How to finance a career break |

How to finance a career break

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by Rachel Morgan-Trimmer of

A career break is an unforgettable experience. Whether you travel, work, volunteer, take a course, or do a combination of these, you’ll come back with new skills, more confidence, and some amazing memories!

But a career break can be expensive – the average cost is £7,500! So how can you enjoy the experience without worrying about money?

Decide what to do about your job

Obviously, your job is integral to financing your career break. You have two main options:

  1. Quit your job and look for a new one when you get back.
  2. Get an unpaid sabbatical from your employer.

Sabbaticals are common these days, but you don’t have any legal right to take one. It’s always worth asking though – even if there’s no career break policy at your company.

CAREERBREAKSITE TIP: Unless you’re doing paid work (or are lucky enough to get a paid sabbatical), you won’t be earning any money on your career break, so plenty of savings are a must – plus a cushion for emergencies.

While you’re on sabbatical, your salary and private pension contributions will probably be frozen, and you won’t be paying National Insurance. If you’re over 45, you may want to make voluntary National Insurance contributions – the website has information.

Work out how much it’s going to cost – and start saving!

It seems obvious, but a surprising number of career breakers don’t really budget for their career break, then find they run out of money! Guidebooks and travel forums are useful in helping you plan daily living costs.

CAREERBREAKSITE TIP: If you use a career break organisation, they will not only tell you how much it will cost, but also what else you’ll need to pay for (typically flights, insurance and extra activities).

Choose a career break you can afford (or that pays)

Some things that people aren’t always aware of when they’re looking at their career break options are:

  • You normally have to pay to volunteer. Fees range from hundreds to thousands of pounds, and generally include things like food, accommodation and support (but not flights). Why you have to pay is explained on the Career Break site.
  • Working abroad is much more feasible for younger people. This is because of visa restrictions (programmes tend to have a cut-off age of 30).
  • For older career breakers, TEFL is a better option. You pay to do your TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course here, and some courses offer guaranteed jobs or help getting a job abroad. It’s not well paid but it should cover your costs.
  • You need an internationally recognised certificate to do many kinds of paid work abroad, like ski instruction or yacht crewing. Courses, which are usually abroad, can be expensive but most offer a job-finding service.

Get extra money in

Common ways career breakers can drum up funds include:

  • Extra work.
  • Renting out their house while they’re away. You’ll need to check home insurance and mortgage agreements. You’ll probably have to pay an agent, and are liable for tax on your rental income.
  • Selling their car.

And these are the ones people forget about:

  • Claiming a tax refund when they return. Use Form P50 which you can get from the website along with information on claiming a tax refund when you stop work.
  • Getting refunds or rebates for regular payments. Things like council tax, TV licence, mobile phone contract, car tax, etc – these can add up to a lot.
  • Cancelling memberships and subscriptions. It’s especially important if you’re away for six months or more.

Know what you can’t avoid spending money on

  • Insurance. Check if you can extend or upgrade the policy while you’re away. A little-known fact about insurance is that it almost certainly won’t cover you if you go somewhere the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against. You can subscribe to their email service to be notified if a situation changes – details are on their travel and living abroad pages.
  • Visas. Don’t even think about working if you haven’t got the right visa!
  • Vaccinations and malaria protection. Better to shell out for these now than have to be flown home ill (or worse).
  • Bag and shoes. You don’t have to spend a huge amount on these but you will need good quality ones.

And remember…

A career break is an investment – so make sure you treat it like one! The more time you spend researching, planning and budgeting now, the better experience you will have while you’re away, and the more you’ll get out of it. Good luck!

Rachel Morgan-Trimmer is the founder of The Career Break Site. The site was set up after Rachel took her own career break, and it provides free, independent and comprehensive advice to anyone thinking about taking an adult gap year or sabbatical. All the companies, courses and projects listed on the site are vetted.

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