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Is taking a break or a gap year before you retire right for you?
June 8, 2022

Gap Year

You might be thinking, gap years are just for students, right? Think again. It can easily apply to a pause in your career between jobs or before retirement. A gap year for adults is considered a career break or a sabbatical from the work you were doing. It typically lasts for one year and has a start and an end date with the goal to assess, de-stress and reconnect with life at a different pace. It doesn’t have to be an entire year, it could be a month or several months. It’s just very important that it is deliberate and has a specified beginning and end. A gap year or break can be very appealing to people contemplating retirement, however without proper planning, it can also derail you from your goals.

Make good financial decisions

Before you contemplate a gap year, you’ll want to be sure that you are financially secure. You don’t want to have to worry about receiving a paycheck each week and you will want the freedom to make the choices necessary to obtain the goals of this period. Some people enter retirement and have decided that they still want or need some additional income from a part-time, consulting gig or possibly even full-time job. This is ok, and can even be part of your plan for a gap year. We highly recommend that you work with an independent financial planner to help you run some modelings to make sure that a gap year could be right for you. Once you have identified your financial abilities, a world of limitless opportunities opens up to take time off you need.

Identifying the potential pitfalls to a gap year before retirement

Without proper planning, it is not uncommon for the thrill of no schedule, even if for just a short period of time, to take you down the path of developing unhealthy habits. The danger can be that without discipline, creating these unhealthy habits can turn into longer term problems that weren’t part of your retirement plan. These habits can creep in quickly, for instance eating and drinking whatever and whenever you want, watching TV all day, sleeping in late every day for months. Of course, you deserve a break, but you really have to be careful about how you approach this to make sure that you don’t end up going down the wrong path.
A gap year might be useful if you’re just tired and need a break. We entered our retirement phase like this. We were burnt out from our careers, needed a break, and planned a semi-retirement sabbatical traveling around the world, eating, drinking and feeling happy. We had no schedule and no commitments. We did this for a short period of time (about four months) but we stopped abruptly when we realized we were losing control of what we envisioned for our future life. You have to be careful here – You should always have a plan or soft structure to your daily life and it’s important to have a start and an end date to ensure that you are striving to meet a goal vs. flailing about.

Reasons to take a Gap Year:

Follow you passion for Travel

Maybe you just want a year of uninterrupted travel. This is a great time to step away from your career, and before starting anything else, fulfill your travel passion. Here’s a tip, find a really good travel agent, don’t try to do this on your own. Reach out to us if you’d like a referral. This is an opportunity to really get creative and live large, maybe live in a foreign country for three months or do that safari you’ve always dreamed of. Consider a cross-country drive in an airstream or motorhome. Ski in Chile during the summer, or take the entire family away on a cruise…your options are endless.

Re-connect with your partner

Another reason to take a gap year is that maybe you and your partner feel that you just need more time together to reconnect. While divorce rates in America are down, gray divorce, divorce at a mature age is up from years ago. Maybe during your careers, you grew apart or lost some of the spark that may have existed when you first met. A gap year could be a good time to find your way back to one another. If you have a more serious relationship concern with your partner, a gap year with some counseling might be just what you need. Start thinking about doing some things together, cooking, pickleball, golf, or cycling. Your gap year is there to help rebuild a new life for you both before entering into retirement.

Investigate a new business

Starting a new business can make all the difference in the world during your gap year. You can do your research, start planning, and review your finances to ensure you are ready. Maybe one of your children has a business that you want to help them with, or maybe you’d like to get super involved with a non-profit organization – perhaps event create a new one? Using your lifelong skills in a different way can bring much fulfillment and enjoyment. It may be just the right time to get your juices flowing again. You may decide you’d like to do some coaching, mentoring or join a board to keep your brain active. A gap year can help you investigate that.

Write a Book

We believe that everyone has at least one book in them. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, listen to that voice and say and dive in! It’s not impossible to do, and there are many online resources available. We all show up in retirement with stories and experiences and writing a book can help you as well as help others. Maybe you can share how you were vulnerable with an illness or struggles that you may have had, or perhaps you created a unique approach to a business or business challenge that others would benefit from.

Work on yourself

A gap year is a perfect time to work on you. We all arrive at the end of our careers in different mindsets, and in different stages of health and wellness. This is a good time to say, “You know what, I’m going to focus some time working on me.” You can use this time to build a new life for yourself filled with new habits and routines to support a vision of wellness. We know too many people who arrive here at this retirement phase out of shape, and in retirement they get worse. They gain more weight, they drink more than they used to and are not able to live this phase of life to its fullest.
Perhaps when working on yourself, you have other goals in mind. This time away from work may be perfect for taking some graduate classes to explore some potential career changes. Or start a new hobby that you may wish to delve into more deeply into during retirement.

Here are some critical questions to ask yourself to be sure it makes sense for you to take a gap year:

1.     Why do you want to take a gap year? Write it down and be clear.
2.     If you are looking to travel, be clear where and why, have a purpose behind your travel. Is it sitting on a beach, historical trips, or is it adventure? Be clear with your intentions.
3.     Are you and your partner in alignment? Make sure that what you plan to do during this gap time works for both of you. Doing something together is great, but just make sure that both of you are on the same page.
4.     Have you identified and committed to a start date and an end date?
5.     Do you have the discipline to get back into a life with healthy habits and routines so that your life doesn’t run away from you? Really think, “What is my master plan for this phase of life?”
For those transitioning into retirement, a gap year is a chance to do everything that you’ve ever wanted to do during your working years and help you identify key components of your plan for retirement. Whether you’re an empty nester, taking a golden gap year or even an early retirement, or perhaps you’re a senior executive with a stressful business career, now is the perfect time to pull in the adventure you’ve always dreamed of.