Why a career ‘gap year’ can be a win for your finances

Published on: February 18th, 2020

We’re all familiar with the “gap year” concept, whereby school leavers take a break between school and tertiary study or work, but recently, we are seeing a rise in the mid-career “gap year”. More and more people are choosing to take a year away from their profession to travel, live abroad, volunteer, or follow a long-held dream.

It’s easy to see the appeal. Many of us have watched our parent’s generation work hard to pay off a mortgage, putting other life goals on hold until retirement, only to find they don’t have the money, the energy, or the health required to achieve them – and we don’t want this for ourselves.

A career gap year can be a great way to achieve other life goals now, while you are in the best position to actually enjoy it, but it can feel like a financial risk, and you may find yourself torn between your head and your heart.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A gap year can actually increase your earning power. It might sound counterintuitive, if you’ve taken time off work, surely you would lose some career capital, right? But a gap year can build life experience, increase your understanding of yourself, and develop resilience, empathy, and emotional intelligence, making you an excellent employment prospect on your return.

At Apt, we’ve seen it time and time again; a gap year can be a great thing for your finances and your career – if you do it the right way.

It can improve your health

A gap year is a great way to reduce stress and avoid burnout, improving your mental and physical wellbeing. We’ve helped a number of Apt clients to plan and take a mid-career gap year, and the majority of them report feeling healthier, happier, and more content as a result.

This has flow-on effects on other aspects of your life and your career. Taking time out can see you re-enter the workforce in better health, motivated, and with a better mindset than when you left, helping you to accelerate your career and your earning potential.

It can open up new doors

Work is such a big part of our everyday lives that it can be difficult to look at the big picture. Stepping away gives you a chance to discover new things about yourself, find skills or interests you didn’t know you had, and reflect on what you want out of life. It will also help you develop an agile mindset, opening up options to make big changes in other areas of your life – it’s not uncommon to return from a break with a new life focus or even a new career path.

Planning ahead is critical

Although spontaneity can make things more exciting, it can also make them riskier financially. You’ve probably been dreaming of this for some time, so giving yourself some additional time to prepare your finances shouldn’t be a big deal.

Plan out some strategies for how you will save extra money to tide you over during your break and think about how you will manage your financial obligations without a regular income. You may have assets that you won’t be using during your break that you could use to bolster your income, for example, selling the family car if you’ll be travelling, or renting out the house.

Talking to a financial adviser can really help you to think about your gap year within the context of your broader life goals and help you make a plan to protect your financial position.

Be purposeful

Your career gap year shouldn’t be simply about ‘time off’, it should be about achieving some of your other life goals or ticking things off your bucket list. This could be around travel, developing a new skill, volunteering, or gaining life experience – the common thread here is learning.

Think about how these things could help your existing career. Many of the skills that are highly prized in the workforce today aren’t technical; things like creativity, adaptability, collaboration, and even time management are often best learnt through experiences outside the workplace.

Having a plan and goals around your gap year is important, not only to ensure you make the most of it but also to understand how you will frame the experience as a benefit to potential employers when you return.

One of my favourite quotes is Mark Twain’s “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did,” and for me, this really rings true about taking a gap year. If you’ve been dreaming of taking time out from your career, now just might be the time to do it; talk to the team at Apt about how you can make your gap year dreams a reality.

General Advice warning

The information provided in this blog does not constitute financial product advice. The information is of a general nature only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be used, relied upon, or treated as a substitute for specific professional advice. Apt Wealth Partners (AFSL 436121 ABN 49 159 583 847) recommends that you obtain professional advice before making any decision in relation to your particular requirements or circumstances.