One late mega-retirement or multiple mini-retirements?

Consider periodic mini-retirements spread over a lifetime



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ferriss-198x300Here’s a new concept I’d not considered until I started reading the book pictured to your left. Last time, we talked about semi-retirement and sabbaticcals but you might want to add the term “mini-retirement” to all these concepts that (in my view) touch on financial independence.

In his book, The 4-hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss floats the idea of periodic mini-retirements spread over a lifetime. So instead of the traditional route so many of us take—which he dubs “slave/save/retire”—Ferriss likes to work in two-month stints, then “retire” for blocks of a month or so (sometimes longer).

Death of vacations?

Now you might argue that the traditional two-week annual vacation squeezed between 48 to 50 weeks of working is a mini-retirement, or more accurately, a “micro-retirement.” But of course the very fact of you having a return ticket means a micro retirement is no retirement at all.

Even as he declares the birth of mini-metirements, Ferriss announces the “death of vacations.” He discovered mini-vacations after being “miserable and overworked” early in 2004. He originally planned to relax for a month in Central America but, seeing as he had only purchased a one-way ticket, extended his stay for three months and ultimately 15 months. Thus came the insight that semi-retiring baby boomers may well want to embrace: “Why not take the usual 20- to 30-year retirement, and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end?”

An end, I might add, that might not be as hale and hearty as mini-retirements taken earlier. As I say in my book, the goal is to enjoy Findependence “while you’re still young enough to enjoy it.”

Alternating waves of activity and leisure

The flipside of the mini-retirement strategy is that it also means those practicing it—many of them the oncoming wave of retiring baby boomers—will actually continue to work: as I said last time, probably well into one’s 70s, health permitting.

The difference is that this will be accomplished in alternating waves of activity and leisure. This actually also corresponds to my confession a week ago that I had a few early false alarms on my own Findependence Day. Now that I’m refining the concept, I realize that you can have multiple Findependence Days, each associated with separate and finite mini-metirements. Now that the World Cup has begun, I’m hoping to have one this summer.

Embracing the mobile lifestyle

A big ingredient in Ferriss’s approach is the mobile lifestyle, which is implied by the book’s subtitle: “Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.” It’s harder for salaried 9-to-5ers to embrace this lifestyle, since it’s more suited to self-employment and a web-based mobile device culture. But even for what Ferriss terms “cubicle dwellers” there are ways to pull it off if you can negotiate it with your boss.

Next time, we’ll look at the idea of the four-hour work DAY for employees: a precursor to the four-hour work WEEK.

2 comments on “One late mega-retirement or multiple mini-retirements?

  1. This may be an easier concept to sell to the younger generations. For many, traditional retirement is not worth the financial sacrifices today. Unfortunately, the current average household savings is ridiculous; however, if more publications would promote concepts like mini-retirements and sabbaticals I believe this would stimulate individuals to contribute more to their short term and long term savings.


  2. Mini-retirements sound intriguing, but are they realistic for most workers? A worker who graduates from college at age 22 and immediately enters the workforce, will work until age 67 under current SSA guidelines before s/he retires. This means they work for 45 years. The article hints at taking the traditional 20-30 year retirement and instead work until age 70+, spreading mini-retirements within a 53+ period. Using the assumption you will live 85 years, work thru age 70, take 10 mini-retirement periods of 12 months each, a 22 year old could take a year off after college, work for four years, take a year off, then repeat until age 71.

    Young workers do not have the traditional loyalties older workers have towards their company and their jobs. It is hard to leave a good paying job which you worked long and hard to attain, just to start over upon your return from a 12 month mini-retirement. In certain technology jobs, 12-18 months is an eternity and not keeping up will label you a dinosaur.

    How many families with only one bread winner can afford not to have an income for 12-18 months? Does the entire family take a mini-retirement from school and their jobs? Even empty-nesters and DINKs find it difficult for both partners to take a joint mini-retirement.

    And what happens when you return from the mini-retirement and have to explain the gaps in your work history to a potential employer, or to an investor in your private business? Taking mini-retirements every 5 years looks bad on a resume and does not motivate an employer to give you major responsibilities.

    I would love mini-retirements, but family commitments and a strong work ethic that I hope my kids will inherit keep me grounded. Besides, I am lucky to be in a field that I love, such that it really does not seem like work. If you are not in that type of job, then find one, instead of just taking mini-retirements.


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