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Taking time off before permanent retirement
Old 12-20-2008, 05:15 AM   #1
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Taking time off before permanent retirement

I turn 40 next month and the earliest I could retire permanently, from my primitive calculations, is my early 50's. We are a one-income family and I will not have a pension so retirement depends on 401ks and other savings.

While early-50s does not sound bad to me as an early retirement age, my children will be grown by then and I'd really rather have some time NOW, or soon, while they still want to spend time with me. We currently have about a year and a half (at current spending levels) in savings outside of retirement accounts. I believe we could make it last 2-3 years with reasonable spending cut-backs, even longer with more drastic action (like selling the house and moving into a family-owned home rent free).

Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

Spending significant time with kids (currently ages 12 and 9) while they are still at home and making memories to last the rest of my life. DH is a SAHD and homeschools the girls so we'd all be together.

Returning to the workforce after significant time off may be a challenge.
It seems unwise to voluntarily leave a job that pays well and has good benefits.
Spending our savings would mean we would no longer have an emergency fund.
I haven't figured health insurance into it yet so this cost could significantly impact how much time off I'd have.

What else should I be thinking about? I've been day-dreaming about the possibility of being laid off, which would negate CON #2 and add about 21-weeks of full pay (severance and vacation hours) to our savings.

This is my first post to these forums, although I've read them off and on over the last couple of years. I welcome any thoughts/input.

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Old 12-20-2008, 06:03 AM   #2
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Con #1 can be a more significant challenge depending on your field/skillset and your geo location. I've heard it said that you need to figure 1 month of looking for every $10-15k of earnings. Again that really depends...just a rule of thumb. So, if you make $100k now, figure on spending 7-10 months on a job search. Remember, if you are unemployed, the search is more difficult.

Another thing to consider is part-time work for both you and SAHD. Could you both work 15-20 hrs a week each to ease the burden on your savings? Would your present employer let you work half time from home (get up early and get a couple hrs in before the kids arise, for example). Another option would be to switch roles for a while, your turn to SAHM, his turn to work....maybe have a six month break where you are both off.

...just my two cents...or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint.


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Old 12-20-2008, 10:51 AM   #3
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I spent some time where we both worked part-time and it was GREAT for family time. Kids always had a parent home. One or the other of us was always available to volunteer in classrooms, run family errands, work on house projects, keep up housework, make special dinners, plan get togethers, and all that other stuff that gets hard when you are working full time. If you can swing it, if SAHD is willing, you might consider you both working part-time. You have a few more years of kids being young enough to get a lot of joy out of it.
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Old 12-20-2008, 05:42 PM   #4
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My wife stayed at home for many of my son's formative years, and I worked at home, and we treasure every day we got to spend with him. However you can swing it, it's worth a lot. But, if you are highly-paid and have some seniority, do not underestimate the difficulty of finding new work after a period away. I left a secure job too soon years ago and was mortified to find that the demand for my skills wasn't what I thought, and the difficulty of matching my previous benefits was much greater than I thought. Rather than leave, perhaps you can try to evolve your current schedule/responsibilities to allow more time at home. This can be the best of both worlds. The 4-Hour Workweek has some great ideas on how to go about that. That you would be willing to leave, if necessary, gives you added negotiating leverage.
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Old 12-20-2008, 10:08 PM   #5
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Your 40's are your peak earning years. Being retired myself, I don't think it is a good idea to get into the relaxed atmosphere of retirement at your age. Hopefully your job provides you with a lot of enjoyment and social interaction - which is what most Americans need at your age.

As far as your kids, you may dream of spending time together, but in reality once they are in school, they have their own friends - their own world. A long time ago I received some advise from a psychiatrist friend. Most fathers spend less than 1/2 hour per week of quality time with their children. Quality time means direct interaction together. I suggest you use that extra money you seem to enjoy the weekends together. Take a trip to Disneyland, or a trip anywhere that both you and the kids would enjoy together. It might give Mom a little free time as well.

The secret is to plan something for say every other weekend - and never break your promise. Give your kids something to look forward to; let them invite their friends too. From my experience, this is the best way from a parent to interact with their kids in our American culture.
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