The case for mini-retirements


What is a mini-retirement?

Long-suffering readers know that I have a bit of a different take on retirement than most. Where others see something based on age or assets, I see something based on control. Where others see a life-stage, I see a lifestyle philosophy.

After all, why should living the life you truly want to live depend on how many birthdays you’ve had or whether or not you punch a time clock?  How in the world has it become acceptable to defer your dreams and push the best things in life to the very end?

The concept sounds great, of course, but how do you do it?  I’ve offered some ideas before (for example, here, here and here), but I’d like to expand on an additional idea that I’ve only briefly mentioned in the past: Mini-Retirements.   What exactly is a mini-retirement?

With traditional retirement, you save up the good stuff for that 20-30 year period at the end of life.

The idea of mini-retirements takes some of that 20-30 year period (say 5 years), breaks it up into 1-3 month chunks and spreads it out over your working years.  A mini-retirement is longer than a vacation, but shorter than…well…retirement.

As you might imagine, there are a number of benefits to taking these extended periods off:

  • You have time to actually experience a place rather than just visiting the touristy spots.
  • It allows you to enjoy some of the benefits of retirement while you’re still young and healthy.
  • It rejuvenates you and can help you come back to work more engaged and more productive.

I didn’t invent the idea of mini-retirements (I was introduced to it by Tim Ferriss), but the concept fits perfectly with my philosophy here at Intentional Retirement.  Namely that retirement shouldn’t be something that is delayed until “Someday,” but rather it should be an incremental process that is incorporated into your life now.

My mini-retirement experiment

Renting an apartment in Madrid or Melbourne and immersing yourself in the culture for a few months sounds great, but there are a number of challenges.  For example:

  • How do you pay for it?
  • How can you get the time off work?
  • Where should you go?
  • What about your spouse and/or kids?
  • What do you do with your house when you leave?
  • What type of planning is involved (e.g. housing, airfare, language barrier)?

To answer those questions, I plan on researching and writing a series of posts and then scheduling a mini-retirement for myself by the end of next year (You may have noticed a few of them on my 50-by-50 List).  As some of you know, I’m working, married and have an 8-year-old daughter, so this will be no small task.  I don’t yet know where, when or how, but I know why and as faithful readers know, why is half the battle.

So follow along and let’s figure it out together.  I’d love it if some of you were inspired to do something similar.  Feel free to email me questions or leave comments in the articles about your own thoughts and planning.    It’s always easier to tackle big goals when you have company.

Hope to see you on the road.

~ Joe

P.S. Have you read the IR Manifesto A Brief Guide to Retirement Bliss?  If not, you can download a free copy over here.

Photo courtesy of Mihhailov.  Used under Creative Commons License.

17 Responses to “The case for mini-retirements”

  1. John September 11, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    Interesting concept, Joe. One concern (as a self employed person) that I’d have with a mini-retirement is re-starting my business/career. At least for my type of work, I’d be difficult to keep my clients when I take a month or two off.

    I love the idea…..just not sure how many people could implement it. Your thoughts about picking back up where you left off when you return?


    • Joe Hearn September 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      Hi John. Thanks for the comment. I definitely hear what you’re saying. I have some of the same concerns with my situation. I still need to do a lot of thinking and researching on some of the different challenges, but my initial thinking is that I won’t be able to disconnect completely from my job. I’ll probably use a combination of phone/email/skype to work for at least a few hours per day. That will still give me the bulk of my day to spend with my family and enjoy wherever we are. I’ll also try to arrange my schedule and batch tasks in such a way that as much as possible gets moved to the months before and after the mini-retirement. Those are a few ideas, but I think many people will see stopping/restarting as a big obstacle, so I’ll try to come up with a dozen or so ideas to overcome it and then do a post on it.

      If you don’t mind me asking, what line of work are you in? Thanks for following along. I look forward to seeing where this whole thing goes.


      • John September 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

        Hi, Joe. Thanks for your reply and thoughts.

        I’m a freelance/self employed CPA performing financial accounting services for business clients. One the one hand, it’s great because it is not overly seasonal like a traditional CPA who prepares a lot of tax returns for the first several months of the year. On the other hand, my clients rely on me being there, thus the reason for my earlier post stating it wouldn’t work for me to be gone for a month or so.

        On the side (and really my longer term interest) I offer personal financial coaching. If in years to come this becomes my full-time “job” it would certainly be easier to not schedule clients for a particular month and take a mini-retirement instead.

        Thanks for your work on your web site.


  2. Buck September 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Wow, this is incredibly timely for me. My wife and I recently decided on taking our own mini-retirement starting next June when we’ll be packing up the family (including our 8 year old twins) and moving to a Spanish-speaking country. We’re currently going through that same list of questions you posed.

    Making the commitment is the first step and I applaud you for that. I look forward to following along on your journey to making this a reality. If you plan on going to Spain (wasn’t sure if your reference to Madrid was hypothetical or not), do message me as I’m about a month into research mode and that is destination #1 on our list!

    • Joe Hearn September 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

      Hi Buck. I was totally excited to read your comment! I’m not sure where we’re going yet, but Spain is definitely on the list. I’d love to compare notes and brainstorm a bit. I’ll shoot you an email and we can talk. Thanks.


  3. Kevin September 12, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Good stuff Joe. It’s so refreshing to talk about non-traditional retirement…especially not selling the work for 30 to 40 years and then enjoy life. I’m a former financial (the old American Express Financial Advisors) planner and now don’t believe what’s being push by the media, financial industry and society in general with a traditional retirement. Do get me wrong, saving for the future is a good thing….but not at the cost enjoying life while we are probably in our best physical and mental states. Too many people have been convinced that they must slave away often at a job they don’t enjoy for 20 plus years and with the hope of having a better life in retirement….its an industrial age concept in a knowledge based economy. Looking forward to following your mini-retirement project….you got me thinking….

    • Joe Hearn September 12, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Hi Kevin. Thanks for the comment and kind words. Couldn’t agree more on the need for a new vision for retirement. Thanks for following along and helping to spread the word. The more we start living it out in our own lives, the more people will realize that an intentional retirement makes a lot more sense than a conventional one. Keep us posted on your own journey. It’s always more fun when we can hear how other people in the community are doing!

      ~ Joe

  4. Jean September 14, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    In academia, the mini-retirement is institutionalized in the form of the sabbatical, which occurs every seven years. The sabbatical isn’t intended to be a vacation, but an opportunity to take a break from teaching and immerse yourself in scholarly research for a semester or a year. At the educational institutions where I’ve worked, faculty have had the choice of taking one academic semester off at full pay or a full year at half pay. I think the sabbatical is one of the reasons academics tend to stay engaged with their work longer and to retire later than people in the corporate world. I’ve always thought it was an idea that other industries should adapt and adopt.

    • Joe Hearn September 16, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      Hi Jean. Couldn’t agree more. Your comment reminded me of a TED Talk I saw awhile back by Stefan Sagmeister on the power of time off. Here’s a link if you’re interested: Thanks for following along and have a great week.


  5. Ron September 27, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Great concept and something I have not considered in the past. I have been working for the last 30 years in a stressful engineering job (I’m surprised the stress hasn’t killed me by now) and have never taken off more than 2 weeks straight at anytime. I really worry about how I’m going to fill the time in retirement , hopefully following your advice about a mini-retirement will give me enough time to actually stop and think about it 🙂

    • Joe Hearn September 30, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Hi Ron. You bring up an important point. It’s not enough to just subtract work. You need to replace it with something else. I talk about that quite a bit in Part 3 of my ebook “A Brief Guide to Retirement Bliss.” You can download it for free at Thanks for following along. Let us know how things go with the mini-retirements!


  6. Michael January 7, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    Hi Joe,

    I see this was written a while ago, did you manage to take a break? Wondering how you managed with the education part of your daughter if it was just a temporary break? Could you please let us know about that part?


    • Joe Hearn January 7, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

      Hi Michael. Good question. That part was actually easy. We took our trip during the summer so she was out of school. We have friends who took a longer trip and actually pulled their kids out of school to do it. In that instance the school was helpful in getting them the school work ahead of time so they could do it while they were traveling. Then you just need to make sure to stay disciplined enough to carve some time out each day for homework. Hope that helps!


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