This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and works as a financial adviser. He is married, has three kids and plans to retire at age 35. Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.
Who doesn’t enjoy going on vacation? When I work hard at work, I like to get away and relax. Most people seem to enjoy taking time off, whether it’s to travel, or to just spend time with friends or family. Having a change of pace can allow a person to “recharge their batteries.” But is there a downside to taking a vacation?
I wouldn’t have thought so. But in early 2009, I was talking with an engineer who works in the same building. He was telling me about his interest in personal finance. It was a tough time in Calgary, as oil sands projects were being shelved and engineers were being laid off. He knew all the sage advice: spend less, save more and invest wisely. But he added one more that surprised me: don’t go on vacation. He said that in a difficult economy, being absent makes it easier for the boss to fire someone. I wasn’t sure whether or not he was joking, but I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
In early 2011, I was busy at the office. I had a number of projects that I was helping out on, so when I took my family to Phoenix for 10 days, I felt that I had earned the break. Apparently not. When I came back, my boss invited me into his office for a chat. “We did a bit of a test while you were gone,” he told me. “I think we’d get along fine without your help.” In the end, there are a couple projects they still want help with, basically on a contract basis. But the person who was going to replace me in about 18 months will instead start this summer. (More below for anyone interested.)
But you can’t win. My father occasionally travels to conferences as part of his business. He recently told a story about how prior employees would talk about him while he was gone and complain that he wasn’t working hard enough because he was out of town. A friend who owns a business does a lot of work from wherever he is, even on vacation. But he said that, even after spending a couple hours working with employees via conference call, they’ll wish him an enjoyable vacation. “I’m working as hard as they are!” he told me.
If I were to give advice, it would be to take frequent, brief vacations. Taking an extra day together with a long weekend would allow a person to take a four day vacation, which can be quite enjoyable, while only spending a single day outside the office. And always look busy! Has anyone else experienced trouble as a result of taking a vacation?
For those interested, I had planned to go back to school in September 2012 to become a certified teacher. My boss had someone who was interested in joining our business, anyway. We agreed that he would replace me, but that I would commit to stay on until he joined us. In the meantime, I’m pretty close financially to being able to retire. Another year of income would have really helped, but I have been pushed away from work and into depending on investment income starting right away. Wish me luck!