Even before the economy took a dive and produced the profound reality for many of us that we have to keep working longer than intended, people were taking pre-retirement sabbaticals.  It’s a great idea.  Take the gift of time before that final working phase.

First, we should establish that Baby Boomers don’t plan to retire in the same way their parents did.  They were already rewriting the rules before we hit this bad patch in the economy and began opening 401k statements that looked like a downhill ski slope. Instead of ending their careers only to spend their time in leisure, the Boomers already increasingly were spending their post-retirement years working part time or volunteering.  Polls in early 2008 and before indicated that about 70% of the 78 million Boomers did not plan to quit work entirely.  And the trend of continuing with at least part-time work was growing.  Now, those numbers are sure to have skyrocketed due to financial necessity.

As people approach retirement age, they often begin to think about what they will do in retirement and want to position themselves for it.  Or they want to change the type of work they do in their last years of work.  A pre-retirement sabbatical in your 50’s or 60’s can help you reboot and renew your energy, or it can be a time to figure out what to do for an encore career.

Some may look forward to the extra time and freedom of retirement and want a taste of it in advance.  Others may contemplate retirement with some trepidation and want to explore how they might spend their time, and to lay some groundwork for it.  They might use a pre-retirement sabbatical to try volunteering, take a class or an extended trip, start a hobby, or anything else that gives them a taste of what may be in store after they leave their full-time career.   If the purpose is to find a new career for a few more years of working, the sabbatical frees you to consider options, including old passions, without the stress of a daily job.  As with any sabbatical, you are free to explore your dreams and desires, while also assessing your financial reality.  The answers will be more creative, while still grounded in reality, than if you try to figure it out with the phone or computer and endless meetings beckoning every day.

As with any sabbatical, there are financial considerations and other trepidations.  Watch this space for advice and stories of pre-retirement sabbaticals.  And tell us yours!