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Sabbatical
Old 11-25-2012, 12:29 PM   #1
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Sabbatical

I initially joined the Class of 2014, but over the past months I have been processing and reprocessing the whole idea of FIRE and as a result I have come to consider a sabbatical of 1-2 years and potentially returning to work force for another 5 or so years after that. I would be curious to hear from people who have done similar things, regardless of which term you might have used for the extended time off in place of "sabbatical".

A bit more background from my situation:
- Currently working for a megacorp as a technology executive. Recently the "every day is a perfect storm" culture that is primarily generated by my boss has really started tiring me, and just a thought of two more years is not even slightly appealing any more.
- Some months ago we reached the borderline FI level when calculated based on today's expenses plus private health insurance estimate. Obviously, it would always be nice to spend a bit more in retirement, which is the reason why I was initially going to stay in my current job until the end of 2014.
- All this retirement date speculation was recently made a mute point by DW who came to a firm conclusion that she really has no interest in retiring now and will want to continue working full time as long as she finds her job challenging. This could be anything from 5 to 15 more years for her. The last 5 years our total spending has varied between 60% and 100% of DW's net income, so this decision from DW pretty much evaporates all immediate financial concerns.
- DW says she has no problem if I want to retire now and become a full time housekeeper, but after 20+ years with me she claims she knows me better than I know myself. She thinks that after being so ambitious and competitive for the past decades I won't be able to change just like that, but that after three months I will be bored silly and looking for something else. Personally, I feel so burned out right now that I find cooking and ironing the next 30 years extremely appealing, but I have to give DW a benefit of doubt. She tends to have a track record of being right on this kind of stuff. However, I think I will need at least 12 months to unwind my brains and to really have a good idea what I want to do once I grow big.

Now, back to my question: How realistic is it to think that I can take 1-2 years off and then at the age of 50 return to work force without much of a problem. Having done plenty of hiring myself, I know that if it was a person who was not known to me before, it would raise lots of questions or might even be a immediate deal killer if there were other good candidates. I am fairly well known within my industry, which should help if I get motivated to go back to doing pretty much same stuff that I have always done - just for a different megacorp. But I imagine I would rather try a different field for change, where I could still perhaps apply my experience on managing high-performing teams and strategic projects. I imagine that having a line like "2013-2015 stayed home recovering from burnout" in my resume might not open many doors for me.

So this is what I have been thinking recently. If someone actually had time and energy to read this far, perhaps you could now share your thoughts. Or maybe I'm just over thinking it all, and should rather trust my gut that after three months of FIRE I will have absolutely no desire to ever work for the man. Maybe DW is wrong, just once in her life.
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:45 PM   #2
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I am a decade younger than you, but the prospect of turning 40 next year has me reconsidering how I want to spend the next 20 years. I am sorely tempted by a sabbatical starting in 2014 since I would like a "time out." I have similar worries to yours. DW, who is a career counselor by trade, has suggested that I would need a resume "fig leaf" for whatever period of time I was on the bench. This could be as simple as "MYOFB LLC Consulting" with a plausible story or business case to go with it.
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:01 PM   #3
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At the age of 40 (1990) and being totally burned out from a job in the financial field, I decided to take a year's sabbatical. I was not quite FI but well on my way and I really really needed to take some time off to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my working career. My wife continued working during this period and with two kids in grade school I did all the home front things ( it was actually kind of interesting being the only guy in a lot of school functions - a sign of the times I'm sure it's not that way anymore). What I discovered during that time was that I really liked the not working bit. I did not get bored and found plenty to keep me entertained. When the sabbatical was finished it gave me the impetus to get back to my field (it paid the best) but with the clear goal of achieving FI/ER which happened in 2002. And it has been great.

Sounds like the OP is farther along the process than I was in 1990. My suggestion would be to try the sabbatical and see how it goes. Although that's probably heresy at this board, ER is not for everybody but in my mind the only way to truly find out is to try it for a while. As to getting back to work at 50-52 if things don't work out - can't offer much advice there. I didn't have any problem finding a job after my sabbatical but I was in my early 40's then different age and a different world.
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:07 PM   #4
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When I first quit it was just to take a one year sabbatical. That was YE '99. In a very pleasant way it grows on you.
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:15 PM   #5
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I am in the middle of something similar right now, and almost the same age. After 8 months of ER/ sabbatical, I am thinking about going back to a different field entirely. I feel no need to go back to the highly competitive, crisis every moment corporate life, but have found that having no one to play with gets a little old for my personality. These 8 months have been glorious - lots of rest, lots of travel. Perfect for recovering from burnout. My ER spending is under budget, so I could continue like this indefinitely. But I have also had time to think about how I really want to spend the next 10-15 years, and come to the conclusion that I have not explored all options, just eliminated one.

I have not had problems getting interviews, but have been advised that if I stay out much longer I should set myself up as an independent consultant to avoid questions about what I've been doing.
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Old 11-25-2012, 02:20 PM   #6
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I took 2 years off at 45 to pursue my "hobby", bioinformatics. I'm in the software development field and getting back into the field was a little bit of a challenge. My software specific skills had declined somewhat and I was a bit behind with the new stuff.

Also, at age 50, there is plenty of discussion about age discrimination and offshoring. So, those are real concerns to consider.

But in the end, its all about rate and marketing. I didn't take 2 years off... I was an entrepreneur! I did this and I did that and it didn't work out (I've actually have done this several times).

You take the first gig that presents itself and drop your income to make it happen. Then you climb that ladder until you are comfortable.

For an tech executive, craigslist is always full of opportunites to work for free to help you get back in. So, your obstacles for returning should be manageable.

Go for it!
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Old 11-25-2012, 06:43 PM   #7
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I am at the end of a year long sabbatical, but from a different field (medicine).
I have opted to re-enter the fray, but in a different field of practice that did not require going back for more training, but did require plenty of continuing education and reading to make the switch.
When I started interviewing a few months ago, potential employers seemed to think I was "odd" to take a year off. No one seemed to understand that burn out happens. Every bit of credentialing I have had to do insists on long explanations for the "gap" in my resume. Despite all of that, I have found what seems like a wonderful job, working 40 hours a week in a varied and focused field of practice, instead of the 12 hour days and emotional demands of being an office based oncologist.
I am so glad I took this year. I slept, read, traveled, did home improvements, made new friends, exercised and was able to be 100% available to my elderly father who has had a number of health challenges and really needed an advocate. There is absolutely no regret. I am nervous about returning to work just after New Year's, afraid that I have gotten too used to freedom. Time will tell. It helps that I am just about FI and so if I am unhappy I would not stay the course for years and years.
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Old 11-25-2012, 11:03 PM   #8
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My wife of 20 years also doubted if I could completely retire a few years ago. She was right.

Make sure you have a solid plan for what you will do in retirement. If you are even slightly type A the ironing and house work will get old quickly.
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ER'ed from the new car business Feb 2008. I'm 47, she's 45. Two boys ages 15 and 13. DW is SAHM. I've got a part-time used car lot I w*ork at 3 hours a day that keeps me in beer money.....
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Old 11-26-2012, 12:04 AM   #9
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I appreciate all the feedback. While I must admit Michael B's experience is what I wish for myself, I was also happy to hear about several successful returns to better jobs after the sabbatical.
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:42 AM   #10
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I have only been ER for a short time but I can't imagine going back to a mega corp environment. I don't think I could stomach corp BS for a minute now.

As for people wanting an explanation for a sabbatical gap. I think its similar to telling people you are ER. They can't fathom how you could do it. It just is something they cannot process. You must be crazy or lucky, right? They did no planning so how could anyone else have?

Tell them you took time off to care for a family member. You don't have to tell them it was you!
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Old 11-26-2012, 10:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rachel View Post
I am at the end of a year long sabbatical, but from a different field (medicine).
I have opted to re-enter the fray, but in a different field of practice that did not require going back for more training, but did require plenty of continuing education and reading to make the switch.
When I started interviewing a few months ago, potential employers seemed to think I was "odd" to take a year off. No one seemed to understand that burn out happens. Every bit of credentialing I have had to do insists on long explanations for the "gap" in my resume. Despite all of that, I have found what seems like a wonderful job, working 40 hours a week in a varied and focused field of practice, instead of the 12 hour days and emotional demands of being an office based oncologist.
I am so glad I took this year. I slept, read, traveled, did home improvements, made new friends, exercised and was able to be 100% available to my elderly father who has had a number of health challenges and really needed an advocate. There is absolutely no regret. I am nervous about returning to work just after New Year's, afraid that I have gotten too used to freedom. Time will tell. It helps that I am just about FI and so if I am unhappy I would not stay the course for years and years.
Rachel,

Thank you for sharing this. For some reason, this has made me feel much more comfortable about my own situation. I hope it has done the same for OP and others.

Please keep us updated occasionally with regard to your journey.

Thank you again.
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Old 11-26-2012, 04:42 PM   #12
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I RE'd at 53 from a technology executive position for the same reason OP mentioned. However, our situation is a bit different as DH was already RE'd. Although I did set up a consulting LLC, it so far has been a non-profit as I have had plenty enough to do and haven't had the inclination to do the sales and networking necessary to get any real gigs.

I would second the motion to set up the LLC as a resume cover. Who knows, it might even be what you decide to do in your 2nd career if RE is not for you. Good luck!
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:14 PM   #13
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I RE'd almost a year ago. At the time I said that I didn't really know whether it was RE or at least a year long break from work. I think I said that because I wasn't yet comfortable with the notion of being "retired" at 57.

I've got used to the idea over the last year, am really enjoying my newfound freedom and can't imagine going back to work. Odd thing is though that I have had occasional dreams of workplace situations on and off over the last month.

Unlike some others, I didn't hate my work - in fact, I really enjoyed my colleagues and most (but not all) of my clients - I was just tired of working and being on call all the time.

At the time my employer and I talked about my possibly doing some consulting on occasion, but so far their has been no need (which is what I told them at the time and is fine with me).
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Old 11-26-2012, 10:59 PM   #14
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I will (finally) FIRE in mid-2013.

I'm dressing it up as taking a career break so I can do a two year part time degree - in effect leaving the idea that I might be back on the table so that if something goes horribly wrong with this FIRE business, returning will be a bit easier.

As others have said, having something on your CV to explain a gap in employment besides "sandologist" is valuable when looking for a job.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:31 AM   #15
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I retired comfortably FI in Jun 2011 at age 57. DW, 2 years younger than me, tells me she plans to work until mid 2014.

My plan was to start a second career doing something completely different in a few years. So far I still haven't been inclined to start a search for that second career, I'm leaving my options open. I am enjoying the freedom of retirement 3 seasons of the year, winter sucks not so much.

I would not want to go back into the same industry/type of work I was doing (engineer/manufacturing exec) or I would have just stayed where I was, though I would expect that would be more probable I could find work there given my resume. I am not kidding myself that it will be easy to find another career at nearly 60 in another field, but who knows. I assume I will have to start almost from scratch again. If I can't find anything worth doing, so be it...
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