Should I Take A Sabbatical? Fears, Preparation, And Execution!

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After over a decade of working at my same job, I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a sabbatical, especially after having a conversation with my good friend Paul who plans to quit his job after saving a million bucks.  My firm offers a 3 month sabbatical for every 5 years of work.  The first month off is 100% paid, the second month is 80% paid, and the third month of sabbatical is 60% paid.  Not too shabby right?  Too bad working 10 years doesn’t mean getting double the sabbatical time.  It’s use it or lose it and I no longer want to miss out.

It’s quite a change for any young person who is used to 3 month summer vacations and 3 week winter vacations to graduate and work at a company that only offers 2 weeks off a year.  I remember feeling a little shocked when I first graduated, especially since people frowned if I took the entire 10 days off!  Til this day, I still feel guilty taking all my vacations, but I took 6 weeks off in 2011 anyway.

Eight weeks off a year, or two weeks off per quarter sounds like the ideal amount of vacation time.  Any more and I feel like I’ll tip towards being an unproductive member of society.  But, it doesn’t really matter because I will never be able to take 8 weeks off a year so long as I keep working, hence the idea of a sabbatical.

In this post, I want to address the fears and benefits of taking a sabbatical to help both of us come to a decision on whether taking one is the right move.

FEARS OF TAKING A SABBATICAL

* What if you no longer have a job when you return?  If the company does fine without you for 3 months, maybe they really don’t need you!  The fear of losing your job when you return is the biggest concern.

* What if they demote you or dock your pay?  If you take 3 months off, your year-end bonus could by reduced by 25% logically.  Although some companies say your bonus won’t be affected, you know that it will be rationed down.

* You miss out on big projects that could boost your career Part of success is being at the right place at the right time.  If a position you desire opens up due to another’s early retirement, you likely won’t be considered.

* You might lose touch with your clients, who are really your most important assets.  In a competitive environment where your competitors are always jockying for time with your clients, you will inevitably lose touch with your clients.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A SABBATICAL

* Make sure you give your managers at least 3 months heads up.  By providing as much heads up as possible, you will allow for your manager to find a suitable back-up or contingency coverage plan for you.  They will appreciate your long lead-time.

* Make sure you can afford it.  Calculate how much savings you have by the number of months you can cover without making any money.  I recommend saving up at least 12 months worth of expenses for every 3 months worth of sabbatical you are to take.  The more the better.

* Talk to all your clients about their thoughts on a sabbatical and gain their support.  I’m sure your clients would love to take sabbatical as well.  Don’t make them envious, instead, seek their counsel.  Invite them in on your journey so they feel they have a vested interest in your sabbatical as well.  Inform them of your back-up coverage.

* Set up auto pay for all your bills.  Make your rent, mortgage, electricity, car payments, student loan, and every other bill automatic.  You don’t want to miss a payment on sabbatical because your credit will get dinged.  One late payment can sink credit scores by as much as 60-100 points!

* Ensure your company or someone pays for healthcare.  Companies generally will cover your healthcare costs while you are on sabbatical, as you are treated as a regular employee.  If not, get private healthcare if you can’t be placed on your spouse’s health care plan.

* Start a blog to let people keep in touch.  If you have time, start a simple blog on wordpress.com or blogger.com and let everybody know about it before you leave.  Try and provide an update once a week or two so that your employers and clients can keep in touch.  This way, you won’t be completely out of sight and mind, thereby increasing your chances of employment when you return, and a more normal bonus.

WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A SABBATICAL

* Recharge your batteries!  Anybody doing anything for 5-10 years will get tired and want to try something new.  If the typical career lasts 40 years and you burn out after 15 and never return, that could do some serious financial damage.

* Discover what else you’d like to do.  There’s more to life than just doing one thing.  We may have unwittingly entered our current occupation out of necessity, forsaking what we really want to do.  I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but got a job offer out of school I couldn’t refuse.

* Expand your mind.  Did you know that only 60% of Americans have passports?  Meanwhile, so many of us only know only one language well.  Think how much better the world would be if we all spoke multiple languages, appreciated multiple customs, and experienced many more cultures?  To understand a language is to understand and respect the people.

* Relieve frustration and put things into perspective.  You may have recently been passed up for a promotion and didn’t get a raise and are fuming.  Meanwhile, the jacka** who worked half as much as you is now more senior to you because he so happens to come from the same University as the promoting manager.  By taking a break, you get to calm the nerves and put things back into perspective.  Are you living to work, or are you working to live?

* You might die an early death.  Imagine working for 30 years non-stop until you are 52 and then dying from a heart attack.  You planned to retire early at 55 and spend a good 25 years enjoying retirement on a cruise ship around the world but don’t.  By taking a sabbatical well before you are to retire, you hedge against an early death!  If you were to die early at 52, at least you’d have traveled the world during your time off while you were young and remembered those wonderful memories for many years.

CONCLUSION

If you’ve got some savings and you’re comfortable with the relationships you’ve built and the skills you’ve developed, go ahead and take a sabbatical within company guidelines.  You don’t want to short-circuit your career because you start resenting your job due to a lack of break time.  Yes, you should expect a decrease in short-term compensation, but your sanity and long-term financial outlook will thank you!

Untemplaters, what are your thoughts on taking a sabbatical?  Have you ever taken one?  What were the positives and negatives you experienced during your time off and when you returned?

Regards,

Sam

How To Make Money Quitting Your Job

“Personal

Unconventional Guides

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle March 1, 2012 at 5:25 am

Sounds like a great idea and a well thought out plan. I think that companies would realize the value of them in that renewed focus and drive will more than make up the time lost. After so many years, productivity starts to go down or flatten, and a recharge of the old batteries can give it a boost.

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Financial Samurai March 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

It’s part of the reason why companies are always looking for younger, hungrier workers! Us older farts start losing our enthusiasm, which is exactly why there should be a sabbatical culture!

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Daisy March 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

I would LOVE to take a sabbatical one day. I want to write a book and travel while doing it. I think that would definitely recharge workers’ batteries.

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Financial Samurai March 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

Sounds like a great Eat, Pray, Love moment! I don’t know if I ever want to write a book… kinda painful!

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John | Married (with Debt) March 1, 2012 at 6:35 am

Starting early next year, I could be in a position to do this as I transition to a new career.

I hope to save up a few months of expenses so I can find a new position without pressure. Best case scenario is I’ll have it lined up before I move on.

It is a bit daunting, but at the same time exciting. I’ve been working since I was 15 (15 years straight) and I could use a recharge.

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Financial Samurai March 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

Yeah, recharge for sure. How many weeks of vacation do you get and TAKE a year for the past several years?

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Invest It Wisely March 1, 2012 at 11:34 am

My current sabbatical is the first time I’ve really stopped working since I was 16, well, aside from a student exchange trip in 2007. That was also quite an adventure, though not quite as cool as yours — I didn’t work on the set of a film, and I only did tis once. ;) I still enjoyed it very much.

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Money Cone March 1, 2012 at 6:54 am

During the dotcom boom, a number of companies were offering this. Not sure how many allow a sabbatical these days. If yours does, you should take it up!

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20's Finances March 1, 2012 at 7:19 am

I couldn’t agree more. My wife gets 1 month off after 5 years, and we are planning on using it to travel. Sad, but it’s still 3.5 years away. Time to build up my online income to save up for the trip though. I especially enjoyed your point about dying early. I would hate to think that I worked so hard only to die without enjoying life.

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Financial Samurai March 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

Corey, you can’t already think about sabbatical after only working 1.5 years! :)

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Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog March 1, 2012 at 8:40 am

That is quite an awesome benefit sam and if you’re feeling burned out a bit you should take it! You never know when they will get rid of the benefit. You’re also getting a pretty good deal on the salary replacement, as they dont really have to pay you anything!

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Financial Samurai March 1, 2012 at 11:09 am

Yeah, they definitely don’t have to pay for anything. I’m still deciding whether to take a sabbatical, or plant the seed of sabbatical so they can lay me off in the next round so I can get the severance and take a sabbatical anyway!

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Sydney March 1, 2012 at 8:52 am

My company doesn’t have an official policy but I know one guy who took several weeks off unpaid. He’s left the company now but I don’t think it had anything to do with that, just found a new job. It’d sure be nice to take extended leave and have a job to come back to. I’d travel a lot if I ever took a sabbatical. If you have the opportunity, especially after being there for that long I’d take it!

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Financial Samurai March 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

You should definitely ask your HR or manager what exactly is the policy, even though you say there is no policy. If this is the case, your company should be flexible if they value your work!

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Invest It Wisely March 1, 2012 at 11:32 am

I’ve taken a permanent sabbatical. ;) Sure, I miss out on UI, but not really because blogging would make me ineligible for it. Getting laid off? Cool if you could swing it, but I already survived two takeovers. If anyone didn’t like me or if I was on the shortlist it would have happened.

Be careful in asking for the sabbatical, as merely asking can put you on a shortlist. Then again, if that’s what you want…

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Financial Samurai March 2, 2012 at 8:22 am

Indeed.. a sabbatical can plant a seed of doubt, and put you on the RIF list. Something one might exactly want! Severance and unemployment benefits can be huge!

http://www.financialsamurai.com/2012/02/06/dont-get-fired-or-quit-get-laid-off-instead/

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krantcents March 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I love the concept although I get 8-9 weeks in summer if I choose and Spring and Winter break (4 more weeks). I never could handle all that time off so I taught summer school or intersession.
I think there is a real risk of losing clients and replacing you. It may be worth it, if you are starting to burn out though. It will at least make for interesting stories, if you go.

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Financial Samurai March 2, 2012 at 8:23 am

Teaching is the one profession where I’m like, “I can do that!” given the 3-4 months of vacay a year! I want to do it after making my money though.

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Tyler S. March 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I’ve never really considered the option, but I don’t think my boss would be opposed. It would doubtless be unpaid though.

I like the idea of earning some serious paid time off by sticking with a company for a long time.

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Financial Samurai March 3, 2012 at 6:32 am

Sticking with a place for a while definitely has it’s benefits:

1) Retirement matching grows, with compounding effect
2) Vacation days increase
3) Credibility

But, you also begin to wonder what you’re missing. A topic of a good post!

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101 Centavos March 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm

A sabbatical sounds nice, but it’s not in our company culture.

I’ve seen people leave and eventually come back, not uncommon in an industry where good talent is in demand.

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Financial Samurai March 3, 2012 at 6:32 am

It’s sadly not in our company culture as well. Which means, asking for a sabbatical is more of a first step to signal a desire to do something else…….

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Melissa@PersonalFinanceJourney March 2, 2012 at 5:57 pm

By the time I decided to take a sabbatical, I was already burned out and ready to leave. I came back and worked one more year, but by then I was more than ready to leave. In my experience, if you are a valued employee and take a short-term sabbatical, those you work with will miss you and appreciate your return. If you take a sabbatical longer than a few months, they get quite used to life without you.

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Financial Samurai March 3, 2012 at 6:33 am

Wise words Melissa! I hear you. I’m not so much burnt out, I’m just itching to do new and exciting things!

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Tie the Money Knot March 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Take the sabbatical. Life is too short not to, if you have a chance. If someone has a job that is not directly dependent on client relationships, this would be a no-brainer.

I have a friend that had the opportunity to get 6 weeks after a certain number of years (6 or 7?), and he actually spent that time to look for another job in another part of the country. Might have been better to just chill out and decompress, but with a young family and a wife wanting (demanding?) to move closer to her family, he didn’t seem to have a choice. At least he made some use of the time, but I have to think that it would have been great for him to chill out and spend time with the kids for a short period of time.

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Financial Samurai March 8, 2012 at 7:02 am

I agree. It’s either take the sabbatical, or figure out a severance package which actually grants a 2-3 month PAID sabbatical in the state of California called the WARN Act!

Will you be taking a sabbatical?

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Chuck March 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm

I was able to take a year and a half off. During that time I improved my relationship with my daughter ten fold, shaved several strokes off of my handicap and learned to blog…time well spent.

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Financial Samurai March 8, 2012 at 7:02 am

Sounds like a priceless experience! What are you doing now?

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John February 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Having had the same profession for 31 years (commissioned media sales) and with new accountability and tracking systems in place…the idea of a sabbatical sounds great. But in this economy, can one really afford it? If you have a new job to come back to or savings or rich uncle…more power to you. But for folks over fifty…many having to postpone retirement, this could force either retirement or unemployment.

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Financial Samurai February 28, 2013 at 4:19 pm

If you’ve been working and saving for 31 years, surely you deserve it and can afford it! That’s a lot of compound growth since 1982!

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