Sunday, December 12, 2010

Planning a Mini-Retirement

I love the countdown to Christmas, even if not the rain and freezing cold weather!

Here in Boston, or maybe just here On Earth, it’s easy to get caught up with life and feel stuck doing the same things, over and over again. A couple of years ago, Eug and I came across the concept of the Mini-retirement, or of taking breaks every few years to step back and do something different. And we love the idea of packing up, paring down, and traveling for long stretches rather than traveling while paying rent or a mortgage on a vacant place. It's been a major motivator in paying off our debt, not accumulating too much stuff (though we still have a lot!), and keeping to a budget. Noah has fundamentally changed how we think of mini-retirement, but I’m convinced it’s possible, even with a baby.

I connect with the idea of sabbath-- of resting about 1/7th of your life, of letting the fields lay fallow one year of every seven. And that’s not to say you don’t do anything that six months to a year. You do stuff. Recharging stuff. That isn’t about a paycheck (though you may need at least a bit of one to get by). It’s about acknowledging that everything you have comes from God, and that you can enjoy it. I don’t mean to overspiritualise the idea. I think we partly connect with it just because of who we are. A mini-retirement could mean so many different things.

Saving for a seemingly non-essential experience can be difficult: It’s hard not to live month to month, especially in a city like Boston. You have to structure your life, and plan for breaks from your 40-hour workweek job. Which is what we’ve been trying to do. For example, if you can get at least some location independent income, the cost of mini-retirement shrinks considerably: $1500/month is total abundance in many amazing places in the world.

Anyway, I wanted to share our planning document, in case it’s an idea that resonates with you. Although we haven't actually done it yet, we feel much closer every month that Conferre grows.

Here are some resources that were really helpful in our saving and then taking the leap to Eug working from home:

In The Four Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferris describes how he reduced his "work" time to just four hours/week. There was some outsourcing to India, which didn't fit with our plans, but the book really helped me think about how to focus on work tasks that really matter, and to think creatively about the possibilities of at least one of us not being tied to a 9-5.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, Your Money or Your Life is excellent at reframing your orientation towards money without trying to change your priorities. Rather than focusing on budgeting or telling you what is a 'need' and what is a 'want', the book encourages you to (1) calculate your real hourly wage-- after taxes, with commuting time, clothes or lunch money where applicable, gas included and 2) Consider financial decisions in relation to the real amount of time it's taking you to earn the money. Apart from giving me pause before making purchases, the book helped me acknowledge the real cost of having a job and what it might mean to be less tied to it.

Man Vs. Debt is a great blog for those of us who have kids and would like to travel. In it, Baker describes paying off their debt, saving for travel, and actually doing it!

I'll add more to this list of resources, as I think of them, so check back.


Vanessa said...

I think secretly everyone longs to just "run away" from everything for a while...or at least I do. Unfortunately some personalities are more adapted to the actual doing than mine is. But the way you've set up a plan (instead of just flying by the seat of your pants as many people I admire can manage to do so easily), it almost maybe allows me to wrap my head around this as a real possibility. My biggest issue is the fact that neither Adam nor i have jobs that allow for location independant income, and both our jobs are the kind where you benefit greatly from many years of service at the same place. Ugh! So leaving for a year would really hurt any seniority that has been established. Although i must also add that neither of our current jobs are really anything to jump and sing about, and perhaps a change of scenery now wouldn't really hurt us that much in the end.
Something to think and dream about at least. :)

Concrete Gardener said...

I totally understand where you're coming from. And I'd love to hear more about your work.

For me, the challenge is coming to terms with that desire to get away, and then acting on something deeper-- the desire to do something rather than get away from life as it is. I find it hard to live in the present.

What's striking in the U.S. is that we only have about 10 days of leave a year. So while I don't necessarily think that one needs to be physically away, I don't want to work for many years without much hope of time to dream and hang out with family and... My dream is that career breaks-- even a couple of months-- will mean time to grow into work that's more consistent with who we're hoping to be.

That said, my job has been wonderful in helping me figure out what works as a new mom, and part of the reason for that is because I'd already been working for them (government) for a couple of years.

I'm still pondering the location independence bit: I think I'm trying to shape my career to make it more possible, while not compromising too much on what I'd like to do. You know what it's like to be transcontinental!