

So that would mean two years tacked on to my would-be FIRE date, but with one of those years on sabbatical at half salary.  I'm not sure I could muster the will do a decent job the final year, but the sabbatical year could be very rewarding (with some travel and study of things I've been interested in for some time).

So I keep debating...2 more years, or 4 more years with year three on sabbatical...

peter bedpan

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2015, 08:42:19 AM »
My sabbatical was the result of a lawsuit which was cheaper than a lawsuit about my golden handcuffs. And it gives me the opportunity to go back if something goes wrong.

It also revealed some truths - you know the lies that help us to get along on a daily basis are suddenly not working any more.

@spokey doke:
I would take the sabbatical. The change in perspective is huge. And it reduces the risk in retirement a little bit.

Pancake

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2015, 10:50:58 AM »
I actually did a sabbatical before I knew about MMM. I was working a lot and traveling for work a lot, got pretty burnt out and started looking around for anything. I ended up reading the 4 Hour Workweek that I picked up from an airport bookstore. That eventually led me to take a 3.5 month sabbatical with my gf (now wife). We packed up our stuff into storage so we had few expenses at home and traveled Central and South America the whole time. My wife actually quit her job. I feel like it takes at least 3 weeks away to finally forget about work and free your mind back to creative thinking. This trip did the trick for sure. I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad while there as well and already had an interest in real estate so I started getting excited.

Come to find out, we actually spent less traveling there than we would have spent staying home! It was an eye opener. So then, we thought, we just had to figure out a way to make money either remotely or passively... Hmmm. Hahaha  I credit that sabbatical and trip for getting me where I am today (12mo from FIRE). It really changed my perspective. When we returned, my wife's company wanted her back, and with her new perspective she said, "No, the commute is awful at that time." They ended up paying her more and she only has to be in the office 5.5hrs per day in order to miss traffic. Cool! As for me, I got involved with a local real estate club and started investing. Then we found MMM and that was the last puzzle piece. Now 5 years since we returned from that trip and we are less than one year away from escaping the cubicle for good.

Everything made sense, and we had a clear direction.  This all would have never happened had we just kept plugging away at our jobs, continuing our lifestyle inflation, and complaining we didn't make enough money.  That sabbatical gave us the free time we needed to figure things out, and that was not even the original intent. Stress and being busy are the enemies of creativity and free thinking and 4 day weekend or trip to Disney isn't going to cut it. 

At any rate, if you are unsure about FIRE or just need a break I highly recommend sabbaticals due to my own great experience.

music lover

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #25 on: June 07, 2015, 11:15:24 AM »
New guy here...

I'm taking a 12 month sabbatical starting in May next year, and will then be "officially" retiring the following May when it ends. The pension rules allow me to take one year off without losing any pensionable service as long as I contribute to the pension plan. The sabbatical will end exactly when I have reached the minimum age required to avoid a penalty.

sequim

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #26 on: June 07, 2015, 12:03:08 PM »
This all would have never happened had we just kept plugging away at our jobs, continuing our lifestyle inflation, and complaining we didn't make enough money.  That sabbatical gave us the free time we needed to figure things out, and that was not even the original intent. Stress and being busy are the enemies of creativity and free thinking and 4 day weekend or trip to Disney isn't going to cut it. 

Totally agree!  I really saw my creativity disappear once I got a regular job and became too busy for just daydreaming.  So glad to have that time back.  It is priceless.

DoubleDown

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #27 on: June 09, 2015, 10:03:30 AM »
As a Fed, there was also an added bonus of getting 6 months of that year off counted towards years of service for my (future) pension calculation, plus I got to keep health insurance coverage the entire time.

I've been trying to figure out how to take a LOA as a Fed.  Thanks for sharing that benefits continue - that gives me more incentive to try to make it work.  I haven't found any formal sabbatical or LOA program, and according to OPM, a supervisor is not required to approve such requests.  How did you negotiate this?  I can't imagine my organization would look too kindly on a request like this, especially if it leaves a gap in their workforce.

Hmmm, my organization had the policies spelled out in pretty full, written detail. So, in my case, I just had to pick one of the reasons given for which a LOA (they call it "LWOP" or Leave Without Pay) would be granted and put that in my written request. Taking LWOP is not at all frowned upon in my (former) organization and is even encouraged, but I can imagine that might vary at other places. I hope you can find some info on how it works at your organization, good luck!

earlyFI

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #28 on: June 09, 2015, 01:57:55 PM »
I did exactly this, taking the year off before officially resigning. I thought it was a pretty great way to do a test run and see if I wanted to make it permanent. I was already 99% certain I would make it permanent, but figured it would be good to be able to take my job back if I changed my mind. I also figured if there was some gigantic market crash, I could always go back and avoid the risk of bad sequence of returns early in retirement.

As it turned out, the time off was fantastic, and markets did fine so our net worth grew even more. It cemented my decision to make it permanent.

As a Fed, there was also an added bonus of getting 6 months of that year off counted towards years of service for my (future) pension calculation, plus I got to keep health insurance coverage the entire time.

I will caution there's one (small) downside to this strategy, as I see/experienced it: Taking a sabbatical prior to permanent retirement left that little, itty-bitty, tiny tug towards One More Year (OMY) syndrome, all year long. Because you have the option of going back, you're not quite 100% gone and can still have that pull to go back.

There is something to be said about knowing the door is closed, that you can't go back. So knowing the door is still open is a pro and a con. Thank you for your experience. Very helpful

deborah

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #29 on: June 11, 2015, 09:13:28 AM »
I was preparing for retirement. You know - working out what retirement would look like for me - what I wanted to do, where I would do it, what I needed before I retired (skills, friends...)...

And then I was offered a place in a full time degree I wanted to do, so I organized with work to have most of a year off.

During that time, I realized that I was ready for retirement. I went back for a week, and then retired.

The time off gave me space to think and to be certain about retirement. It showed me that a certain budget was more than adequate for my needs. It showed that my plans were do-able. It gave me a lot of confidence.

It also showed me how little I needed work. I had thought I would miss producing end results that only teams can produce. That I would miss managing people, and getting a buzz out of their development.

I am very glad that I had the opportunity to do this.

earlyFI

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #30 on: June 11, 2015, 11:00:34 PM »
I was preparing for retirement. You know - working out what retirement would look like for me - what I wanted to do, where I would do it, what I needed before I retired (skills, friends...)...

And then I was offered a place in a full time degree I wanted to do, so I organized with work to have most of a year off.

During that time, I realized that I was ready for retirement. I went back for a week, and then retired.

The time off gave me space to think and to be certain about retirement. It showed me that a certain budget was more than adequate for my needs. It showed that my plans were do-able. It gave me a lot of confidence.

It also showed me how little I needed work. I had thought I would miss producing end results that only teams can produce. That I would miss managing people, and getting a buzz out of their development.

I am very glad that I had the opportunity to do this.

Deborah,

Thank you for sharing your experience. Sounds like you had a perfect transition into retirement.

I could also go back to my same company anytime and get the same job, basically pick up where I left off at a later date and if I was age 55 or older I could retire again with health benefits that would last until age 65. Don't know if I would want to go back after tasting the freedom however, but it is nice to know I can if needed or desired.

Easy Does It FI

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #31 on: June 12, 2015, 07:56:14 PM »
My brother-in-law set a target to leave his company at 5 years because he was frustrated with his company. Of course, when he went to leave, they basically forced a sabbatical on him.
He didn't have enough to FIRE, so his plan was to go back to the corporate cash-firehose when he needed to refill the bank acct.

2 years later, he never looked back, and has developed other skills to sustain himself (right now as a ESL teacher) in Thailand.

Elderwood17

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #32 on: June 14, 2015, 07:50:57 PM »
I am in an industry without pensions (or even an employee match in most cases) to muddle up the retirement decisions (!) but sabbaticals or leaves of absences are almost unheard.  Ok, I have never heard of one being granted.  Some years ago when lay offs were occurring one colleague offered to take some time off without pay and was turned down flat.

I would love to start taking a month leave unpaid per year right now, but it wouldn't be considered.

RetireAbroadAt35

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #33 on: June 19, 2015, 04:29:35 PM »
I did a few years back, ultimately deciding to return to my employer.  I'm getting close to FIRE'ing for real, or at least gliding down through contracts, and I plan to kick it off with a leave of absence to test out my plans.

thriftyc

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #34 on: June 19, 2015, 11:55:23 PM »
I might be in the midst of a paid sabbatical, not by choice. I was laid off 2 weeks ago, with a small severance totaling about 5 months living expenses. After that I technically could collect EI for another 45 weeks or so. Was not my plan to leave work just yet as we are at about 22x our living expenses saved. I think I will be picky on what my next FT job is, or go down to a PT gig to bridge the difference. Not sure yet.

deborah

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Re: Has anyone Started ER with a sabbatical or a year's leave of absence?
« Reply #35 on: June 20, 2015, 05:20:50 PM »
I might be in the midst of a paid sabbatical, not by choice. I was laid off 2 weeks ago, with a small severance totaling about 5 months living expenses. After that I technically could collect EI for another 45 weeks or so. Was not my plan to leave work just yet as we are at about 22x our living expenses saved. I think I will be picky on what my next FT job is, or go down to a PT gig to bridge the difference. Not sure yet.
Well, another alternative would be to see if you could live on 88% of your living expenses (that would give you 25 x your living expenses already)