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Wealth & Well-Being

The Grown-Up Gap Year

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As back-to-school signs start popping up in every grocery store, pharmacy and department store it is hard to avoid the reality that summer is coming to an end. For many adults, there is relief that children are back in school and there will be a little more time to yourself as the temperatures start to lower. For kids, the summer is a long and glorious adventure and most are sad to see the freedom of their days return to the structure of school and sports and indoor activities.

After childhood, there is little opportunity to have that kind of time to really spread your wings without obligations to family, work, finances, etc. Some young adults seize the chance to take a gap year between high school and college, or college and grad school so that they can explore opportunities and have experiences that might begin to fall out of their reach once they begin careers, start families, etc.

But what about a gap year for grown-ups? After all, you have spent years dedicating yourself to your career, your family, building the life you want-- and there is scant time to really explore the road less traveled. The benefits of a gap year for kids who are coming of age is that they have a little time between childhood and adulthood to connect with themselves and their world and to prepare themselves emotionally for what comes next in their lives.


As people near retirement, a great deal of planning and saving goes into the next chapter of their lives, but for those who may feel ready for a change and might not be certain of what that change will or should be, taking a "gap" year could shed some light on what their true passions are and what course they could direct themselves on in the future.

This is not that new of a concept actually and there are organizations and businesses built around providing experiences to those approaching retirement and seeking clarity of purpose. The opportunities range from around the world photography trips to inner-city volunteer positions and everything in between. What is most important when considering taking your gap year is to really think about what matters most to you and what you really need.


Experiences have a larger benefit to the soul than things every will and taking a gap year is obviously not without considerable cost. When planning for this time off and the future afterward, consider the size of your living space, the expense of your vehicle and other items that take a big bite out of your wallet. You might find opportunities to downsize your life in order to maximize your experiences.

For some, the gap year opportunity comes at the end of your career and prior to settling into retirement. If you have saved and invested well, there may not be a big need to downsize or penny pinch as long as you have an organized budget and spending plan. Then, it's time to consider what really makes you happy and what you should do and where. Sometimes too much opportunity can sometimes be worse than no opportunity at all. When you are trying to narrow down your gap year intentions start with considering what you'd like your daily life to be like and then expand from there.


Do you want to spend your time taking photographs or becoming a master gardener? Do you want to learn more about other cultures? Do you want to try new things like SCUBA diving or rock climbing? Maybe you've always wanted to write a book or maybe you just want to read a book on a white sandy beach. Whatever the case may be, pressing hard on the reset button might facilitate a stronger sense of self and purpose as you near retirement. To speak to one of our financial advisors about how you can plan your grown up gap year or any other goals you might like to fulfill, contact us at info@northstarfp.com.

Written by Robin Young, CFP®

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