17 February 2013

Most career breakers are in their late 20s or early 30s - but we're gradually seeing an increase in the average age of a career breaker.

But what is the best age to take a career break? Let's have a look at the options.

Taking a career break in your 20s

The pros - you're young! You probably haven't got any ties and don't need to look after your parents. You are hopefully in reasonable health and in pretty good shape - not that being physically fit is essential for a career break but it does open more doors. As a lot of people go at this time of their lives, you'll find plenty of people your own age to make friends with.

The cons - you won't have the financial resources that an older career breaker does which could restrict your choices. If you don't own a home yet, you can feel a bit unstable (plus you won't get rental income while you're away). You're less likely to have job security or to get a sabbatical when you're young, although this might not matter to you. 

Taking a career break in your 30s

The pros - you probably have a better idea of what you want to do with your career break, and your life in general. You're more likely to have a stable home and job which can mean you've got more options (with a rented out house and a job to return to, you have more financial security). You will have more money than a younger career breaker - and will probably spend it a bit more wisely too.

The cons - you have more ties at home. You might have a partner you're reluctant to leave for several months, who might not be able to come with you. You might be thinking about starting a family, or have kids already (you can take your kids on a career break - it's more common now - but it's an extra thing to think about). If you can't get a sabbatical, you might worry about leaving a decent job to go travelling.

Taking a career break in your 40s

The pros - forty-somethings tend to get a lot more out of their career break because they've got a really firm idea about what they want and need. You've got a lot of skills and experience now to share, which can make for a very fulfilling experience, especially if you're volunteering. 

The cons - it can be difficult to take a step off the career ladder at this age. Once you hit 45, you have to worry more about things like voluntary National Insurance contributions, pensions etc. Your parents might be getting on a bit now, and you might be reluctant to leave them for any period of time if they need help.

Taking a career break in your 50s

The pros - the things that tie you down earlier start to disappear. You might take early retirement and not need to worry about a job. Your kids are growing up and are at university or have left home. On a personal level, you're highly sought-after by career break organisations, especially volunteering ones - older career breakers tend to put more into the projects, and of course, you've got loads of professional experience to share. 

The cons - for some older career breakers, doing a big trip can be a bit daunting, especially if you haven't had the opportunity to do something like this previously. Depending on what you choose to do, you might find that everyone else is younger than you. Some older people are self-limiting and can write off experiences before they've even tried them!

Taking a career break in your 60s

The pros - retirement money! Hopefully you're financially secure enough to take a big trip now, and no longer have to worry about a job any more. Some retirees feel at a bit of a loose end, and a career break can give you focus and help you decide what you want to do in your retirement. You've got huge amounts of life experience that you can use to benefit others.

The cons - older career breakers tend to demand a higher level of comfort than their younger counterparts, which may or may not be available. You won't be in the same physical shape as you were when you were younger, which can be frustrating. 

Taking a career break in your 70s, 80s and 90s

The pros - you won't be alone! More and more people are taking big trips at a later stage of life now. Being older gives you a certain amount of freedom - not just in the choices you make but in deciding that it doesn't matter what people think! A career break at this stage can keep you fit, active and feeling much younger.

The cons - insurance. It's getting better (slowly) but older travellers find insurance can be a bit of a nightmare - hard to obtain or really expensive. Although more older people take career breaks at this time of life, it's still dominated by younger people, so you will need to make sure that whatever you choose will have people from a range of ages. 

So what's the best time?

Well obviously, there is no best time really - you just have to pick the best time for you! And remember, you can always take more than one career break.


Have you taken a career break? How old were you? Did you wish you were older or younger? Let us know in the comments below!