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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

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The Case For Taking A ‘Year Off’ Before You Retire

A note from Johann

To end your full time working career with a climax and to avoid simply coasting into retirement, taking a gap year can do much for your energy levels and stimulate a renewed enthusiasm. A gap year can take you into a range of long held aspirations and a bucket list of adventures.

Dr Frances Black is a wonderful example of how a gap year can be done. In her book “My Gap Year Retirement” she describes how she created for herself several goals. She wanted to live in a country where she could learn the language and travel in a down-to-earth way. She chose Spain for this and her book gives an amusing and detailed account of her experiences living in Spain for a year. During this time, she also visited Germany and the UK.

While not all retirees will have the same interests, her experiences are an inspiring example of what can be done should you decide to undertake a gap year. Many people that have dedicated themselves to their working lives have longed for a time when they could travel and enjoy an engaging international travel adventure. What Dr Black’s experience shows us is how it can be done. Hers is but one example. There are, of course, many other gap year options, like taking time to live in the bush and to get deeply into nature. Or it can be to learn a craft or other creative skill.

A gap year can be a time of unbounded experience and one of treasured personal freedom. You could combine it with a volunteering project. Many projects rely on volunteer hours to be successful and your contribution could be a satisfying way to give back. Dr Black has written about her experiences and has several books to her credit. She inspires people and encourages retirees to break away and plan for something exhilarating and new.

A gap year could also provide an academic opportunity. To teach at a college or business school could provide a stimulating time where your years of experience could add a special resource to a community of students.

The function of a gap year will be different for each person but in every case it serves as a buffer between full-time work and life in retirement and can ease the transition process while serving up some interesting lifestyle options you may not have previously considered for retirement.

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Weekly Spotlight

We explore the idea of a pre-retirement sabbatical. People take gap years between studying and entering the workforce, and take sabbaticals mid-career to refresh themselves. Why not take a similar gap between leaving full-time work and retirement? We think there is real benefit in having a place holder between working life and retirement reset ourselves. we explore some options for taking a ‘golden gap year’.

Our top 3 article picks this week:

The Baby Boomers Taking A ‘Golden’ Gap Year

The time off typically associated with university-aged adventure seekers is emerging as a popular option for baby boomers looking to shake up routine.

Elderly couple riding their bicycles through a park

Our take:
This article from the BBC’s Generation Project look at the ‘golden gap year’ trend and how the baby Boomer generation are re-claiming this travel opportunity that used to be solely for students. The article speaks about travel trends, market opportunities and youth culture which makes for an interesting perspective on the idea of taking a pre-retirement gap year.

Article excerpt:
Traditionally, students mainly take gap years, often combining travel, volunteering and temporary work. Gap years manifest slightly differently across nations: in the UK most take gap years between school and university, whereas in Australia and New Zealand some people wait until after university.
In the US, gap years are less common and more structured – students tend to seek out formal internships and volunteering programmes. But the aim is broadly the same – to explore new, valuable life experiences to aid the transition into whatever comes next.

As baby boomers have begun rewriting the book on retirement, the idea of a gap year for later life has emerged.

As baby boomers have begun rewriting the book on retirement, however, the idea of a gap year for later life has emerged. Advice for seniors abounds on retirement websites and financial service, travel and insurance providers offering best practise for spending and top travel options.

Click here to read the whole article on

Considering Retiring? Try A Sabbatical Instead

If you can take a sabbatical, that time off can be a way to test what life in retirement would be like.

A hand placing the last puzzle piece to a puzzle

Our take:
A post-career sabbatical can be a useful way to segue to retirement. It can be a take as a gap year to test drive different retirement lifestyles, a way to reinvigorate yourself after a long career or even as a buffer if you’re just not ready to make the shift to retirement.

Article excerpt:
Traditionally a perk of universities for professors to work on scholarly projects, sabbaticals are used by the private sector to improve recruitment, retention and productivity while supporting work-life balance. Though still rare, the benefit is catching on.

“Sabbaticals offer an opportunity for employees to recharge, pursue a travel dream, learn a new skill, or give back through volunteerism in ways that would not be possible by taking the usual vacation time,” says Amanda Fallon, senior director of corporate relations for Genentech. One Genentech employee moved to Spain to learn flamenco. Another went on safari in Africa. Some, like Schmutzler, use the time to care for babies or aging relatives.

For older workers, the extended break can give them a much-needed breather from a demanding career without having to retire.

Click here to read the article on

Taking A Sabbatical Leave: A Sneaky Way to Get An Early (Temporary) Retirement!

A sabbatical can be a meaningful and highly satisfying way to get an early, albeit temporary, retirement.

Elderly couple enjoying the sunlight while sitting on the beach

Our take:
Have you ever considered a mid-career sabbatical? What about a pre-retirement sabbatical? Taking this kind of break can give you the opportunity to refresh yourself for the last stretch of your working life, give you the opportunity to trial retirement life and make changes to your plan if necessary. This article looks at the trend of people in their 50s and 60s who are taking sabbaticals for these reasons.

Article excerpt:
Seventeen percent of boomers say retirement financing will come from continued employment, according to a 2014 analysis of data from a survey by Merrill Lynch. And, new data from the Department of Labor suggests that the number is rising dramatically. The Department reports 39.2% of Americans over 55 were working this year, the largest portion since 1961. And the trend suggests even more growth in workforce participation by older Americans.
“While many of today’s retirees say they can count on Social Security and employer pensions to fund most of their retirement, future generations are far more likely to say they will need to rely primarily on personal savings and income from working during retirement,” Merrill Lynch says.

But before entering an extended period of employment, many older Americans are taking a sabbatical.

Click here to read the full article on

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Other highlights for the week:

Most Popular Daily Thought

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. Anne Lamott

Switching off provides a welcome moment of respite when life feels a little overwhelming. Perhaps the idea of retirement is a little daunting. Maybe you need a pre-retirement course correction or, simply, a break. Shaking things up a bit could help you refocus. A gap year taken off at the end of a full-time working life can provide this kind of reset.

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Quote by Anne Lamott with elderly people relaxing by the pool

Weekly Question

Last week’s question:

How would you spend a pre-retirement gap year?


• Taking classes.
• Walking on the beach daily.
• Traveling and writing.
• Self discovery and self care.
• Scouting locations to settle down in.
• Retreat/camping/travel.
• Immersing myself in the things I like to do and seeing if it can become income generation.
• Learning a hobby.
• Taking care of myself.
• Reading, gardening, traveling with friends and family.
• Walking the Camino.
• Touring around our beautiful Southern Africa.
• Getting fit.
• Traveling and trying to live like a local.
• Also hiking in some interesting places for a year.

This week’s poll question:

Do you think we need to concern ourselves with being ‘highly effective’ in retirement?

Click here to answer the question in our Facebook group


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Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.