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Five Big Reasons to Retire Often

Retirement doesn’t have to be a cliff.

You know, the edge of something, where you jump off and never climb back.

We live long lives for the most part, full of ups and downs and variations in momentum and satisfaction.

What if we were to harvest these opportunities and turn them into retirements we take early and often?

Instead of waiting for one big retirement, after which you’ll never work again, why not consider a few mini-retirements?

Learn more in today’s post from Jillian Johnsrud.

 

 

My family and I are a month into an 8-month-long road trip. While logging a lot of steps, a lot of drive time, and watching my kids play in the ocean, I’ve been thinking about all the amazing benefits of taking a mini-retirement. Here are five of the big reasons I’ve taken 10+ mini-retirements and the most common reasons my clients take time away from the 9-5.

 

1. Get Caught Up

 

So many of us feel like we are behind. Especially on everything that isn’t urgent but is important. Between work, family, and commitments, some things sit on the to-do list….indefinitely. All these things act like open tabs on your phone or computer. Each one left open isn’t a big deal in itself, but when there are 100 open tabs, it creates a mental burden that we carry through our days.

When Adam and I decided to take a year off, seven years ago, we had a list of 100 things to get caught up on. The years before were busy. We had adopted three kids, bought and renovated three homes, and worked full-time. It was an intense season of our life. There were decluttering projects, a kitchen renovation in one of our rentals, finishing our master bath, and visiting family.

 

Maybe you’ve missed holidays and birthdays. Maybe you missed vacations. Maybe there are 20+ books you have bought over the last few years and just haven’t had time to read. Maybe you didn’t make it to your friend’s wedding, and now they have a 3-year-old you still haven’t even met. Maybe you just want to finally clear the pile of mail off the counter and drop off the donation bags in the trunk of your car.

But there simply isn’t enough PTO, vacation time, or weekends to fit it all in. Taking a month or six months off allows you to get caught up on all those things that are important but never seem to make it to the top of the to-do list.

You can call your aunts and chat for an hour. You can see your niece’s sports game. You can say yes to your friend’s birthday trip. And slowly but surely, you will close the tabs and feel like you have a whole lot more bandwidth to think clearly.

 

2. Do Something New

 

When life is full (and it’s always full), there is rarely room for something new and big. Those things will take a lot of mental and emotional energy to get going. Plus the time commitment. Taking a break from your 9-5 can give you that time, energy, and mental space to try something new.

When we took a year off seven years ago, we were also ready to take a big adventure as a family. We bought a pop-up camper and set off with our five kids on a 6-week adventure. This served two functions, we were able to visit both sides of our family and do something new with our recently expanded family. That trip served as the first test run of taking long trips with our kids. After that, we took a 10-week road trip to ten National Parks. Then we upgraded our pop-up camper to a 26-foot hard-sided camper. Last year we did three months traveling over the winter.

People ask if we are nervous about traveling with our kids for eight months in a camper and homeschooling. Kind of. There are always unknowns, and every trip has unique challenges. But we have tested and scaled this trip many times to get here.

A few years before that, Adam took six months off of work. During that time, we started buying and renovating homes. We had no experience with renovations. We had never even owned a home before. I won’t say it would have been impossible, but we probably wouldn’t have bought two homes the first year if we were both working full-time. His taking that time off made it possible for us to start this whole new element of our lives. Now our rentals make up about ⅓ of our income.

If you give yourself a month or a year, you could take on a whole new adventure, hobby, or project. Things that are just too hard to fit into life after work, between dinner and bedtime.

 

3. Family and Friends

 

The year before Adam left his 9-5 was one of the hardest for me as a parent. We were about to adopt the three half-siblings that had been placed with us. And they had so many appointments, with so many people. Every week there were 10+ appointments put on my calendar by the professionals in their life. Plus, the uncertainty of it all, not knowing if they would be placed with a family or be adopted by us. And I found out I was pregnant. In a two-year span, we would go from 1 kid at home to five kids under seven years old.

I was tired. And stressed. And generally felt like I was about to drown.

This wasn’t the mom I wanted to give my kids. I wanted them to see me at my best. Rested, joyful, and fun. Instead, I felt like they mostly saw me at my worst. Running on cortisol and caffeine, but barely awake.

Every time my friends invited me to do something, I said no. To everyone. I promised that if they kept asking, one day, I could say yes. Just not today. We were in survival mode.

When we found out we were pregnant, I called a time-out. There was no way I could add an infant to this equation. We were on the financial independence plan but originally planned for Adam to work a few more years; now was the time for a new plan. The new plan was a year off.

Sometimes we can’t give people our best. Sometimes we just can’t give them enough. And if you wait until the typical retirement age, you might miss your chance entirely. Your kids might be grown, your parents in poorer health, or the season just passed you by. Enter mini-retirement. Taking some time away from the 9-5 gives you a chance to focus on the people in your life that matter most to you.

 

4. Improve Your Health

 

This year I decided to take a hiatus from my business, which for me meant working about 5 hours a week instead of my normal 15. I had two big goals for the year with my extra time and attention. First, finish up as many house renovation projects as possible. And I took that permission and went down a deep rabbit hole of landscape design and permaculture. Over the summer, I could have been mistaken for a landscaper.

My other big goal was my health. The pandemic knocked me off course. It was especially hard on my mental health. But it also affected my fitness, nutrition, and stress management. Instead of thoughtful and intentional, all things health-related felt disorganized and reactionary. I had made small attempts to get things back on track, with little success. So this was my year to clear the decks and focus on my health.

First up was getting out of my very cloudy area of Montana for the winter. We came up with a plan to try to be snowbirds. Then I found a group of health and fitness friends to share the journey with. I paid for a health-tracking app. I hired a personal trainer and nutritionist. I read 100+ articles about nutrition and mental health. My psychiatrist recommended I try a low-inflammation lifestyle. So I reduced my high-inflammation foods and activities and added in a bunch of low-inflammation foods and activities.

A funny thing happens when you give yourself time, energy, and resources toward just a few goals. And you get all the support and help you need. You make progress!

Obviously, I think we all should try for our best health while working our jobs. But it’s legit hard. And sometimes, we just don’t have the bandwidth to take on big changes in our lives on top of everything else.

Many of my coaching clients want to focus on improving their health while on their mini-retirement. They want to get 8 hours of sleep. They want to reduce their stress hormones and start meditating or doing breathwork. Spending time outdoors and with people they care about is part of their mental health.

Some want a specific fitness routine, and some just want more movement than they had at a desk job. They are taking a walk after breakfast or gardening. For most people, when they have more time and fewer demands on them, it’s easier to cook the food you want to be eating and feel more thoughtful with nutrition.

 

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Mini-retirements can also be essential for helping relieve burnout. It’s so hard to recover from burnout while in the situation that created burnout. It takes time, rest, and space. It takes new healthy routines with lots of “active rest” activities. I’ve worked with clients who are trying to recover from burnout while still at the job that burned them out.

And you can make a little bit of progress with better boundaries, more self-care, and taking other commitments off your plate. But honestly, it might take 2-3 years of being very intentional to make the progress you can make in 3-4 months in a mini-retirement.

Focusing on your health is great to squeeze in where you can. But if you want to make a big change or lots of changes, it’s helpful to have some extra time and mental space to tackle that. This year gave me the opportunity to start testing ideas of how to optimize my mental health as much as possible.

There is a very good chance that my Bipolar will be degenerative as I age. So I’m trying everything I can to keep my mental health in peak condition to hopefully delay or prevent that decline. It took some trial and error, but I think I found a set of habits that will support my overall health and mental health to the best of my ability and set me on the best trajectory possible to be just as strong and healthy at 50 as I am today.

 

5. New Professional Growth

 

I want to share two coaching clients who are in this boat. One, let’s call Rachel, has been in her professional field for a while. She’s good at her job. Well compensated. And she likes it OK. But there is that curiosity of “Is this what I want to do for the next 20 years?” But every time a job ended, she rushed to make sure the next one was lined up.

Part of her mini-retirement is taking the time to explore what else might be out there. Is there something that also fits her skill set, education, and interest? Is there something better? Maybe it’s a big change, or maybe it’s a small pivot. But this time, she is taking six months to really explore that.

Of course, a mini-retirement can serve a few functions. There were some trips with family and friends. There were some decluttering projects. But there was also rest and recovery from a little bit of burnout that had snuffed out some of her creativity. Now it’s time to research and explore what her next professional chapter should look like.

I have another client, who we’ll call Tom. Tom never really felt like the 9-5 corporate world was the best fit for him. He always wondered if maybe he could do something different. Create something on his own. So he created a bit of financial runway to be able to take off 6-12 months, and he’s going to try to scale up his own business. Not only does he want the chance to succeed, but he doesn’t want the regret of never really trying. And always wondering if he could have done something different.

What if there is something else out there for you professionally? It can be tricky to really explore and pursue those things when life and work are already so full. Even having the creativity and mental space to really think about it is tough when you’re a bit burned out. A mini-retirement can give you 3-12 months to rest, explore and start to test and scale something new.

 

Why Retire Often?

When I talk about “retiring often” people are generally confused by the idea. Why would you retire more than once? Why not just push through for 40 straight years and then take the next 30 off? There are a hundred benefits to retiring often. And honestly, the non-stop career path has some fatal flaws.

But the biggest reason to retire often: it will make your life better. It gives you a fighting chance to improve every area of life that matters to you, spanning across every decade. Your whole life, in its width and its depth, can improve. Plus, it’s just more fun this way.

 



 

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14 thoughts on “Five Big Reasons to Retire Often”

  1. I guess I am from a different era. I finally made it to 73 years old and decided to take a my final “big” retirement after working
    in primary care without a break. I enjoyed
    my profession and was more concerned
    about my patients than taking 8 month
    breaks to travel. Usually, a three week break was adequate. Being concerned
    about taking a mini-retirement at age 39 seems ludicrous to me and makes me wonder why that person went into medicine.

    Reply
  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. I guess I am from a different era. I finally made it to 73 years old and decided to take a my final “big” retirement after working
    in primary care without a break. I enjoyed
    my profession and was more concerned
    about my patients than taking 8 month
    breaks to travel. Usually, a three week break was adequate. Being concerned
    about taking a mini-retirement at age 39 seems ludicrous to me and makes me wonder why that person went into medicine.

    Reply
  4. It just won’t work for me. I am single and don’t have family. I have worked for the County in every State I lived in and I will be getting a pension eventually from each State when I retire. Taking off for 8 -12 months will not be allowed by the County. I’ll be fine. I have investments and savings. And I will retire in my home country when I turn 60 next year. I have built a home there in a two acre lot. It’s a lot cheaper. Yeah it’s not America. But I will be with family.

    Reply
  5. Taking career breaks often can be essential to well being and can make you reevaluate your current career path and core values. I am a 38 year old physician and I just started my 2nd mini-retirement to reset after recently experiencing burnout in primary care and needing more time with my young and active family. Yes, you do need to plan and to budget accordingly. Will I ever regret taking 1 year off with my husband and traveling around the world on a shockingly tiny budget compared to the average US spend? No. Did it take a great deal of financial fitness, planning and goal setting? Yes. I paid off the entirety of my physician loans and also saved up a nest egg to return to the US for essentials, to buy cars, and afford 6 months rent. My time off was an asset for me during the interview process for my prior primary care job. I accepted a position with an amazing group of like-minded physicians who valued family time and travel. I didn’t have to prove anything from the “gap” time I traveled. It isn’t for everyone, however, taking mini-breaks from work can allow you to be a better physician and be more present for future patients, family and to have time to improve self care.

    Reply
  6. This is a great idea for people who are relatively wealthy and have jobs for which it is not necessary to keep up with rapidly changing technology or data. The author does not even acknowledge the fact that most people do not have the luxury of having BOTH members of the couple take off simultaneously. It is not possible to save enough money to take off for 8 months if you are barely making ends meet because your combined income is less than $60,000 a year, which is true for a large number of families. And, I confess to being a little appalled at the idea of a physician taking off 8 full months, because most medical specialties are rapidly changing. The author either hangs out exclusively with highly educated, highly financially successful people in slow-moving fields, or she is blind to the challenges of many around her.

    Reply
    • This is Not Do able for most mortals. My practice would evaporate. How do you support your family? House and car payments? My family was spoiled, we liked eating regularly and having shelter. In my partial retirement at age 72, I have found that Franks Hot sauce is not good on dog and cat food. I told my son that, his reply was , “Dad use the Dry, not the wet canned food!” No check from him, just advice I would have given him!

      Reply
      • You don’t take on car payments and pay cash for cars once you’ve saved enough and buy used. You rent your house while you travel for 6 months or a year to cover the mortgage. You live on way less than you make in general so you can save a lot on a physician salary. You don’t take luxury vacations. The cost of living abroad in particular is way cheaper than the cost of living in the USA. You don’t need a lot of money saved to travel and live for 6 months plus if you can be strategic about which countries you visit.

        I’ve always thought it would be a shame to wait until old age to take a break from the grind when there are so many places to see and experience along with activities I want to do in those places while I still have the fortune of being healthy and able-bodied (climbing, backcountry skiing, cycling, scuba diving, etc).

        Reply
      • You don’t take on car payments and pay cash for cars once you’ve saved enough and buy used. You rent your house while you travel for 6 months or a year to cover the mortgage. You live on way less than you make in general so you can save a lot on a physician salary. You don’t take luxury vacations. The cost of living abroad in particular is way cheaper than the cost of living in the USA. You don’t need a lot of money saved to travel and live for 6 months plus if you can be strategic about which countries you visit.

        I’ve always thought it would be a shame to wait until old age to take a break from the grind when there are so many places to see and experience along with activities I want to do in those places while I still have the fortune of being healthy and able-bodied (climbing, backcountry skiing, cycling, scuba diving, etc).

        Reply
  7. I can attest to the value of retiring often. It’s something I’ve done since my first career retirement 13 years ago. Not needing to work allows for targeting opportunities aligned with interests. Having the time to recharge while evaluating what it is that matters and where I want to be makes each new accepted paid adventure all the better. You can ditch a lot of legacy BS and start new, focusing on what you want to accomplish which makes for a rewarding life.

    Reply
    • just remember to first secure a return to a professional job before you take a temporary retirement.
      As a locum tenon MD, the industry wants you to explain any gaps in professional work greater than 1 month and will not talk to you about professional work if you have been out of work for more than 24 months. Having said that this new semi-retirement job lifestyle is great with few downfalls for me and my family.

      Reply
    • just remember to first secure a return to a professional job before you take a temporary retirement.
      As a locum tenon MD, the industry wants you to explain any gaps in professional work greater than 1 month and will not talk to you about professional work if you have been out of work for more than 24 months. Having said that this new semi-retirement job lifestyle is great with few downfalls for me and my family.

      Reply

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