‘Slog now, enjoy later’, isn’t that the classic motto of employment? But life doesn’t go by the book or the scheduling app on your mobile that you obsess about. Priorities change, markets crash, health plays truant, loved ones pass away and amidst all these uncertainties, is a real possibility that the prize you have been slaving for all your life might turn out to be irrelevant or undoable during your retirement years.
Don’t you wish there was a pause button, so you can take a break from the rat race and figure out what you really want? Here’s some good news for you. That magic button exists and it’s called mini retirement.
What is a mini retirement?
Starting from the top.
Mini retirement is a simple but powerful idea. Why wait for retirement to chase your dreams when you can fulfil them when you are in the prime of your life?
The idea was mooted by Tim Ferriss who, frustrated by work pressure, took a break from his job and travelled abroad (How the story resonates with each of us!). He documented his experiences in the book ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ which turned out to be a bestseller. In the book, Ferriss suggests that instead of the end of life ‘macro’ retirement that everyone takes, one can opt for mini retirements which are spaced throughout one’s career.
What a genius (and youth icon, we think)!
How is it different from a sabbatical?
At the heart of both concepts is the philosophy that taking a break from the monotony of the day job in favour of pursuing one’s passions gives a better work-life balance. But that’s where the similarities end.
One shot versus recurring
Sabbaticals are a one-time break, say at age 55, when one may plan a backpacking trip across Europe for six months.
Mini retirements are a recurring event, which take place in a staggered manner. You might take your first mini retirement at 25 then at 40 then maybe at 55 years and so on, depending on your life’s goals.
Back to the old job versus a fresh start
A sabbatical implies that the person taking it intends to return to regular employment after a short break. This could be anything from three months to a year. For instance, the CFO of a company may take a year’s break to work for a public policy project with the government. At the end of the project, he goes back to his previous company.
A mini retirement, on the other hand, is about severing old ties and starting fresh. Here the focus is not merely on a break to reset thoughts but to immerse into the unknown, picking up new skills and allowing the germination of a whole new way of life.
Things you can do in a mini retirement
A retirement may conjure up images of a rocking chair, but a mini retirement is anything but that! Of course, mini retirements are about that much-needed rest that you crave for after working gruelling hours but there is so much more to it. Here are some things you can do during your time off.
The best part? You can do multiple things since the mini retirements take place at different points of your life.
The college degree you earned may not necessarily be the field that you are passionate about. Perhaps you are an IT professional with an interest in journalism or a chartered accountant who wishes to equip yourself with legal knowledge. A mini retirement would be perfect for you. You can choose the program and university of your choice without being limited by job-related constraints.
Learn new skills
Forget about what you did before. What do you really want to do? Thinking along those lines opens up the world of possibilities out there. Scuba diving, yoga, performing arts, astrology, organic farming, playing the saxophone — there is so much to learn. Mini retirements provide an ideal opportunity to try your hand at things you have always wanted to do and who knows? It may be the beginning of a new career path for you.
The lure of the unknown, seeing places you have only read in books, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures – is there a better teacher than travel? But going around the world in your retirement (as exciting as it seems) comes with caveats related to health and stamina. Would you rather bungee jump off the Burj Khalifa when you are 35 or wait till you are 65? Cruises, 20-hour flights and train journeys, trekking, mountaineering surfing – mini retirements come at a time when your mind and body are at their prime helping you scale these milestones with ease.
At the height of a burnout, or something close to it, it is difficult to look beyond your immediate problems but having a wider outlook is an essential part of living in a society. Volunteering at an organization is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your mini retirement. Using your professional skills for the uplift of the lesser fortunate is an unmatchable feeling and a great way to make an impact on someone else’s life.
Why mini retirements work
With mini retirements, you don’t just throw caution to the wind, you are the wind itself! Unrestrained, light and unstructured, you are not held back by the barriers that are subconsciously built inside your head in so many years of conventional existence. Here are a few top reasons to take the plunge.
Gain a fresh perspective
In a 2009 TED talk given by reputed graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, he revealed that he closes his studio in New York for a whole year once in every seven years to fuel his creativity. Taking a significant break from the routine is well known to give the brain a much-needed cleansing which in turn helps the inflow of new ideas.
Discover new potential
As a professional, you have probably spent most of your adult life within the four walls of your chosen work field. But a stint of mini retirement and suddenly the floodgates of possibilities are flung open. Out of the blue, you may discover that you have a natural flair for teaching or rifle shooting or writing movie scripts. This could lead to new professional avenues and fulfil you the way your previous job wasn’t able to.
So you have spent a year on the road and are looking to rejoin the corporate world. Whether you go back to your old job or land something new, rest assured, this will be a version 2.0 of you where your outlook would have broadened. Free of burdens and constraints that previously held you back, you are sure to be a happier and more valuable worker to the organization.
How to make mini retirements financially viable
As idyllic as they seem, mini retirements aren’t the sweet-smelling bunch of roses they seem to be if your finances aren’t in place. Like the conventional planning for retirement, mini retirement too requires its share of careful planning and smart strategies to account for expenses when the paycheck you are used to receiving doesn’t come in anymore.
Saving in advance
You may have heard of this one? Well, if you have a grand plan of a mini retirement, the closer you are to this habit, the better. You must create a fund specially earmarked for mini retirement, putting away a little every month from your current salary.
The usual equation is basic expenses plus dream budget. Divide that figure by the number of months you can save, and there you have it! You now know when to begin. Free online trackers can help you determine how much you are likely to spend, so use them.
Related: Best Savings Accounts in Singapore
Saving during mini retirement
Since your regular income won’t be coming in, you will tend to tighten your belt, but a good saving strategy goes beyond that. Small changes go a long way, like homecooked meals or cycling instead of taking taxis. If you plan to travel, hotel expenses are usually the biggest culprit. You can cut that by registering on Couchsurfing, Homestay and others. Other options include staying in hostels or places outside the city where rent and tariffs are affordable (remember you are in no rush, and can enjoy a place at your own pace!).
Taking up temporary jobs
Did you say jobs? What’s the point you ask? We aren’t talking about the drudgery of a nine-to-five, but something that you always wanted to do! Apart from Netflixing your life away, that is.
Taking up a temporary employment while you pursue your passions during your mini retirement stint can ease out your financial situation. The odd tutoring job, freelance writing, teaching guitar on Skype, there is always a market for a good skill. Say you earn about S$500 a month, that could easily cover your monthly groceries, a big help in a life-altering decision like this.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Mini retirements can be liberating experiences and unpredictable too. Factor in the unexpected — doctor visits, unexpected travel, theft and so on before arriving at a figure. This helps create a cushion in case of emergencies.
Mini retirements may be the best decision of your life but don’t forget to tread with caution.
It might help to do a small dry run of the activity you plan to pursue during this break so that you can avoid regrets.
As you come to the end of your mini retirement, it helps to send out your updated resume to the places you’d like to work for, so you have some interviews lined up before you get back home.