Why Wait? How Three Couples Funded ‘Mini-Retirements’ in Their 30s
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"We also doubled down on traditional retirement savings early on in our careers, so we don’t feel like taking short-term breaks now will hurt our long-term stability."

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For many of us, the word “retirement” conjures up images of silver-haired seniors playing golf in some sun-soaked city—or, worse, sitting slack-jawed in some gloomy nursing home, staring at the television.

But what if you could take time off from the rat race much earlier, and spend your days traveling or hanging out with your family or doing something else you love?

Enter: the mini-retirement. Introduced by Tim Ferriss in his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” the idea is that taking meaningful, months-long breaks from work can help you create the life you want today, rather than waiting until your so-called golden years when age and declining health may keep you from enjoying them to the fullest.

Curious what this looks like in real life? Meet three families who are in the midst of a mini-retirement now. Here’s what they’re doing, how they saved up enough cash—and their plans for rejoining the workforce in the future.

“Financial independence is a long game. Why not enjoy the fruits of our labors now?”

Chris, 35, and Jaime Durheim, 32, an engineer and stay-at-home mom in Madison, Wis.

“My wife Jaime and I were first introduced to the concept of financial independence in 2012 when I stumbled upon a blog dedicated to it. We were excited about the idea of being completely debt-free and not having to do any unfulfilling work in order to support ourselves. So we spent the next four years preparing for that huge goal.

Tracking our spending and cutting way back—we sold our second car and Jaime’s engagement ring and even challenged ourselves not to buy anything new (versus used) in 2017—yielded awesome results: We consistently saved 20 to 40 percent of my salary, which helped us aggressively pay down our mortgage, something we’d already been doing for years, and increase our retirement savings.

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But financial independence is a long game, and we started thinking: Why not enjoy the fruits of our labors now? In February 2017, our new goal became to embark on a yearlong retirement, where we’d spend time with our three daughters, work on passion projects and create lasting memories. By July, we’d built up enough equity in our home—so we sold it, downsized to an apartment and earmarked $60,000 for mini-retirement. (We kept some in reserve to put toward another home later.)

Our typical day is simple yet fulfilling. After walking the kids to school, we might spend time working on our blog and side business (a money tracking app) or go on a day date. One of our mini-retirement goals is to figure out what’s next professionally. I’m open to returning to my old job in medical device engineering or pursuing a new dream, like freelance writing or software design. Jaime may pick up part-time work in home design.

For now, we aren’t bringing in any income (even from the blog and app); we’re living entirely off our mini-retirement savings, which should last through August 2018. But we’ve already hit `retirement freedom,’ which means, thanks to compounding returns, we should be able to officially stop working at 65 even if we don’t contribute any more to our retirement accounts.”

Their advice for others: “Track your spending—on paper, a spreadsheet or in an app. You have more power over your finances when you understand the details. Once you know where your money’s going, you can assess whether you're spending in alignment with what's most important to you. If you aren’t, you know what changes to make."

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December 11, 2017

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