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If you are like most working Americans, you probably have two to four weeks’ vacation time per year. With 52 weeks in a year, two to four is not much. But what if you could take a sabbatical from work? Think of it – putting your career on hiatus, while you take some time just for yourself to do whatever it is that you have never had enough time to do. If the idea sounds too far-fetched, just know that a number of people are finding ways to do just that. This is not about just taking a vacation – this is about taking a full career break.

If you are a typical American worker, taking this type of mid-career time out is going to take some long-term planning. It is likely you will need to start organizing things at least a year in advance, particularly the financial planning. That will include all of the essentials, but also money for whatever it is that you want to do with your time off. Here are some useful guidelines:


First, determine what your sabbatical is for. Travel? Building on to your house? Taking care of your children or grandchildren? If you are giving yourself a break from your working life, it make sense to have a good plan for your time. That may include some extensive research, or finding the right resource people to help you with projects or excursions.


If you already have a monthly budget established, determining how much money you will need for the hiatus period should be relatively easy. But, keep in mind that this will depend on your circumstances. Some people take a career break by forging an agreement with their employers. In the event you have that option, you may be able to account for expenses such as health care by actually paying your employer to keep you covered. If not, you may have to consider a COBRA plan. However, since you are going to give yourself an extended period to plan your career break, you may want to establish a health savings account, and rely on that money to cover your health care needs while you are not working. Some people actually resign from their jobs to take their break, which makes it necessary to plan health care coverage for the long term.

In addition to your regular required expenses, determine if your plans for your career break will cost you additional money. For example, if the purpose of your break is to do some extensive travel, you may want to plan the trip more carefully than you would an ordinary vacation. That high-end African safari is clearly going to cost more than a week at Disney World. If you have been a dedicated saver and investor for several years, you will have to decide if your career break is a good cause for cash withdrawals.


A critical part of your planning process should include moving your career forward following your sabbatical. As you know, the job market moves rapidly these days. Do not get left behind. If you are fortunate enough to have an employer who cooperates with your plan, and fully intends to welcome you back after your break, it is important to get that commitment from the employer in writing. It is also a good idea to stay in touch periodically with your employer just to stay current on what is going on in your place of employment, and to reaffirm your intention to return.

If, however, you are actually quitting your job to take a break, things can be a bit more complicated. It is advisable to do some job searching while you are not working. You may want to begin actually applying for job up to two months before you wish to return to work. Most employers want to fill their open positions quickly, but some may wait if they feel you are an ideal candidate. If you send a resume to a potential employer, in your cover letter, state the date you will be available, even if it is sometime out. Be prepared for interviewers to ask about the gap in your resume timeline of employment. It is best to be truthful about your break, and clear in your intentions to resume your career.

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