Photo: Drif Riadh
For some people, early retirement just isn’t feasible. But neither is the rat race.
That’s where a mini-retirement comes in.
Coined by Tim Ferris in his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” a mini-retirement is a series of meaningful respites throughout your life in which you take a break from your career, rather than taking one final retirement at the end. It’s a time to step away from your typical routine and create a blank slate.
Most mini-retirements involve travel — not a holiday, but a relocation for at least one to six months before heading back to home base. But really, a mini-retirement can be whatever you need it to be.
The only challenge can be saving enough money to get there.
Take a cue from these mini-retirees below, who share why they took hiatus from work, how they saved money for it, and how they’re spending their time.
Mark and Amanda Tew spent six years paying off debt, living frugally, and saving $30,000 to live in Nicaragua for a year — and they didn’t miss out on anything at home while they were away.
Over the course of six years, Mark Tew of Tew & Fro and his wife Amanda lived fairly frugal lives, worked a few small side hustles, made detailed financial goals, and reviewed their budget frequently. This helped them pay off graduate school debt, build an emergency fund, and save $30,000 for their first mini-retirement, which they spent in Latin America.
“Waiting until I’m 65 when I’m likely less able or healthy enough to do the things I’ve always wanted to do doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Tew told Business Insider. “Since I’m not retiring early any time soon, a mini-retirement seemed like a great way to spend quality time and have a great new experience as a family.”
They did everything from renting a house in Nicaragua, buying a car, and sending the kids to school to traveling around the country, visiting lakes, volcanoes, beaches, and historical sites.
“We wanted to immerse ourselves in a new culture and just live our lives,” he said. “We also wanted our kids to learn Spanish.”
After a year of living abroad, they returned home to America where they realized they didn’t miss out on anything. After acquiring the travel bug and learning how to be a bit more flexible, Mark is considering building a virtual full-time business to give the family flexibility to live wherever they want.
“One thing I knew was that if I didn’t just take the plunge and go have this experience with my family, I would regret it for the rest of my life,” he said. “Given that I could be hit by a car tomorrow or die of cancer when I’m 42, a mini-retirement is an absolute no brainer. You just have to have a plan and be smart about it.”
Dinah Chutz spent seven months hustling hard at work, saving $14,000 to travel around New Zealand and Asia. She feels even more productive than if she were working a full-time corporate job.
“As we grow up, we are always thinking about what’s next and we end up rushing through life without stopping to really enjoy it,” Dinah Chutz, who is taking a mini-retirement at age 24, told Business Insider.
“My mini-retirement is about slowing down, experiencing the world, getting to know myself and finding what I love while I’m still young,” she said.
Chutz moved from San Diego to New Zealand, where she worked overtime at her full-time job, picked up a few freelance gigs, and saved every penny she could for seven months. Once she had $14,000 saved, she felt comfortable enough to buy a small van that doubles as a home, so she could travel without an income for 12 to 18 months.
“My days are spent discovering hidden beaches, browsing local farmers markets, diving for abalone, making jewelry, playing way too much chess and photographing the sunset,” she said. “I plan on taking my retirement back through Asia and onto India towards the end of the year.”
Since she’s been traveling, Chutz has taken on a remote freelance role with the same company she worked for back in the US and runs a blog, The Mini Retirement. She said there are many opportunities to work while abroad, from hostels looking to exchange work for accommodation to local families in need of nannies, which she did for several weeks.
Once her mini-retirement comes to an end, Chutz plans on returning to San Diego and putting all of her creative energy back into her work. Overall, she said taking the time to relax and clear her mind after rushing through college while working several jobs has been extremely rewarding and even more productive.
“Taking this time off now has only better situated me for my future,” said Chutz, who is already envisioning another mini-retirement. “I had a taste of the corporate lifestyle, enjoyed those challenges and then found a way to pursue another dream of mine before feeling ready to set down roots. I’m not sure when my next mini-retirement will be, but I am itching to see South America.”
Jillian Johnsrud is on her fifth mini-retirement, traveling through national parks with her family. She’s been able to afford so many in part due to passive income from buying and renovating homes with her husband.
So far, Jillian Johnsrud has five mini-retirements under her belt, ranging from a month to two-and-a-half years away from work. She and her husband, Adam, opted for mini-retirements because they didn’t want to miss out on things if they waited until their sixties.
“Mini-retirements are perfect for capturing those experiences that might otherwise pass you by,” Johnsrud told Business Insider. “They are also a great solution for people who want to investigate what to do as a second career or scale up a business they have started on the side but need more time and attention to grow into a full income.”
She took her first mini-retirement, a month-long $2,000 road trip with her best friend when she was 24, after she and Adam paid off $55,000 in debt and saved their first $100,000.
The couple left their jobs two-and-a-half years ago and are currently traveling for 10 weeks to 10 national parks with their five children.
Previously, they’ve used mini-retirements to travel or buy and renovate homes, the latter of which has helped them generate a passive income that enables them to take mini-retirements more often. Johnsrud also runs her blog, Montana Money Adventures, for about three hours a day, eight months out of the year.
And after this latest mini-retirement, she plans to do full-time work while the kids are in school, but doubts that she and Adam will go back to a normal 9 to 5 job.
“After this one, the goal is to design a life we would never want to retire from because it’s such a great fit for our lifestyle,” she said. “Having a few months off a year and a modest work schedule seems about perfect for us in this season of life.”
After three years, Kyle Stimpson saved $100,000 by adhering to a simple budget in which he saved 30% to 40% of his post-tax income — $20,000 of it is going towards a mini-retirement in Asia and Europe.
Kyle Stimpson of Not Your Parents’ Financial Guy and his partner Lauren embarked on their first mini-retirement this month, in which they plan to travel the world for at least six months.
“It has never made sense to me to work your whole life and save all of the fun and enjoyment for the end, when you might not have the health or energy to do the things you want,” he told Business Insider. “Not to be morbid, but we’re not even guaranteed a long life so we need to enjoy today and not postpone truly living.”
To fund his mini-retirement, Stimpson saved 30% to 40% of his post-tax income for three years. He used any leftover money wisely, adhering to a simple budget he created by renting a modest apartment, cooking most meals at home, and spending little on shopping and entertainment. And he did all of this while living in Sydney, Australia, one of the most expensive cities in the world.
It paid off — Stimpson saved $100,000 and he’s allocating $20,000 toward his mini-retirement with Lauren.
After a short trip in Australia, they’ll head to Southeast Asia for three months, where they’re budgeting to spend around $2,000 a month, and then to Europe for three months with a monthly budget of $4,000. There, they’ll be staying with a few friends and volunteering on an eco-farm in Italy.
“Travel is not just for the rich, since once you leave behind your expensive lifestyle, life on the road can actually be fairly cheap,” Stimpson said.
Part of his budget is earmarked for the one to two months he’ll spend looking for work once his mini-retirement is over.
But, it won’t be his last mini-retirement.
“I enjoy my work when it’s something that has meaning and allows me to contribute something positive to society, so I don’t see the point in ever completely retiring from work,” Stimpson said. “However, at certain stages in life, why not take a break to travel, spend time with family or recharge your batteries before starting a new project? I would definitely see myself taking a mini-retirement at least every 10 years.”
Chris Durheim saved for his mini-retirement by accident. When he and his family downsized their home, they had enough equity to take a year off and then return to work with savings leftover.
For Chris Durheim, a year-long mini-retirement came down to focusing on family time, travel, and the chance to try out entrepreneurship.
Even if he and his wife Jaime proactively saved, they wouldn’t be able to retire for another 15 years. “We know you can’t get the moments back with your kids when you’re older, so we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to focus on them this year,” he told Business Insider.
In a way, they saved for a mini-retirement by accident. By dabbling in minimalism, they realized they could downsize to a smaller apartment and sold their house, which they had been paying down their mortgage ahead of schedule for the past ten years. This freed up a significant amount of equity, and they were able to make a mini-retirement work — enough for three years, in fact.
However, Durheim didn’t want to re-enter the workforce on zero savings and decided against extending the mini-retirement.
“We’re trying to find the balance between taking advantage of the opportunity and making sure we’re set up for when we get back to a 9 to 5,” he said. They work on running their blog, Keep Thrifty; spending family quality time together; and trying to accomplish their goal of visiting all 50 states.
Durheim is searching for new job opportunities for when his mini-retirement ends, and the family is looking forward to “rebuilding some good family routines.”