I Think You Should Take a Sabbatical Instead of Retiring Early

Last year I posed a question to the FIRE and Financial Independence subreddits: instead of saving for decades only to discover that retirement doesn't bring the satisfaction you thought it would, could you take a short break now to enrich your life and redefine your relationship with work?

My hypothesis is that a sabbatical is more effective than early retirement for helping people find meaning and enjoyment in their lives.

It turned into a popular post, with 270+ upvotes and over 100 comments. I was happy to see such a positive reaction to sabbaticals from the early retirement community, and there were some great comments with personal stories and insights.

Sabbatical Pros Compared to Early Retirement

  • Typically available much sooner than early retirement; you only need cash to cover the finite time period of your sabbatical instead of investments that generate self-sustaining returns.
  • Better suited to time-sensitive goals like recovering from burnout, traveling, or raising a family.
  • Provides time and space to reflect on what is important to you and pursue aligned work.
  • Better career continuity if you decide to return to work.

Sabbatical Cons Compared to Early Retirement

  • You still need relatively large cash reserves. Use my Sabbatical Budget Worksheet to figure out how much money you need to take a sabbatical.
  • Potential to lose career momentum, which could lead to less desirable work and set back retirement.
  • Dealing with the pressure of having a defined runway and knowing that you will need to return to work eventually.

How A Sabbatical Helps Address Common Early Retirement Risks

Taking a sabbatical can help address some of the risks associated with early retirement by providing a period of time for individuals to assess whether they are truly ready for retirement and to test out their retirement plans.

Here are some ways a sabbatical can help address risks associated with early retirement:

  1. Financial Planning: A sabbatical can provide individuals with an opportunity to test out their retirement budget, expenses, and income streams. This can help them determine if they are financially prepared for retirement, or if they need to make adjustments to their plans.
  2. Health: During a sabbatical, individuals can focus on their physical and mental health, which can help prepare them for a healthy and active retirement. This can also help individuals identify and address any health issues that may impact their retirement plans.
  3. Social Engagement: A sabbatical can provide individuals with an opportunity to explore new interests and activities, which can help build social networks and reduce the risk of social isolation in retirement.
  4. Psychological Adjustment: A sabbatical can also help individuals adjust to the psychological changes associated with retirement. For many, retirement can be a difficult transition, and taking a sabbatical can provide a "practice run" to help ease the adjustment process.

My Favorite Comments From The Discussion

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Reddit comment screenshot

Reddit comment screenshot

Reddit comment screenshot

You can read the full post and discussion here.

Invitation: Reflect on the life you want to live in retirement. Could you use a sabbatical to reach that lifestyle more quickly than retiring early? If you're still planning to retire early, have you considered your emotional needs along with your financial needs in your planning?

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Six Month Sabbatical Budget Review

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