Longing To Take A Break But My Conscience Won’t Allow

Fog Over The Golden Gate Bridge With Man On The Beach LoungingAll I want to do is nothing, if only just for a little while.  I’ve got 30 days to relax until a decision needs to be made whether to jump back into the work force or give this entire entrepreneurial endeavor a full go.  Why?  I’ve decided to take a sabbatical, and I might never come back!

Although I’ve got 30 days to decide, I’ve really been thinking about this moment ever since I launched Financial Samurai three years ago.  The first words in my About page talk about how money stopped being a driving factor.  Instead, the elusive balanced lifestyle is what keeps me going.

When we have enough money, I argue that we stop caring so much about making more money anymore.  Many people disagree with this statement and feel that having money makes you crave for more.  Perhaps it’s the reason why some multi-millionaires and billionaires still cheat even though they’ve got enough money to last several lifetimes!

I’m not sure, but perhaps I’m blessed with the realization of what enough is.

LESS MONEY, MORE FREE TIME

If I decide to never go back to work, I’ll be taking an enormous pay cut.  Most would think I’m crazy if they knew the amount, but then simple math will dictate that most would just be pontificating.  What I lose in money, I gain in time.  Time gets incrementally more valuable as years go by.  Two years ago, my neighbor’s wife died.  She was 76.  Last year, my other neighbor’s husband died.  He was 63.  Last month, my friend’s mother died of a stroke.  She was 72.  The other week, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died at 47 from throat cancer.

The average life expectancy is around 80 years old, yet for some reason, all four examples above died earlier than expected.  I’m under no illusion that I could contract a serious illness and go by this Christmas.  It’s why you’ll see me online at all hours of the day and going to parties till midnight even though I’ve been working for 15 hours.  Give me until age 60, and I’ll be happy.  Every year beyond 60, I will count my blessings!

With more free time and enough money, is now the time to start a family?  Such befuddling things I wonder.

MAKING THE VARIOUS INCOME BUFFERS COUNT IS HARD

Part of the ironic benefit of regularly saving 70% of my after-tax income for over a decade is that if I take a 70% after tax pay cut, my life won’t change a bit!  Despite the belief that my lifestyle won’t change, I’m sure I’ll have more stress given such a large income buffer will be eliminated.

I won’t know what it’s like to potentially tap my savings or passive income buffer because I’ve never touched it since college.  I’ve always just relied on 30% of my after tax income to live.  Spending passive income is one thing.  Reducing savings is another.

Just thinking about touching passive income to survive makes me feel a little queasy.  In fact, thinking about using one buffer up in online income to live feels like I’m going in reverse.  Online income is more than enough to maintain my standard of living, but I just don’t want to touch the income at all.  The money would be better spent re-invested in the company rather than paying for my food, clothing, and shelter.

IS IT OK TO JUST BUM AROUND AND DO NOTHING FOR A WHILE?

I remember the days when we were kids.  We could just lounge around the pool for 3 months during the summer and be bums.  We’d have our parents cook us meals, wash our clothes, and pay our bills.  Whenever we had a problem or a question, our parents would help out and know the answer.  As we grow older, that safety net goes away….. for most at least.

Once we are financially secure, all the pressure we experience is self-imposed pressure.  Given I expect a lot from myself, the pressure dial is always close to, or on maximum.  I have the ability to wind down for a day, but afterward, I start feeling like a non-productive member of society and will probably work harder the next day to make up for the day of rest!

I long to be a lifestyle blogger who just travels the world, blogs about his adventures, has no responsibilities nor dependents.  I just feel guilty about not maximizing the potential I know I have.  I feel guilty for not trying harder so that I can provide for my family and for my parents if and when they need me.

If you are living a life of leisure who lives paycheck to paycheck online or offline, please share your wisdom of how you eradicated your guilt.  If you’ve retired early, please share the same.  Help me shatter my belief because I know many will disagree with what contribution and guilt means.

Is it OK to be selfish and start taking more than I give?  Is it OK to join the 47% who don’t pay any federal income taxes anymore due to a lower income or a large deferral of taxable income?  Perhaps I can join the Occupy protesters and fight against those who do not believe in equality.  Is it OK to sit back and relax for a couple years?  I hope so.  It’s just so hard to do even though it requires little effort!

THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS

My sabbatical isn’t a countdown to freedom, because unless I’m living in a prison cell, I will always be free.  My sabbatical is a time where I need to find out what’s next.  I’ve listed eight things I plan to do in my announcement post on Untemplater, and I’m hoping that I will execute them all.

For those of you who’ve taken a sabbatical, I’d love to hear from you here or on Untemplater what you did, and how you felt after you took your sabbatical.  What do you regret not doing or doing while on sabbatical?  Any tricks you have for making yourself not work on sabbatical and feel OK with it?

Please read: “Taking A Sabbatical And Potentially Never Coming Back” and let me know your thoughts.

Photo: Fog over the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny SF day.  SD

Thanks,

Sam

 

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    I find sometimes that doing nothing is the best way to do something. You can take a step back and analyse everything from a distance. It could be the equivalent of starting over with a new outlook. My dream is to quit my job and work for myself full-time. But I can not do that unless I have my ideas up and working. I guess, I have the same fears as you – I don’t want to deplete my savings and I want to make sure that I can take care of my family.

    • says

      I’m hoping I can do a little bit of nothing, but when you get e-mails and after e-mails and requests after requests, it’s hard to just ignore folks.

      First step, to reduce my weekend work by 80%!

      • says

        Hey,

        I’m not going to tell you if you should be taking the job or not. But what I will tell you is to keep the Financial Samurai going – you really have sonething going on here. I’m in the same mindset as you (and a financial background as well), trying to figure out something on my own.
        Feel free to let me know if I can help the survival of the Financial Samurai

        And all the very best to you,
        Olivier

        • says

          Well, if you have a full-time job (and in finance, full time is often in excess of 45h/week), and you say “but when you get e-mails and after e-mails and requests after requests, it’s hard to just ignore folks”, it can be infered that FS was in danger.

          So much the better if that’s not the case !!!

        • says

          Gotcha. Good to know! I always like to understand how others view the writing since it’s hard to tell myself sometimes.

          FS should be alright. There’s a 42 post backlog!

  2. Daniel says

    Sam, great article! I’m almost in the same situation. The only difference is the buffer I have which should last about 8 to 10 years if I keep my current expenses and I don’t make any money…

    I took 5 weeks off last summer and I spent most of the time by the pool with my wife and baby daughter. We had a blast, we will do the same thing this year, I’ll take the whole month of August off and 2 weeks in July but my clients (I’m an IT contractor) are offering me work and the pay is very good…. But as you said, life is short and we should enjoy it while we’re young.

    Do you have the option to go back to work after 6 or 12 months? I don’t think that you will go back, but it should make your decision easier.

    • says

      Sounds good Daniel. It was a blast taking 6 weeks off a year for the past 3 years, and I’m longing to make it even longer. Truth be told, 8 weeks off a year would be perfect, and not more.

      Are you looking to boost your 8-10 years to more? If so, how much more? Originally, I was planning to boost my savings buffer to 25 years from currently 17 years, but I’m getting antsy.

      I think I have an option in 6-12 months, but nobody knows for sure.

      • Daniel says

        Yes Sam, I want to increase my buffer as much as I can. Basically, two years ago we (me wify and new born daughter back then) had some savings but they were equal to the amount of stupid debt we had… So basically I started from zero and in two years I managed to save a lot of money of money (about 90% of my income). Right now, for me it’s easier to take a break as I do only freelance work for clients outside Romania where I live. That is a good thing because I’m doing the geo-arbitrage thing by earning a lot of money from the western clients and living in low cost of living country. After I finish a contract I can take a break while looking for the next one.

        But true by told, as our baby grows older we want to come back to US (she was born there), but this move will basically put us again on the rat race given the fact that the income will be much lower and the expenses much higher and the saving rate will probably be less than 30%… So it’s a trade off we have to make, either we spend a few more years in Romania then be able to save up to a half million USD in the next 2 – 3 years if the market stays at least as good as now, or we go back now to US our saving power will decrease a lot. I hope my long vacation will help us decide what to do.

  3. David M says

    “When we have enough money, I argue that we stop caring so much about making more money anymore. Many people disagree with this statement and feel that having money makes you crave for more.”

    I agree with your first statement.

    “Most would think I’m crazy if they knew the amount, but then simple math will dictate that most would just be pontificating.”

    “Part of the ironic benefit of regularly saving 70% of my after-tax income for over a decade is that if I take a 70% after tax pay cut, my life won’t change a bit!”

    That’s that thing – you have save SO much every year! You absolutely deserve to be able to make this decision!

    I absolutely do NOT think you are crazy – if the math works then you should ABSOLUTELY – give up your day job! Go for it!!!

    “I long to be a lifestyle blogger who just travels the world, blogs about his adventures, has no responsibilities nor dependents.”

    This sounds great! I look forward to the new blog – I look forward to meeting up with you on the road sometime!

    • says

      Thanks David. All I know is what I’ve been doing, so doing something new is quite a dilemma.

      But, that’s what taking an extended period of time off is for. I’m sure I’ll learn something about myself and have a different outlook at the end.

      Want to meet up in KL? I’m thinking of going for a week.

      • David M says

        KL does not seem to be in the cards for this year – as I stated in a previous post I was there last December. This years big trip is likely to India and Sri Lanka.

        As I stated in the previous post the buffet restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental is a wonderful experience. We stayed for 3 hours and the cost for 2 people was less than $100. The food, atmosphere and staff were all world class! Highly Recommend!

      • David M says

        KL is not in the cards for me this year – I was there last December.

        As I posted before – I highly recommend the buffer restaurtant at the Mandarin Oriental for dinner. We spent 3 hours there. the decor, atmosphere, food and service are all world class. The cost for 2 was a very reasonable $100.

        We also stayed at the Intercontinental and the cost including breakfast was only about 400 a night. We stayed 6 nights – the cost for 3 days or less without breakfast was more that the rate we got that included breakfast. You needed to stay 4 or more nights to get the rate we got. This hotel was a great value but not a world class hotel – you might want to consider since you might need to save the money due to being retired!

  4. says

    Sam,
    You touch upon something great – time is invaluable. Part of the reason I think your live wont change much after cutting your income by 70% is because you’re in a different stage in your life. I don’t know your age, but judging from the writing, you don’t sound like someone starting out in their career, or in their second job for that matter. And with established investments, I’m certain you have virtually no debt or very little. This including the mortgage.
    Keep us posted, and I’m curious on which way you pan out. Hopefully the newly launched consulting service will bring in enough business to leave work for good.

    • says

      I’ve got a nice big mortgage that I recently refied to 2.625% Eddie. Hence, why I’m going to test the market out and see if there are any takers post the FB IPO.

      The current mortgage size is optimized for my current income. But if I’m to reduce my income drastically, I should probably reduce my liabilities drastically.

      FSOS takes A LOT of work! But, it is quite rewarding to see results!

  5. says

    You may be embarking on the greatest moment in life! Financial independence changed my life for the better and the best time to enjoy it is in your youth. You can always come back! I was able to do all the things that people dream about and at an age where I can enjoy it. The only issue is what you are going to do and will it be satisfying for you.

    Your list of things for the month will certainly keep you busy, but will it help you make a decision? You may not be able to in this short amount of time. Good luck.

  6. Michael says

    Besides building adequate savings, another big challenge of “retiring” early is medical insurance. Sam, if you have both I say go for it! My wife and I recently bought a new home, which will increase our expenses considerably once we move in. We’re currently living below our means and have for several years. For a while we thought about staying put, saving 70% of our income and perhaps retiring in perhaps 10 or so years (mid 40s). For me, it is difficult to trade a better lifestyle now, for the chance of a better lifestyle 10 or 15 years from now. Though as you say, on average, we’ll live to 80, it’s mathematically possible that I won’t be here next week. Better to enjoy life now before it’s too late. From the little I know about you, I’ll venture a guess and say you’ll probably get bored in a month or two and look for work. Maybe not work as in working for someone else full-time, but work as in, continue to find increase passive income, and maybe some consulting. Whatever you decide, good luck and enjoy!

    • says

      Yesiree. I looked online, and it seems good med insurance can be had for someone like me for around $250-$350 a month. And of course, that would be a business expense as well!

      I’ve got my hands full with online work. Not sure I’ll be able to go back.

  7. says

    I didn’t take a sabbatical. I just up and quit. I don’t talk about this much, but one HUUUGE experience that motivated me to quit my job was the death of my best friend. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27. By 33, it’d taken her. While she was battling breast cancer another really close friend was diagnosed with stage 4 soft tissue sarcoma – another type of cancer. He was only 37 at the time. Fortunately, he’s still alive to fight it. When you see these things while you’re young, it changes you. Life can be very, very short. If there’s a dream to be pursued, I’m going after it ASAP.

  8. says

    Decisions, decisions and this is a big one. Definitely take some time to relax during your time off! You deserve it and you want to feel rested and refreshed if you do decide to go back. I know how it feels not being able to step away from all work too though. I feel guilty all the time when I have only been doing fun stuff and let my to do list pile up. You are very fortunate that you have been saving so much. There are people who drop everything with no savings it’s too easy for them to end up in hot water. Best of luck in your decision and hope you can get in some days to veg out on the beach!

    • says

      I’m thankful that blogging has allowed us to be held accountable for things. When we write them down, we have a much greater chance of doing.

      I’m looking forward to working with you on the Yakezie Writing Contest!

  9. says

    Enjoy your time off! It will give you a chance to get away from the normal routine and figure out what to do next. I know you are keeping really busy, but don’t you think you need a little down time to reflect? You’re a type A go go kind of guy and I doubt you can really hang out around the pool for long.

    • says

      I’ll try to keep the laptop open to under 1 hour while I’m in HAwaii w/ Kevin from IIW! haha.

      I don’t think I’m Type A. I just do a lot b/c I feel guilty not doing since I went to school for so long and my parents took care of me. Gotta give back and prove myself.

  10. says

    Man I wish I had your problems Sam.

    As an early career professional, I just don’t see myself ever able to get into a position like yours where you are so financially secure. What’s it like to not really have to worry about money? Damn, why did I miss all those great bubbles that gave your generation such a boost.

    • says

      How do you know? I bet if you save 55% of your after tax income a year for the next 10 years you will definitely start experiencing financial freedom. It’s just up to you to do so!

  11. San Diego says

    If you are looking for some inspiration then check out the bumfuzzle blog (link below) which chronicles the lives of a young couple that gave it all up for a life on the road exploring the world. Some of the shenanigans they get involved in are buying a VW van and traveling from Canada to South America to Europe (while pregnant). They even buy a boat and sail the open ocean. I think that the couple would make a wonderful guest blogger for this site because they track their expenses of their adventures and share their experiences, I think that the husband was a successful day trader who achieved financial independence too. http://www.bumfuzzle.com/

  12. says

    First Sam, if Obama loses, you owe me $100. Can you still afford retirement then:-)

    A buddy, smart with money/investing, is way beyond ever needing to work again. A few years ago, he went to a financial consultant. After the guy looked at everything, he actually closed his books and said “Game over”. My buddy laughed at that.

    Unfortunately, he’s still working at a job that I know he doesn’t like.

    • says

      Thanks for the reminder Michael! I totally forgot. Man, I’m gonna be RICH when Obama wins! Won’t have to work again!

      Why doesn’t your buddy just quit! PRobably b/c he likes his work!

  13. says

    I believe in taking time off and stepping back to take a different perspective on things. It will clear your head, and in a month you will know what you want to do. Good Luck! It will be interesting to see where this takes you.

  14. says

    Great post. I tend to have the same train of thought with regards to work that you’ve highlighted, but I’ve worked hard to make a concerted effort to instill some level of balance.

    It’s taken quite a bit of time and I sometimes still feel guilty when I choose relaxing over working, writing, etc. But at the end of the day, the ability to “re-charge” my batteries and clear the mental clutter actually allows me to be even more productive.

    Enjoy your break and best of luck with whatever decision you choose to make moving forward!

  15. says

    I’ve been thinking a lot about your upcoming sabbatical. When we were living with my parents all last summer and working less at our traditional jobs, it was hard to relax, and worry was ever present. Enjoy your time off, 30 days goes really fast.

  16. BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog says

    FS, I would like to take a sabbatical as well, however, my mindset is to just forge ahead and not lose momentum. I don’t want to lose my edge.

  17. says

    Sam, I’ve always worked and owned businesses for last 15 years. For about 10 years, I worked 18 hours minimum. But that allowed me to say no to Accenture when I was asked to go overseas in 2006. I didn’t work for 3 years. I instead focused more on my businesses and enjoyed that time until a very good opportunity lured me to get back into workforce. Sometimes it’s better to gather courage and take plunge because no preparation is enough to make the call.

    • says

      3 years, that is quite a “sabbatical”! Good to hear you found something that lured you back in. That’s kind of what I’m looking for as well. A way to do my own thing for several years, and if it’s not where I want it, to experience something so awesome that would encourage me to come back.

      It’s always good to do something new after a while.

      • says

        Absolutely. Life is too short. It’s good to prepare for the plunge, but no preparation is enough. So, as that Nike ad says, “Just to it.”. You won’t regret. I really enjoyed the experience of that sabbatical for 3 years.

  18. says

    My hope is that I’ll be an overly productive person now so that I can be a couch potato later. Between you business and FS and other incomes, you’ve already been productive for a lifetime.

    If I was no longer working, I’d definitely be writing.

  19. Mike Hunt says

    Sam,

    What about other things in your bucket list? Like writing and playing more songs? Sports and physical activity challenges, etc? Life is short and you can make deadlines to try and move different parts of your life forward.

    I’ve done that by pushing things like music over the weekend while continuing to work during the week. Tiring but somehow more satisfying.

    -Mike

    • says

      Perhaps a book, and finally getting some hardcore guitar lessons. Writing an edgy, entertaining, and educational book is something I can totally dig. Can write it from anwhere too!

  20. says

    Hey Sam

    Having made the leap from my corporate job into the unknown in 2004, I can only say that is it full of exhilaration, anxiety, success and mishaps all wrapped up in one!

    To your point about being selfish. There is nothing wrong with being selfish (i.e. taking the time to relax and reflect and really connect with yourself and delve into what your unique sets of skills are).

    As my good friend Aaron Ross (www.pebblestorm.com) teaches, being truly selfish means we want to create a situation to enable us to make a bigger difference to more people. I think if you act “selfishly” now, you will only be more of a resource for others down the road.

    Casey

    • says

      Hey Casey – Sounds good man. 2004 was a while ago and I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. It was good to meet up, and I look forward to meeting up again in the future.

  21. says

    Sounds like a sabbatical is a good decision making point for you.

    Who cares about the pay cut that you would be taking? It sounds like you’ve banked a good amount of money and could live off of that for awhile, plus the passive income streams you have.

    “When we have enough money, I argue that we stop caring so much about making more money anymore.” I totally agree with you. I’m still at the point where I want more money, but ask me again in 5-10 years how I feel on that.

    I wonder too if reaching FI will prompt me to actually want to start a family. I am a lot more ambitious when I’m single and it’s been awhile since I’ve had a serious relationship. I have a tendency to mentally take a step back from work when I’m in a serious relationship, which could hinder my path to FI. Crazy woman hormones.

    I’m curious to read about your progress with this. You have so many of the same questions I have around taking a breather after FI.

    I sometimes wonder if the women I know in their 30s who didn’t go back to work after having kids chose to do so partially because they realized they simply didn’t need two incomes to survive anymore. I wonder if I could be in a situation where I could do that with zero incomes. Time is on my side and I hope I don’t have any fertility problems to worry about because that could be pretty freaking awesome.

    Cheers!

    • says

      Leigh, one thing I strongly suggest if you wish to find love and have a family is to step back before you have to step back.

      In other words, don’t throw yourself overboard with your career, even though you’re making the big bucks. I know a number of women in their 40s who are mult-millionaires, and they would give it ALL up to have found someone in their 20s or 30s to be with. Probably similar with guys, but we’re conditioned to earn to provide for more than just one.

      No point having all the money if there’s nobody to spend it with. Time is on your side indeed!

  22. says

    I’ll be honest, when I suddenly quit my job a month ago, I decided that bumming around is exactly what I want to do. I’ve had a job/income since I was 14 and worked for my previous company for the last 10 years. So from the age of 18-28, I’ve been working fulltime. The idea of not having a regular income was nerve-wracking at first, but it got better every day. I had money put aside for this exact reason, and have income coming in from my consulting gigs, but those are dependent on how much work I chose to take on.

    Take some time to wander around. Its the best feeling in the world.

    Ps. You’re welcome to come up to Toronto. I’d be happy to show you around.

    • says

      Sounds good Marissa. Thanks for the invite! Glad you are surviving and thriving with your newfound independence! I’m going to have to re-read/read your quit your job post again. Let’s revisit in a couple months and see how things are!

  23. Darwin's Money says

    Sabbatical – nice! How’d you swing that with the employer? Is that a routine thing other people do (I read about some companies that actually encourage a long one like every 7 years or something) or did you have to come up with a story for why you needed a month off?

  24. says

    Enjoy your sabbatical and DO take some time off! It will give you time to clear your thoughts and and refocus on what you really love to do. You have the financial independence to do so, which many people can’t say they do, so take advantage of it. Good luck!

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