Taking a Year Off Work

There are two burning questions people have when they find out we are taking a year off work. 1. How can you afford that? Or 2. Why would you give up that income?

I totally get the first question. Not many people take a year off. Most people can’t afford it. And honestly, we look a lot like “most people.” We live in a modest home. Drive older cars. Work jobs that pay $25k-$40k a year. Of course, there are a lot of things they don’t see. Like how we aggressively starting saving in our early 20’s. They might not know Adam was in the Army and has a small pension from that. Or that we paid cash for our house. Or that we own rentals with good cash flow. Or that we paid off all our debt 10+ years ago. So it is a reasonable question to ask.

The second one however. Well, I don’t get that at all. But I like to be very polite. So I just smile and say that we are really enjoying this time. But here is the honest break down for you all.

Adam left a job that paid him $32,500. A really good wage for both our area and for the social service work he does. But what could that have bought us? Let’s assume that with our large herd we pay 10% tax. So we have about $30,000 left.

Hum, what to buy with $30,000? We really have everything we need. We have most everything we could want. But to play along, let’s say we go with a new minivan. We trade our 10-year-old van in and get a nice minivan.

What would we have missed out on? We are 9 months into our time off. What would we be trading for that nice minivan? Here is my short list of what we have enjoyed so far.

  1. We remodeled the kitchen in one of our rentals. It was challenging, fun and profitable. Net worth shot up 10k.
  2. We hosted our largest gingerbread house making party yet! We rented out a space and invited everyone we know.
  3. We spent time actually enjoying the Christmas season as we waited for our sweet baby #5 to arrive.
  4. Adam skied the most perfect snow days.
  5. Despite having a newborn, I was occasionally well rested. =)
  6. I was able to start writing this blog! Hello!
  7. We hiked on every perfect spring day.
  8. I did a girl’s trip to the Hot Springs and a summer concert.
  9. Adam processed 2 deer, putting 80 lbs of venison in our freezer.
  10. We spend the weekends out on adventures with the kids vs. getting caught up on chores.
  11. We traveled to see friends in Washington State and they came to see us.
  12. We took a 6 week road trip, to include a week in Yellowstone, time with both sets of parents, Mount Rushmore and lots of museums.
  13. We have finished our Minimalism Challenge!
  14. I was invited to speak at 3 different venues.
  15. We are finally able to build our second bath (that we have put off for 4 years due to lack of time.) Also increasing our net worth by $10,000.
  16. I hosted 5 fundraisers for causes I care about.
  17. Adam has been able to work out 5 days a week, and is in the best shape of his life.
  18. We had time to spend with the teenagers we each mentor.
  19. We pitted and froze 100 pounds of cherries, which will go into oatmeal and smoothies the rest of the year.
  20. We have played at the lake, drink coffee in the yard, connect with friends, read books, spent time in Glacier National Park. And a few other things I suggested.

There have been less tangible benefits as well. We are more rested, and relaxed. Our kids have really thrived by having more time with us. We met up with friends. Honestly almost none of this would have been able to happen if Adam and I were working this year.

Maybe you would rather take the minivan. =) And that is ok. Maybe someday we will too. But not this year. After 14 years of paying down debt, saving, hustling, keeping our heads down and pushing through, this was our sabbatical. And it’s been awesome.


What kinds of things would make your list? Would you take a career break if your job allowed it? Anything you have been dying to do that would be worth losing a year of income for?

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66 thoughts on “Taking a Year Off Work

  1. What an awesome list, Ms. Mt! I wouldn’t trade that for any minivan — and we’re big minivan fans 😉 I continue to enjoy reading about your approach to life.

    We’re getting question #1 a ton, but very few have asked why we would forgo the income. Hopefully we’re making that apparent with our own experiences.

    • Thanks so much! I think part of the reason people find it strange is because we have 5 kids. When I first told my mom we were doing this she said, “You know that’s weird right. No one who is about to have 5 kids quits their job. They hold on to any job for dear life! Maybe if you didn’t have kids and wanted to travel, people might understand that. But not this. People will just think it’s weird.”
      So there you go! Straight from my mama. You guys are safe for now, but add a couple kiddos and the “concerned” questions will pour in! =)

  2. I like the way you laid this out as a cost benefit analysis. I often think that way about taking a longer maternity leave and foregoing pay and what that means to me and my family. Since I am on a 7 year plan, I’d rather get paid and not take off more time so that I can reach my goal quicker but that may not always be the case. It’s good to at least ask the question.

    • 7 years is so close, you can probably almost taste it! We spent a lot of years hunkering down and pushing through to make progress. And it has paid off. But we mixed in a few slower years too (when we lived in Europe.) This year has been really eye opening for us. As we get closer to the end of our sabbatical year, I really want to do a post about the lessons we have learned so far. It’s been great practice for early retirement! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This is such an awesome post! I just quit my job and moved with my wife and 3 kids to England (she’s active duty military and I’m a reservist). We’re kind of at that work optional point where neither of us needs to work full time anymore. Having worked about 4 days over the last month, I can’t imagine having a regular 9-5 ever again! It’s really not worth the extra money.

    I hope our future looks a lot like what you’ve written above!

    • England seems like a great place to be stationed! We had a few friends get that gig. We scored 4 years in Germany, which was amazing. Enjoy Europe while you all are there! And a big congrats crossing over that work optional line!

  4. Great idea to take the time off and great list of activities. Like Mr. Mt, I retired from the Army (11 years ago); however, I went to work right away (retired on 31 October, started new job on 7 November) and don’t plan on taking any time off – retirement – for another 10 years. Your early financial planning – ridding yourself of debt, saving since your early 20s, paying off your home, and acquiring rental properties – has obviously served you well. As I often say, achieving financial freedom isn’t about acquiring pocketfuls of money, it’s about having choices.

    Enjoyed the read, my friend.

    • Thanks so much! We loved the Army, and still miss it a bit. This summer during our 6 week road trip, we stayed at an Air Force base. It kind of felt like being home! Then I noticed all the new Mustangs and sports cars. Ah, yes! The military is an amazing opportunity to save money and build wealth… or buy fancy cars. =)

      Thanks so stopping by!

  5. Pretty impressive & I have a somewhat similar story. I left my “good” corporate job as an operations supervisor a year ago to pursue self-employment. This past year has been a “mini-sabbatical” as my family built two houses and I have taken up freelance writing to at least earn some income in my free time.

    It was a tough decision, but I am glad I did it and had lots of opportunities that I couldn’t have done if I was at the good ol’ grindstone.

  6. Very cool. People tend to underestimate the value of time off. With my work I structurally have the entire summer off of work while my wife works very part time. It allows us to have amazing summers with our kids (ages 3 – 13). I recently turned down a job making around $60K to start, so I could keep this lifestyle. I’m all about retiring early, but we still need to enjoy the now!

    • That sounds like a great gig! Our kids our young also (0-8) and I don’t want to miss so many opportunities. Traveling with them when they are little is really fun. I hope they will be just as excited to hang out with us when they are all teenagers, but that isn’t a given. =)

  7. I just retired so we’ll see where I am in a year.

    Still figuring out what to do and when but if my list ends up looking anything like yours, I think I’ll be fine. 🙂

  8. That is awesome!! We are in a similar situation to yours. I’m 3 years from a generous military retirement. I’ve got several rental properties paid off. Paid off our mortgages and debt 10 years ago. I’ll take at least a year off!!

    • That is awesome! I always love hearing when people make some smart moves while in the military and can have a nice set up afterwards. =) Best of luck on the next adventure!

  9. Honestly, with five kids, I would understand MORE why you’d take a year off if you know you can afford it, and that you won’t have trouble getting a paying job after that year or whenever you need it. You can’t get any time back that you’ve squandered but it feels a lot more like a loss to me if you have five kids to raise and you have the option to spend a whole year not working but spending it with them and improving yourself.

    Even though I never resented the fact my parents worked hard to provide for us, and so weren’t there when we grew up, I definitely felt the regret on her behalf when Mom passed several years ago without ever having gotten to enjoy any time off with us. We never took a family vacation, we couldn’t afford it. At best, one parent would take us to visit family, while the other one worked twice as hard.

    If you have the choice, why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to enjoy your family?

    • I totally agree. We also never traveled together as a family when I was a kid and I really want to have those experiences with my kids. I think part of the reason it’s weird for people is that their career is the biggest and best thing in their life, so they can’t imagine stepping back from that… for family or anything else for that matter. Mr. Mt definitely takes the brunt of it, mostly from other guys. We never put much of our identity into how we earn money, so it’s was an easy choice for us.

  10. I took the day of yesterday, just a single day, and it was glorious! I went for a long hike in the mountains with perfect weather, then casually ran errands before finally ending up at home with a book. It was only one day but it was so wonderful and I can’t wait until I can string more days together like this and just live life to the fullest. So glad you are making things work and truly enjoying time with your family.

    • Oh my goodness. I used to take “mental health” days. There are amazing. I LOVE hiking by myself. Congrats! I’m sure it’s great motivation to keep up the good work so you can have lots more of those in your future.

  11. I would have no problem filling my time either! I love that you did this and I’m sure your kids especially will remember this time. I think what’s great about things nowadays is there isn’t just “one way” to live life. There is no generic ladder…just what works for different families and individuals.

  12. This is amazing -and enviable. There is no doubt in my mind that in 10 years time you will remember the quality time spent with family, kids, outside and exploring more than the minivan that will (by that time) need replacing agan one day.

  13. This is such a wonderful time for you! I am very interested in the possibility of taking a sabbatical…well, to be honest leaving my job for a period of time. The one thing I am still trying to figure out is health insurance. Given the current laws I need a plan for health insurance. What did you do to be covered for this year off? Thank you!

    • We are really lucky because Mr. Mt has health care with his military retirement that covers our entire family. I think other early retires have had good luck finding coverage via the ACA. When your income is lower I think it is rather affordable. Any other readers have experience with that? I think Justin at http://rootofgood.com/ might have a post on it. Good luck!

    • OH nice! We thought about adding the Oregon coast, California and the Grand Canyon. (but this was our first big family trip, and I wasn’t sure about adding 4 extra week, you know, just in case it was horrible!) Enjoy your time there! It is on my bucket list for sure. =)

  14. A few years ago I took 2 months off. The next year I took 7 months off. I tried to go back to full time work but it just isn’t for me. I work per diem and do some side work on my own. Life has never been better. I have simplified my life to the point where I don’t need a lot of money to live comfortably in mylittlebluekayak.com! Good for you for prioritizing your family and rich experiences over the mini van!!!

    • At this stage in life, part time or flexible work would be ideal. There is no way we would both want to work full time jobs while our kids are little. 2 part time jobs could be fun. Congrats on finding your balance.

  15. I love hearing stories like this! Sometimes people get so focused on the little stuff (I’ve got to keep my job to save $X to take a two-week vacation next year) that they forget about the big picture stuff. Glad to find your blog, work optional travelers!

  16. Sounds like the sabbatical was a splendid idea for you guys. I love your list, and it just so happens that I published a list of 50 things I’d like to start doing or do more often when I’m no longer working. It looks somewhat similar to yours.


    • It’s SO important to have a game plan for retirement (early or not). 50 things is an awesome start. We know a lot of folks retiring from the military who really struggle with the transition. (from work and military life) I’m excited to hear how the first year goes for you guys.

  17. If I took a career break, I’d like to visit my family overseas and get back in shape while enjoying plenty of rest. These are all such simple things.

  18. This is so great! we actually took 2 years off to be both stay at home parents and live abroad and we always were so amused to hear people say things (almost daily) like ‘so what are you going to do ith your life?” mmm we ARE doing it = living! It was so great to just realize how much we rested without jobs and what a privilege to be able to be there for our super young kids for such important time in their lives.

    Now we are working towards getting out of the workforce for good in hopefully less than a decade. Let’s see how we go ;).

  19. I am DROOLING over the thought of taking extended time off work–and better yet, retiring early! I think the whole 40 hour work week phenomenon really is unhealthy. If we had less work hours every week I do think American adults would be way less stressed out. Kudos to you guys for taking advantage of a year of freedom! 🙂

  20. This is a great article and such a clear example why a year off makes a lot of sense. I like my job, but I would absolutely take a break if my job allowed it. Unfortunately, that won’t happen for me. It sounds like you are making the most of this extended break yourselves. Congratulations!

    • Mr. Mt had to quite his job. They would have given him 12 weeks, but he would have taken a big demotion when he returned. In the end, we opted to have a year on our own terms then look for something else entirely. It’s hard to get a full year, but I have heard of companies agreeing to 4-12 weeks. Plus that is easier to save up for! =)

  21. I spent time last summer without a job. I loved sleeping the right amount, spending time with friends and family, getting to work out whenever. At the same time I am in my wealth accumulation phase. The new job started too late in the year to be eligible for bonus or raise. Between the last job giving only ok raises, and none last year or this year, I do feel like I’ve missed out on a bit. Even 1% more pay is more matched in 401k, more saved, closer to having savings to take planned time off. Alas!

    • It’s hard to balance. But we were able to do a few improvements to our rentals that not only increased our net worth but our passive income. So I feel like we split the difference to some degree. Taking little breaks like that might help you love your working life longer as well. So it might pay off in the end.

  22. Took 6 months off to travel around the world and it was the best experience of my life! In awe that you’ve done it with kids *applauds* You can travel for the same cost as your daily living expenses at home (even less depending how you do it).

    • Our expenses did come in lower than what we spend at home! We came in way under budget. If I had to plan it again, we would have spent twice as much time at each place, saving us even more money. Good for you for taking 6 months to travel! You can’t replace experiences like that.

  23. This is an amazing post! Thanks for sharing.
    I feel the same way as you and am more interested in buying time.
    I left my day job working in a brokerage to work from home just over 11 months ago now and have been working on a post to list what the last year has been like. This post is very inspirational because I’ve been able to do so many cool things like travel to Mexico and visit friends more. I feel refreshed. I started my blog and got back into marketing, which is actually my background in the first place. I can definitely relate to a lot of the things you’re saying because I looked at it like (if I’m saving for freedom and to be independent, then why not now?, What’s the worst that can happen if I leave my job?). I sold my car to get rid of insurance and always drove an older vehicle anyways to save money. Everyone always think they can’t afford to do it, but they could, it’s just not their priority. But to each their own right. Thanks for sharing this awesome post!

  24. Not going to lie but I did question the 2nd question – why would someone want to give up a year of income and working year/experience?

    But that’s just my own fear talking! I’m a nurse and I often hear colleagues saying they can’t afford to take a month off – 30 days really?!! A year off is definitely off the table for them then.

    I’ve decided I didn’t want that to be us. My partner and I are both hustling to pay off all our debts now and then building up our wealth so that neither of us could ever say we can’t afford to take a month off. That is sad… But on the flip side, I also should train my mind to not feel bad about losing out on a month or a years’ income. I think that’s my bigger challenge 😛

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I think being able to take a month off is a great goal. Part of the reason we don’t feel like we are missing out on that income is that we built a great foundation. If you check out our 2016 net worth update, it actually went up this year! Another thing that will help, is there might be a time when you feel like the things you would miss out on are more valuable than the money. I took a month off when I was 23 and traveled coast to coast with my best friend. That was priceless. Now we did it super cheap, which helped. Read about that here. But I think once you find something really worth it, and have build a good foundation, it will be easier. Thanks again. I always love hearing readers stories!

  25. I would love to take a year off from work. I just hope it doesn’t hinder our early retirement journey.
    But it is just a whole lot of unknowns and excuses that is stopping me right now. MRS and I have enough to live for few years without working. But ultimately, we will probably choose to be miserable for maybe few more years before taking the leave.

    Is delayed gratification the way to go here?

    • So here is the tricky part. 1. What will retirement look like for you? As in, are you doing to do stuff, and what kind of stuff will that be, and how long do you want to do that stuff? Maybe some of that stuff costs money and maybe some of that stuff earns money. Then…2. What would happen if you did some of that stuff now? Or got a start on some of that stuff? Or is there stuff that fits better into your life now rather than later? Or stuff that takes time to grow into?

      Often a mini-retirement is a great bridge. It’s a test run of retirement. Or a head start for retirement. It a little taste.

      There is a time and place to “be miserable for a few more years.” When you have no emergency fund. When your drowning in debt. When if you stopped working, you’d be homeless in a month. Then, totally put your head down and push through. But as soon as you are out of that place. It’s time to look around. Take in the options. And start living the life that really reflects your goals and values. Because the future isn’t promised. And despite what people think, it’s never easy to walk away from a stable, good paying job. Hope that helps! =)

      • Thank you for the comprehensive response.
        1. MRS and I wants to do stuff (travelling, mission trips, world schooling our son and blogging) and we look to do that for the rest of our lives. 2. If we do that stuff now, we can live for 7 years. We already started a blog last month (millionairerenter.com) and we went on mission trip already, but it was too short. So every day we day dream about what would happen and pray about the future.

        We are planning for a 6 month mini retirement next year visiting relatives in Hawaii and working for my uncles farm.