There are two times in life when a break is needed for wellbeing.
From around the age of 3, you are in school. By the time you graduate high school you are burned out. It has been at least 15 years of non-stop enforced schooling up to this point. After graduating high school you finally have a choice. The law no longer states that you must be enrolled in school.
Yet, if you grow up in the average American household all of those years of schooling are to prepare you for the ultimate schooling which is what comes after high school, college.
You are encouraged to go straight to college after high school for a few reasons. Fear that you will end up living with your parents forever (if you don’t) and to be successful. Most times other ways of reaching success are not discussed and the message remains that the only way to be successful is by getting a college degree, getting promotions and chasing money.
The result is that most people work until “retirement age”. By that time, they are so burned out and have many health conditions that they are not able to enjoy all of the money that they worked hard for in their careers.
So how about if we entertain the thought of changing the narrative of what a successful and happy life should look like?
The two times I believe people should take breaks in life are after high school and somewhere between the ages of 38-43. How long the break should last is completely up to the person, but definitely a minimum of a year.
More than half of students go on to college right after highschool because they don’t know any better. They are part of the rat race at this point. I define the rat race as doing what the majority of people are doing without discovering alternatives on your own. How many kids end up dropping out or failing their first year as a result? According to Think Impact, that number is 30%.
Exception: If students receive a full scholarship, I would highly encourage them to go straight to college. College is not a waste of time. It is just a time in your life when you need to go in ready for what it’s real purpose is; to educate you for a life in a field that you are passionate about.
If young adults are given permission to take time off after graduating from highschool maybe the following would happen:
- They can volunteer at places of interest to learn more about themselves and what the world needs
- They can attempt to start a business with their parents as investors
- How much would they learn whether their business is a success or a failure?
- They can travel and become more open minded
- They can coach kids on skills that they are really good at
- They can focus on their mental health
After this break, this group is ready to learn, work and invest. They are becoming professionals with whatever field they choose to go into and increasing their earning potential. They are also beginning to dabble in investments in order to build their wealth. Lastly, they are probably starting families so are dealing with little sleep, more expenses and the demands of work.
With more life experience and after kids are a bit more grown (if you have kids) people begin to circle back to their needs and wants. They begin to remember what their dreams once were and the things that they used to do that brought them joy. Especially moms, who even with more dads stepping up now more than ever, still cook more, deal with kids’ needs and do more household chores.
So the perfect time for people to take their second break is somewhere between (38 – 43). Although this break may be more exciting than the first because of the increase in confidence and knowledge that comes with age, preparation must go into this one. After high school you will most likely still be living at home so you don’t have to worry about finances or dependents. At age 38, you may have a spouse, kids, mortgage and/or car loans.
Reasons for taking a break at this time:
- You are feeling tired and overwhelmed
- You can’t stop thinking about your dream of (whatever it is you have always wanted to do for a living)
- You want to focus on raising your children
- You want to live in another part of the world
- You want to start a second career and need to go back to school
- You want to volunteer
- You want to focus on your wellbeing
Although there are more responsibilities at this stage in life, with proper preparation it can be done without having a huge financial impact on your family. Also remember that you will be saving a lot of money when you aren’t working.
Here is what you can do to prepare for your mini-retirement:
- Have at least 6 months in your emergency fund. If you will not be working on any passion projects and will have no other income then save 12 months of living expenses.
- Save at least half of your last 3 checks from your job in order to prepare to be a bit more conservative with your finances
- Save your vacation fund to the best of your ability the last 4 months in order cash out and have that be part of your final check
- Buy things in bulk like toiletries and hygiene items
- Sell items that no longer bring you joy
Taking breaks in life are not encouraged. We are told that it will be nearly impossible to come back to the workforce. That we have a lot to lose. However, we all need them to ensure that we are still living a life that aligns with our values and goals. Taking a vacation or sabbatical from work is not the same as resigning completely.
The goal of these breaks is to feel free. We should not long for the days of infancy to remember what it felt like to be free. We should be encouraged to experience that as adults as well. A free adult is happy, prosperous and healthy. That alone makes it worth taking a break, for me, at least.