Rotorua Daily Post

Can you afford to take a career break? Here’s how

- Frances Cook comment

Taking a career break sounds like a luxury only afforded to wealthy people. I admit to eye-rolling in the past when a CEO would step down from their post, saying they would take “a few months” to decide what they want to do next. Nice for some.

Except it’s financiall­y achievable for more of us than we think, and it’s done by plenty of normal people for all sorts of reasons. Research from Hays recruitmen­t in 2019 found that 64 per cent of women and 49 per cent of men take at least one career break in their lifetime.

For women, the biggest reason for a career break is having children, at 41 per cent, followed distantly by travelling, at 14 per cent.

It’s quite different for men, with travel being the biggest reason at 25 per cent, followed by studying or retraining at 21 per cent.

Taking a break can allow you to achieve other goals, or simply to step back from the daily grind to decide what your goals are. The trick is to prepare, so that your new headspace isn’t crowded by money worries during the break. Here are top tips to get you through.

Decide how much break you need What you want the break for, and what resources can help you, will shape how long you can take a break for.

You might just want a couple of weeks in order to rethink your career. You might want a full year in order to have a child. You might want something in between, while you pack your life into a van and travel around NZ, rethinking your priorities.

Whatever it is you want, get clear on that from the start, then check what you’ve got in terms of savings and government or employer support to help you do it.

A good old-fashioned budget

Sit down to work out exactly how much money is coming in, and going out. Then figure out how much of that is optional. You need a roof over your head, but could it be a cheaper roof? Would you have the same transport costs without going to work each day? What treats could you cut?

Check through your bank account for any automatic payments going out, and decide which ones you could cancel, or try to negotiate for a lower price. Companies love subscripti­on payments, because customers tend to forget them, and keep paying without using the service. Now’s the time to decide which ones need to go. You’re likely to find you don’t need as many treats while you’re off, especially if you’re taking the time to reconsider a career that’s making you miserable. Clear extra responsibi­lities

If you can, cut out the things that will hold you back. Any smaller debts that can be paid off, should be. They’ll only be one more worry during your break. If it’s a longer-term, or bigger debt, decide how you want to tackle it. Can you afford to keep paying it while you’re away? Or could you delay the break until it’s paid off?

Plan how to look after future you While a career break can be a wonderful thing, it can also hurt your financial future if not handled carefully. After all, stepping out of the workforce to raise children is one of the reasons why more women are in poverty after retirement.

Kiwisaver is full of opportunit­ies for free money, and if you can, it’s worth keeping going. If you put in $20 a week, or $1,042.86 per year, you get a tax credit of $521.43 put into your account. If you’re off on maternity leave it’s worth asking your employer if they’ll keep contributi­ng their employer match in your absence. It’s not mandatory, but some will,

See if you can get support

If you’re on maternity leave, check entitlemen­ts through your HR department or payroll. While the Government will give you a certain amount of paid leave as a minimum, some employers build in sweeteners designed to entice you back to work.

Whatever type of break you’re planning talk to your partner about how you want to handle this. Dropping to one income before you go on leave can help you save, and serve as a test of how little you can manage to live on.

■ This column is general informatio­n only, and not individual financial advice.

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