Jamie Clark, a Seattle-based software engineer, had planned to take a year off work in 2016 to complete a master’s in computational linguistics. One year became three, and it was time to make a career shift into financial planning.
Clark uses they/them pronouns today. This is especially true after their career break.
Clark, a financial planner certified by the Financial Planning Institute, says that part of their job is to prepare people. He recently started Ruby Pebble Financial Planning. “And I want people to build that flexibility span>
These are unpaid, extended breaks from work that are usually not paid. These breaks can be very aspirational, allowing you to travel, get a degree, change your career or start a business. They can also be triggered by life events like caring for a baby, taking care of a loved one, or dealing with burnout.
No matter what the reason, planning is key to making the most of your vacation.
Budget and save
CFP Henry Hoang, Irvine, California believes that most people don’t need to have detailed budgets as long as they are saving enough for their goals. He says that career breaks are an exception. You’ll need enough savings to last you when your paychecks stop. This starts by knowing exactly what you spend today and how much you will spend during your vacation. You might see a decline in costs such as child care or commute. However, you might face new costs such as higher premiums for health insurance if your current coverage has been employer-subsidized.
Hoang suggests that you add a fudge factor to the amount you have to save. This will allow you to cover unexpected expenses such as extra time to find your next job. Hoang’s friend didn’t do that and ended up raiding his retirement account to pay the bills.
Speaking of retirement, extended breaks can mean that you will need to work beyond your normal retirement age, or increase the amount of savings to be able to retire on schedule. Hoang suggests that if you plan to take longer than two years off, consult a financial advisor or a retirement calculator to determine how this might impact your plans for retiring.
Clark had enough savings from a high-paying position to cover their living expenses for two years. He was able, however, to extend that to three years after they got married. Clark paid their spouse’s bills, while Clark used the remaining savings to pay tuition and other expenses to obtain their financial planning credential.
Clark believes that meticulous tracking of expenses and thoughtful budgeting helped them save money, as well as relieved some of their stress at not having a job.
Clark states that there are always surprises but that it is important to minimize or minimize the impact on your finances.
Plan your time
While you may feel the need to take a break from your schedule, having no plan could mean you waste precious time that you have saved and prepared for.
Hoang shares another cautionary tale about a client who began his career with a strong desire for change and to spend more time with his children. Hoang said that his days were quickly filled with parenting duties and he didn’t take the time to look into other careers. He returned to his field after his savings ran out.
“Having clarity about what you want from your career break can make a huge difference in the experience overall,” Hoang said.
Your career break goals will determine the details of your plan. However, it is worth scheduling lunch with a professional colleague at least once a month to keep in touch with developments in your field and maintain your network. Consider a career shift. You should establish a time frame for when you will complete certain steps. This could include meeting with a career counselor or determining the education and certifications that you will need.
Look at Alternatives
It may not be possible to take a long career break. It may be impossible to take a long career break due to too much debt, too many bills, or too many people relying on you. You may be hesitant about quitting your job if there are no other opportunities.
However, that doesn’t mean you are stuck.
Some employers offer paid sabbaticals. Others provide unpaid leave for workers who are in need of a break. If you are a parent, foster or adopt a child, have a serious medical condition, or care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious condition, you may be eligible to receive up to 12 weeks unpaid, job protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Your employer might be willing to reduce your work load, give you less responsibility, or transfer you to a lower-paying job. This could allow you to spend your time and energy on the things that matter to you and what you want to do next.
This article was originally published by The Associated Press and was written by NerdWallet.