“If in your mind it was possible to take a year’s sabbatical from work to reassess your life, what would you do and where would you go?”
— David Whyte, Author, Poet, Public Speaker
Work, work, work. Whether you’ve been working from home, or you’ve been out and about, the past couple years have been a tough time for busy professionals. Even if you’ve come out fine financially, perhaps you’ve been putting in tons of weird, whacky hours to keep your career chugging along during the pandemic. Week after week, there’s been no time to breathe. No time to explore your greater interests. No time to replenish that extra energy you used to have.
That may be fine for a while. You’re not afraid of hard work. But if all the spark is gone from your daily grind, there may be another word for it: Burnout.
Is it time to plan for a sabbatical? The idea may entice and frighten you. You may be able to enhance your career by taking a break to revisit yourself, your family, your priorities, and your passions. Then again, you don’t want everything you’ve worked on to come crashing down while you’re away.
To split the difference, personal, professional, and financial preparation are key to enjoying a successful sabbatical.
Personal Preparation: What Will You Do During Your Sabbatical?
“I disliked the person I was becoming—a person who tumbled headfirst into each day, in constant motion but without any sense of direction.”
— Suleika Jaouad, “Between Two Kingdoms”
If you’ve been at it full-tilt for some time, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recharge simply by knocking off for a week or two. On top of that, perhaps you or others you know have been personally impacted by the pandemic, prompting you to rethink your life’s aspirations.
A sabbatical should grant you time to step away from, and outside of your daily routine, so you can view it from a fresh angle, explore new skills and interests, and replenish your reserves.
Academics often use sabbaticals to conduct deeper research into an area of interest, serve as a visiting professor at another institution, or pursue some other special project they’ve long dreamed of. As a business owner or high-achieving professional, you might use your sabbatical to travel abroad and discover new perspectives. Or you might volunteer for a charitable project, or pursue a sideline of interest. You might also relax and regroup.
The possibilities are endless. We’re not suggesting you chart every hour of every day, but it might help to prepare a few realistic goals to get started. Then, give yourself time to explore the horizon, without any particular end in mind, and be prepared to adjust as you go.
Professional Preparation: How Will Your Colleagues Manage Without You?
“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.”
— Leonardo da Vinci
These days, many companies from Adobe to Zillow offer sabbaticals after you’ve worked for them a while. Granted, these formal programs typically offer weeks rather than months off. But it suggests employers and employees alike are appreciating the value of the sabbatical.
Many companies are now also far more accommodating about working remotely. As the world opens back up, you might be able to pick up and travel to places you’ve wanted to go, without taking a formal sabbatical. Perhaps you’ll still work, but on your own terms.
Whatever shape your sabbatical may take, you didn’t become a successful business owner, leading executive, or high-achieving professional by ignoring your firm’s bottom line. Here are a few tips for preparing everyone for your time away:
· Communicate early and often. The truth is, if you don’t communicate your intentions to take a sabbatical, it’s highly likely the rumor mill will … but not nearly as effectively. As your plans take shape, we suggest being fully transparent with your team, partners, and clients.
· Delegate. Don’t leave roles and responsibilities to chance. Make sure particular people are in charge of particular functions.
· Conduct a fire drill or two. Practice and prepare everyone for when you’re away. This gives you and them the chance to work out most of the kinks.
· Expect the unexpected. Even if you’ve taken every precaution, the unexpected will occur. Work with your colleagues to have a Plan B in place for when (not if) something goes awry.
· Set a date. Once you’ve done what you can to prepare what you can, it’s time to just do it. Take a deep breath, relax, and step away.
Financial Preparation: How Will You Fund Your Sabbatical … and Beyond?
“[L]iberty is a universal yearning, but so is the wish to eat.”
— Madeleine Albright, “Hell and Other Destinations”
Of course, you don’t want your sabbatical to place an undue burden on your financial well-being. So, before you take your leave, you’ll want to prepare for it financially. This is where we usually come in, to guide families through these and other key planning conversations.
· How much will it cost? First, estimate the length, location, and nature of your sabbatical, as described above. Use this information to estimate the savings you’ll need to replace your earned income during that time. Then, add at least 25%, to cover unexpected expenses and perhaps a slower transition back to work.
· How much have you got? Once you’ve determined how much savings you already have to spend on a sabbatical, you can back into how much more you’ll need to accumulate, and how long it will take. This tells you when you’ll be ideally positioned to take your sabbatical.
· What about retirement? Time off from work might also mean time off from adding money to your company retirement plan. To fill that critical gap, you may want to increase your retirement contributions accordingly, before and/or after your sabbatical.
· How’s your health? Bottom line, continued healthcare coverage is a must. Don’t leave work without it. Will you be covered by a spouse or will you need to elect for COBRA coverage while you’re away? If you use COBRA, keep in mind, this is usually much more expensive than your normal premiums; plan accordingly.
· What will the future bring? Nothing in life is guaranteed, but if you would like to keep your same position once your sabbatical ends, see if your employer will agree to hold it for you.
Turning Your Sabbatical Dreams into Cogent Reality
Clearly, there is much to consider when turning your sabbatical dreams into practical reality. Plus, it’s unlikely everything will play out exactly as expected. That’s why it’s essential to lead with a strong financial plan in place, guided by thoughtful “what if” scenario analysis. By knowing ahead of time where you stand financially, you’ll be best positioned to move forward with confidence, come what may.
Since 2010, Cogent Strategic Wealth has been helping busy, thriving professionals just like you make sense of their financial plans and manage the many, complex items that go into achieving their financial goals.
If you want to know more about how to plan for a sabbatical, retirement, or other aspirations, sit down with our team today for a Cogent Conversation. We’ll listen to what success looks like for you, build a plan tailored to you, and help you execute that plan every step of the way.
Don’t manage your financial future all on your own. Book your Cogent Conversation today!
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