Don’t Take a Gap Year; Set Aside a Gap Fund

A gap year is traditionally a year away from school before going to (or back to) college or university. The idea is to dive into the real world to gain perspective and start taking responsibility before locking yourself into a long-term career or area of study.

More recently, the term has been applied to taking a break from work, either for learning (a sabbatical) or personal reasons (“mini-retirements”).

Rather than working the same job for 30 – 40 years, I feel it’s important (for sanity as well as personal growth) to mix things up every now and then, so gap years and mini-retirements are topics I contemplate often.

Rather than taking a gap year, an alternative approach for a mid-career break is to set aside and live off of a fixed gap fund.

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Downshifting and Early Retirement

At the intersection of personal finance and self-actualization there is a vibrant Internet community focused on the pursuit of “FIRE”–Financial Independence, to Retire Early.

Rather than accepting society’s preconception that life includes 12 – 18 years of schooling, followed by 40 – 50 years of working, wrapped up by a few years of TV and golf, FIRE aspirants optimize their spending to maximize both life satisfaction and savings, invest the proceeds wisely, and retire radically early to pursue personal growth, social connections, giving back, and more–free from the shackles of full-time work.

How does downshifting to part-time work relate to early retirement?

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Increase Your Net Hourly Pay by Working Less

How much is your time worth? There are many ways to answer this question; some based on your current hourly pay, others based on how much money you could earn on the side. Regardless of the eventual answer, it is clear that time is an important asset–arguably the most important asset–so you should make sure you’re getting a good deal when selling your time.

Although many people focus on increasing their annual income (perhaps by working overtime or picking up side jobs), my position is that, when trading time for money, you should strive to maximize your pay rate, because the more you make per hour, the fewer the number of hours you require to cover your expenses.

The good news is that, in countries like the United States that have progressive income taxes, it is possible to increase your net hourly pay rate by simply working fewer hours per year. The rest of this article explores this unusual (not to be confused with “alternative”) fact.

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How to Make Your Employer Embrace Part-Time Work

I’m a big proponent of part-time work (though I’m not the only one). But of course, that is coming from my perspective as a part-time work aspirant who desires more time for living and less time working.

On the other side of the table is the management of a publicly-traded corporation that is generally beholden to shareholders to generate profit. This article explores concerns from my employer’s perspective related to allowing one of its dear employees to work slightly less than is typically demanded.

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Why I Chose Part-Time Work Over a Sabbatical

If you find that full-time, well-paid work is taking over your life, downshifting to a part-time role is a natural solution. Upon closer inspection, “downshifting” is not a single path, but a full menu of options for reducing time pressure and work-related stress, as well as freeing up time to let friends, family, and creativity back into your life.

Recently, I identified and contrasted several approaches to downshifting. This time, I’m going to describe the specific path I’ve chosen, along with my reasoning and the personal and professional context in which I made my selection.

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The Ideal Part-Time Schedule

Let’s say you’re burned out at work, or you feel like you spend all your time working, or you just want to have more time for leisure. You’ve reviewed various options for trading work time for free time and settled on going part-time at your current job by only going to work 4 out of 5 workdays per week.

Which weekdays are best to reclaim for yourself back from your job? The following pages explore the potential options (obviously, there are 5 of them).

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