A Different Approach to Retirement

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Lately I’ve been thinking about retirement in Calgary. It seems strange to think of something that is nearly 40 years away, but I feel like as a young professional, I’m frequently caught in the dilemma of saving money for the future versus spending money on self-fulfilling experiences. On one hand lies the anxiety of failing to fill my life with memorable moments. I hear phrases such as “travel while you’re young,” “see the world while you still can,” and “make the most out of your youth.” On the other hand, I’m bombarded with messages from financial professionals and family members who say working hard and saving money are the two most important things a young person can do.

But why can’t we do both? Why must we work hard all our lives only to reap the rewards in our old age? Recently a friend of mine suggested something interesting. He suggested the idea of mini retirements.

Author and entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss, originally brought about the idea of mini retirements and the more I looked into it, the more it made perfect sense. While some of us may be okay with waiting 40 years to do the things we want, others might reach life’s potential and be more fulfilled by taking mini retirements throughout their careers.

So what exactly is a mini retirement?

Mini retirements are breaks from work that are longer than a vacation and shorter than a full retirement and they recur throughout your lifetime. A mini retirement can last one month, six months or even a year long and offer an array of benefits. This type of break allows you to spend your time doing what you value. You can travel, volunteer, or immerse yourself in a new culture or environment. It’s about designing a lifestyle that suits you. For travel and culture junkies like myself, it offers an opportunity to go beyond the typical tourist experiences. A six- month hiatus to travel is a decent amount of time to explore a new city, or start learning a new language.

If you’re an adventure enthusiast, waiting for retirement might be unrealistic. From a personal standpoint, I’d probably be less inclined to go white water rafting on the rough tides of Alaska or trekking through the dark and dangerous Amazon rainforest at the age of 65. But that’s just me.

Mini retirements focus on your personal values but that doesn’t mean you can’t value both saving for a permanent retirement and taking these shorter breaks. Ideally, you shouldn’t pull from your retirement fund for your mini retirements. Instead, you should identify and prioritize the material things you value less in your life and pull funds from that. Perhaps you’d rather spend a month mastering Creole cuisine in New Orleans instead of upgrading to a more luxurious car.

At the end of a mini retirement, you can return to your career, feeling refreshed and fulfilled. You’d probably be even more enthusiastic about your job. Although, this option might not be for everyone, a mini retirement is a non-traditional approach that creates more options to lead a well-balanced, happier and fulfilled life.