Mini Retirements in your 40’s: Are they plausible?


Tim Ferris coined the term Mini Retirement and since then stories of twenty-somethings embarking on “mini-retirements” have been highlighted as inspirational tales of a new philosophy but can it truly be realized throughout your entire career?  

As defined by Ferris, a mini retirement is an intentional extended break in your career, every several years, throughout your career. Instead of working for 45-50 years, setting aside 15% of your paycheck each month for 600 months in order to stop working altogether at the age of 65 and still have enough money to do whatever you want, in theory, you would plan several breaks, or mini retirements, throughout your life to break up the grind of a 9 to 5 and reset your mind, body and spirit.

I’ve read numerous articles of twenty-somethings embarking on their first mini-retirement. It may be too early to have studied this theory in depth but in order to talk it being sustainable we should check in with people who have done it a bit older. Many of us would agree with spending some time in our twenties to “find ourselves” and figure out who we want to be and what we want to do with our lives. It might mean trying different jobs or traveling. Can this be called a mini retirement? All of the accounts I’ve read have been about twenty-somethings. But what happens when you are older and you are ready for a mini retirement?

Carol, a Senior Director of IT, has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has considered taking time off but questions if stepping away from her job at this time would make it harder for her to find another one. 

“At a younger age, yes, you can do it. I believe it will be harder, at 46.” Navigating age discrimination is trickier. “It is important to have built a network in order to have an in back into the market when you return at an older age.”

“I think, without a network, your 30s would be the last chance to take a long time away from work and be able to jump back in, unless you plan to make a career switch.”

“To come back to the same field in IT is harder because of the constant technology change.” A career change may be more feasible than trying to come back at the same level in the same industry. She’s found by talking to people from outside her industry that jobs are coming available in her area and realizes that switching industries may be an easier option.

Also, when you are entering the work force for the first time, entry level jobs are more abundant than reentering the workforce later in life when your senior level management. 

As you get older, expectations and needs are greater. Experts say, the forties are when you are making the highest salary you will make in your working career so walking away from it can be a risk you may or may not be willing to take.

Hernan, along with his wife, both in their forties, took 9 months off and traveled to 26 countries in 2016. Hernan, as a senior level art director, is in a field where you are expected to be in the office everyday and the hours are hardly 9 to 5. An average work week is about 60 hours and working weekends is expected. He tells us about his experience.

Why did you take a mini retirement?
You can’t really wait until you are 65 years old to see if you can make it around the world. I wanted to see the beauty of the world itself, the physical world, and other ways of life, culturally speaking.

Many people take the leap to take a break from work and find that they never go back. They transition to something else. Did you have any expectations of that happening? 
I was open to whatever came along, whether it be opportunities to work and continue traveling or something new altogether that would allow us to have money coming in while still being able to explore the world. 

What were your biggest concerns/fears about taking 9-months off?
My biggest concern was will I find a job when I return, will it look bad on my resume? How do I explain this gap year? My industry moves fast, will I be outdated when I return? How long is too long to be out of the work force? 

Did you ever try to find remote work? did you think about working while traveling to offset costs?
I didn’t push too hard for that because we were traveling so fast. If I had to take a job that meant I would miss something in that place. I only took a couple of freelances during the trip.

Upon your return, what did you think reentering the work force was going to be like?
I thought that companies were going to be fighting each other to hire me because oh my God, this guy traveled the world. He now has so much experience that we need to tap into it. And I found out that they don’t give a fuck. they really don’t. In almost every interview when it comes up they tell you ‘wow, that’s awesome’ but that’s all you get. they might ask you ‘what’s your favorite place’ but it’s never ‘how did that change you?’ 

Was it difficult for you to find a job when you returned?
The thing is not how easy or hard it was. It was how good or bad were the jobs that you were going to find. How picky can you afford to be? It is tough and I think that today would be tougher than a few years ago.

Why is that?
Because the industry that I am in is getting more difficult to find a full time job. Budgets are being cut and the realtionships between agencies and clients are changing. the business model is no longer having an agency on the record that does everything but by project. so the agencies staff is smaller with more and more freelancers. When there are more freelancers the fight is more difficult for freelancers to get gigs and at the rate they used to be. And that model is here to stay. So as you get older and the model is changing, keeping the same money coming in is difficult. 

Would you do it again before you technically “retire”? 
Yes. I would do it again. The same way. We planned for it, saved for it, and went for it.  The only thing I might do differently is I would try to get more income coming in during the trip. I’d absolutely do it again. I don’t think taking another 9 months to a year off will change the way we retire. 

I don’t think it is something we lost.I think it is something we gained.