What My Sabbatical Taught Me About Retirement

My practice retirement showed me I’m ready to exit my corporate job.

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Earlier this year, I took a 3-month sabbatical from my job to preview what retirement would be like. Well, it wasn't a full retirement because I was also a stay-at-home dad during those 3 months after my wife returned to work from maternity leave. We recently had a baby and it was a good time for me to take a break from work and experience the joy of fatherhood. I've been back to work full time for a few months now and I have since realized that I am mentally ready to retire from my corporate job to be a stay-at-home dad.

[See Why You Should Take a Retirement Test Drive.]

Financials. We have been frugal for a few years now, but during my sabbatical, we took it even further. Since this was my retirement preview, we decided to try living on only my wife's paycheck and our side income. I am slowly building our online, dividend, and rental income to help with early retirement. By being frugal and keeping careful track of all the income and expenses, I learned that we will actually be able to afford my early retirement soon. In a year or two, I will be able to leave my day job with minimum impact to our finances.

Activities. Many people think being retired means playing golf, staying at home, and not really doing much at all. I never envisioned that for myself and I was correct. The three months flew by because I was so busy. It was incredible how much time a tiny baby took out of the day. I never knew how exhausting it could be to take care of a baby, but I still had a great time. The baby changed so quickly and I am extremely glad I had a chance to be a part of his early development.

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Many retirees also have a difficult time transitioning out of the work force. They have too much free time and still want to feel like a productive member of society. I continued to work on my blog and other ventures during my time off, and that kept me occupied. I did not miss working full time in an office at all. I liked being independent and being able to set my own schedule.

Nontraditional roles. As you can tell, my wife will continue to work so we can maintain our current lifestyle. This is actually not a big problem because she does not want to be a full time stay-at-home mom. Her personality fits the working environment and she enjoys her job. On the other hand, I'd rather be independent and would love to be a full time stay-at-home dad. When she wants to retire at some point in the future, we'll have to adjust our lifestyle accordingly.

Drawbacks. Losing one paycheck is the big drawback. We took an international trip every year before we had our baby and we'll have to reduce that luxury spending. It's difficult to take international trips with a small child anyway, so I don't think it's too big of a loss. We will travel around the U.S. until the kid is old enough to appreciate a foreign country. There are endless destinations in the U.S. that we have not visited yet, and it will be great fun getting to know our own country well.

[See 5 Ways to Tell if You are Ready to Retire.]

What the experience taught me. I learned many things from my retirement preview. Financially, we are getting close and with a little work, I won't need to bring in a paycheck from a full time job. I'm prepared mentally for a different challenge, and am looking forward to spending quality time with our child. With those two biggest challenges out of the way, I'm confident early retirement will be great.

Joe Udo is planning an exit strategy from his corporate job by reducing expenses and increasing passive income. He blogs about his journey to early retirement at Retire by 40.