Consider a Gap Year

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 6:00 am

by Ellen Peters

Students often take a gap year between high school and college, but what about adults? After raising families and working for decades, don’t we deserve a break too? A new trend with mid-life and older adults is to do just that to refill their well, so to speak. Many are seeing it as an opportunity to reevaluate their lives once their kids are grown, and they’re ready to downsize and simplify; taking a year to relax, travel, or try something new.

What about our jobs? Some older adults are taking a sabbatical from their long-held jobs. Others are leaving their jobs and plan to seek encore careers after their break – something more meaningful and suited to their new place in life. Some retire early and then unretire.

In their Wall Street Journal article, “The Case for a Midlife ‘Gap’ Year”, baby boomer couple Susan and Stephen Ristau, took a one-year break. Stephen explains that they were able to afford the gap year by selling their large family home once the kids were gone, dipping into Susan’s stock options, and staying in a mountain cabin owned by friends. After the year, they returned to work, but at jobs they found more meaningful. The article also has interviews with others who have found value in taking a break.

There are other options for taking a gap break. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “A Gap Year for Grown-Ups”, some companies, like HP, are offering their employees a chance to work part-time for a year at a local non-profit for pay if they’re eligible for retirement. Other “gappers” receive stipends by joining the Peace Corps, VISTA, or AmeriCorps, bringing their lifetime of experience to do valuable work. During this year, they reflect on what they want to do next. Others take a break, receiving financial aid or grants to return to school.

Have you ever considered taking a gap year and refreshing? What would you do with your gap year?

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