Planning a Sabbatical
The Dream Life
How often do you find yourself comparing your life with those “living the dream?” We constantly fill our time with these thoughts. Buy this product and your life will dramatically improve. Take this action and your life will have no worries. One evening while watching TV or one morning while on your way to work, count how many times you hear this message.
Eventually, we buckle to this Chinese-water-torture-style marketing. Even when the messaging does not convince us to buy, we still compare our lives to those living the dream. For example, consider how our society reveres Hollywood stars, the wealthy, and the powerful. We look at them and tell ourselves, “If only I could have this, my life would be complete.” These lives play out with leisure and are full of happiness. Or at least, this is what we think.
How can you get more of these features in your life?Enter the sabbatical. Often, we associate a sabbatical with the college professor who takes time off to study or travel the world. However, many companies provide a sabbatical as an employee benefit. Charles Schwab is one example. For every five years of qualified service to the company, the employee receives one paid month off. The employee may still use his or her normal vacation during the year as well. As you can see, this allows for many possibilities.Still, most companies, primarily small ones, cannot provide this benefit, which keeps the sabbatical at bay.
How about those people who have the dream life?
Take two sailing stories, for example.
Brian Trautman and his crew produce the popular YouTube series “SV Delos” and have had many favorable life experiences. Brian was a software engineer who worked 70-hour weeks (2.) He notes in his blog, “My priorities were a lot different then and I lived to work rather than worked to live (2.)” Bitten by the sailing bug, Brian developed a four-year plan to travel the world that involved reading as many sailing blogs and as much sailing material as he could. The four-year plan included Australia as a destination and a budget to get there.
Once the sailing fund emptied, the crew had to find ways to pay for their adventures. In a popular blog post, Brian lists four of their early practices for continuing the journey.
- Brian would work remotely a few hours each day on IT projects (3.)
- The crew would work as hard as it could in the off-season, saving money to fund the next season (3.)
- Everyone paid his or her own way, including family and friends who visited (3.)
- They took advantage of moneymaking opportunities whenever and wherever they could (3.)
Brian also notes that part of the success of the Delos journey originates from the frugal nature of sailors. “… (C)ruisers are incredibly cheap. Imagine the cheapest person you know, then double their level of cheapness. Most cruisers are still even cheaper than this, and for good reason. The majority of people are trying to stretch every cruising dollar- just like you.”
The cost of this lifestyle is great, not necessarily in money terms, but in terms of opportunity by missing time spent with family and friends. Brian notes that if the journey wasn’t this way, it wouldn’t be worth it.
The second sailing story focuses on SV LaVagabonde. The crew of LaVagabonde, Riley and Elayna, are world cruisers like the crew of the Delos. To fund his adventure, Riley notes, “For eight long years, I worked offshore on oil rigs and in the mines of Western Australia, saving every dollar possible to be able to afford a halfway-decent Yacht (5.)” Riley also spent significant time studying where to buy his boat. He found that Europe was much cheaper than Australia.
Here are a few tips from Riley and Elayna to keep things moving.
- Research a place before you go.
- Let others be generous towards you. You both may enjoy it.
- Try to find an internet cafe or library instead of a restaurant.
For purposes of a sabbatical, not only will this help you save money if you are traveling, but it also points out the implied benefit of using the free services you may have access to use.
Today, both crews are gaining support through Patreon, a website through which fans can contribute to supporting a group in creating videos, music, and webcomics (4.) They are doing what they love and are giving back by sharing videos that have turned a sabbatical into a new way of life.
Examine the why for your sabbatical
Taking time off work is valuable in terms of preventing burnout and getting to spend time with family and friends. However, taking extended time away from work does not necessarily make for a sabbatical. Rather, it becomes an extended vacation. A sabbatical requires a cause or purpose for taking time off from work or your current life. The second differentiation between a sabbatical and a vacation is the cost. If the cost is not high, you may be justifying an extended vacation. Think again about the cost our sailors have paid in missed time with family and friends.
The purpose of a sabbatical typically shows up in a person’s core values in the form of goals and objectives. Yoursabbatical.com notes, “The most meaningful sabbaticals are planned ones – with specific goals and objectives designed to benefit both you and your company.” Do your core values show up in your reasoning for the sabbatical?
A workforce experiences many benefits from sabbaticals. For starters, when an employee takes a sabbatical during a recession, the company can reduce expenses while the employee takes the time to pursue a lifelong dream. Also, the company may be able to save enough money to avoid layoffs during an economic downturn (6.) While management and executives are away taking their own sabbaticals, someone will need to step into the empty role for a short period of time. There is value in creating impromptu training for the next worker who may occupy the role (6.)
Beyond the benefits to the company, sabbaticals provide an important intercultural financial practice – learning what it’s like to spend the money you saved. Unlike most Americans, who have a spending problem, those who save for decades often develop the habit of reducing their spending while still collecting cash. While such an action is noble, retirees often experience a strong urge to not spend in retirement. They forgo life-changing opportunities. The benefit of a self-funded sabbatical is that it gives you the experience of enjoying your money along the way. Later, when you cannot work or officially retire, spending the money does not become an issue. The biggest benefit involves the fact that saving and planning habits have already been settled. You get to enjoy “retirement along the way.”
How younger workers may use a sabbatical
Millennials have gained a reputation for changing jobs often. Gallup.com noted in an article last year that about 50 percent of Gen Y planned on staying at their current employer (7.). Sixty percent were open to new opportunities (7.) The article also pointed out that only 29 percent of Millennials are emotionally and behaviorally engaged with their jobs or companies.
The reasons for these frequent job changes are not discussed here but are brought up to explain the opportunity that exists in the practice of changing jobs often. The self-funded sabbatical may be a perfect opportunity for this generation to find more happiness and fulfillment while highlighting the financial behaviors discussed above. However, when planning a self-funded sabbatical, it is important to avoid missing any important benefits, like vesting (the schedule of how long an employee must work at a company before the employer’s match becomes the employee’s property) of company matching on 401(k)s. Sometimes, the vesting period lasts up to six years.
Delaying a traditional retirement may be a setback for younger workers who plan on taking several sabbaticals during their professional careers. Time away from work may result in periods of not saving money or, worse yet, dipping into savings earmarked for senior years.
However, while some non-Millennials aren’t willing to even consider the idea of a self-funded sabbatical, younger workers may be willing to take on this risk that may require working later in life. In fact, there are several benefits to working after the age of 65.
-Living longer. An Oregon State University study found that “working past age 65 could lead to longer life, while retiring early may be a risk factor for dying earlier.”
-Employer benefits. You may be able to get health insurance, paid vacations, and other traditional benefits.
– Reduced withdrawals from your portfolio. Because you are earning income, the needed withdraws from your other assets should lessen
– Social. Many people do not realize the importance of interacting with peers. This keeps our minds engaged and can increase happiness.
Mechanics of a self-funded sabbatical
Let us assume that you have completed the process of determining why you want a sabbatical and you agree that you can use this self-created benefit as you advance in your career. Now it’s time to figure out the funding. To complete this, we need a fictional case study to explain the math. Our example will not consider taxes and other important things like health insurance. This is where the benefit of working with a Certified Financial Planner may be realized.
Consider Jan, who is in her early 30’s and has been moving from job to job every few years as she climbs the corporate ladder. Currently, she makes $65,000 a year and would like to take a one-month sabbatical to help a not-for-profit take care of disadvantaged youth. Jan is considering taking this sabbatical in either 36, 48, or 60 months and is interested in determining what she needs to save each month to carry out this goal.
If Jan will need $5000 for use in 36, 48, or 60 months she will have 35, 47, or 59 months to save while she works. Jan will have access to different vehicles to save the money, like CDs, bond mutual funds, stock funds, and money market funds. Jan likes to play it safe and isn’t willing to subject her savings to variations in the stock or bond market. She will be using low-yielding instruments like CDs or money market funds. Jan can save the following amounts every month to amass her $5000.
Time to Sabbatical Required Monthly Savings
If Jan has some flexibility and reasonable outlays, she should be able to accomplish her goal of saving $5000. Even if she runs a tight budget, Jan will likely be able to cut out a low-value cost to live her dream experience.
Let’s take the example a step further. Assume Jan spoke to a friend who recommended she invest the monthly contributions into moderate-risk items like bond mutual funds and a small portion into blue-chip stocks, creating a return of three percent yearly. How would Jan’s required monthly savings change?
Time to Sabbatical Required Monthly Savings Earning 3%
60 months-$ 78.75
48 months-$ 100.39
36 months-$ 136.87
As you can see, the power of compounding reduces Jan’s needed monthly contribution. The longer the time until she takes the sabbatical, the larger the benefit from letting the money work. Either savings plan will make Jan happy. The money and regular action of saving are simply the means to the end of Jan being able to work with the disadvantaged children. Both plans are doable.
On a side note, you may even be able to include some of your work benefits, like unused vacation time, to fund the sabbatical. Although this makes the calculation more complex, working it into the picture may reduce your needed monthly savings. However, you may be forgoing the use of vacation time along the way.
How does a self-funded sabbatical affect long-term savings?
Jan’s savings will put her on track for her sabbatical, but she cannot forget about the long-term picture. She will somehow need to make up the missed savings for the month when she will not be working. With moderate increases in her long-term savings (on top of the savings required to fund the sabbatical), she will be able to keep her retirement plan on track as well. Jan can increase her retirement account savings by one of the following amounts to make up for the month she will not be working.
Time Until Sabbatical Required Increase in Monthly Retirement Savings
60 months 1.69%
48 months 2.12%
36 months 2.85%
If you plan on working self-funded sabbaticals into your career, make sure you follow the correct steps.
– Identify the why behind your sabbatical.
– Decide how long you want to wait before taking the sabbatical.
– Figure out your monthly savings requirement and the adjustment to your retirement savings plan.
– Start saving and investing.
– Enjoy the sabbatical.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 317-805-0840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Trautman, Brian-trautman. “How do we afford to sail? (Part 1)–By Brian.” SV Delos. SV Delos, 02 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 June 2017. <http://svdelos.com/2014/01/how-do-we-afford-to-sail-part-1-by-brian/>.
- Trautman, Brian-trautman. “How do we afford to sail? (Part 2) -By Brian.” SV Delos. SV Delos, 02 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 June 2017. <http://svdelos.com/2014/01/how-do-we-afford-to-sail-part-2-by-brian/>.
- h”How can we help you?” Types of questions. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017. <https://patreon.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/204606315-What-is-Patreon->.
- “How I Bought The Yacht and Afford to Sail.” Sailing La Vagabonde. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017. <http://sailing-lavagabonde.com/money-money-money/>.
- “Facts and Figures.” Facts and Figures | yourSABBATICAL. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017. <http://yoursabbatical.com/learn/>.
- Gallup, Inc. “Millennials: The Job-Hopping Generation.” Gallup.com. N.p., 12 May 2016. Web. 19 June 2017. <http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/191459/millennials-job-hopping-generation.aspx>.
- Schlesinger, Jill. “Working past age 65 has many benefits.” Chicago Tribune. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017. <http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/success/savingsgame/tca-working-past-age-65-has-many-benefits-20160714-story.html>.