These days, even though money isn’t as tight, Kristin and her husband are happy with their new lifestyle.
“In the end, we realized we didn’t need all of the things we thought we needed. The fancy trips, the cars, the chasing the Joneses. We’re done with that. We downsized to do better,” Kristin said.
Unless you are part of the One Percent, making the decision to temporarily leave the paid workforce or downshift to part-time work requires you to ask yourself what you are willing to give up—now and in the future—to accomplish this goal. For some, the trade-offs are not worth it. For others, it’s about gaining the life they truly want.
Human resources professional Mary Heeney understands this. She and her husband are passionate sailors and envisioned a radical life change: home schooling their children while the family sailed from the United States to New Zealand.
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Mary had been working part-time as an independent human resources consultant. The work was steady but not high paying. Her husband made good money, but they had not put enough away to have both of them stop working for an extended period. So Mary took a full-time job and they saved. No dinners out, no fancy clothes. They whittled their lifestyle down to essentials.
“It’s all about priorities,” Mary told me. “We saved and then sold our house to buy the boat. We sailed for three years accomplishing our goal of traveling from the United States to New Zealand and many places in between. I like to joke that we took a sailing trip rather than doing a remodel on our house.”
Not everyone will feel comfortable embarking on an extreme lifestyle change so they can take a pause and only you can decide what feels right to you and your partner. But you may want to take stock, serious stock, of what you have and what you want. You know how the Rolling Stones song goes: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Only you can decide what you “need.”
However, let me reiterate: You MUST focus on the financial implications of pausing your career. Do you have enough in savings to be out of the paid workforce for one, two, three, or more years?
Are you planning long-term for that loss in income? If not, then you are either filled with magical thinking or you are a trust-fund baby.
Sure, your husband’s career may flourish, making money a non-issue. He may never lose his job. The economy might not suddenly blow up and decimate all of the savings you put aside for college and/or retirement. You may never get divorced or become ill or be forced to care for your elderly parents. But these things can and do happen. Before, during, and after your pause, you must get and keep your financial house in order so you can thrive (read chapter 12 for more on how to make sure a career pause won’t kill your bank account).