Today's working professionals, unlike their predecessors, are choosing to take a break from careers for various reasons such as staying home to raise children, to looking after a sick loved one or to travel.
"A career break may be something that is planned like crossing items off a bucket list, pursuing studies, or something that is unforeseen such as an unplanned pregnancy. Because career breaks are typically unpaid, and their length depends on goals, circumstances and on financial situation and obligations; it is important to have a financial plan that can be adapted to your circumstances", says Marlise Kotze a financial adviser from Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultants.
Unlike most men who generally have a chance to continue uninterrupted with their career goals; the importance of planning is more pronounced for women who, for several reasons and at different stages of their career, might choose to either take a break or be forced into one.
"Women's finances often take a hit when they go on maternity leave so it's important to be proactive and plan for such breaks by managing their finances appropriately and saving money to prepare for this time," says Kotze.
South African labour law currently does not force employers to pay workers on maternity leave. If a person contributes to Unemployment Insurance Act (UIF), they may receive a maternity benefit of up to a maximum of 66% of their salary, depending on how much they earn.
"This amount may not be enough and often many new mothers rush back to work before four months of leave is up because they were unable to support their families on the UIF benefits alone," says Kotze.
An individual can also take a career gap to pursue further studies or for travel. It's important to have savings as well as a well-considered financial plan to cushion any extended period of a break in service whether it's planned for or not.
Here is a checklist of what to consider in planning for foreseen and unforeseen breaks in service.
Start planning: If the goal is to take a career break to travel, study, or any other planned break in service, start putting concrete plans in place with deadlines. Think about how long you will be away from work for, how much money you will need each month during your break, and what your day-to-day expenses will be during the break. If you will be going abroad, factor in things such as foreign exchange rates, visa fees, and other expenses associated with the next phase in your life.
Discuss your plans with your family: People don't like to talk about money but you need to involve your family in discussions about your career break as they might need to help out with some of the expenses that you were normally responsible for. A spouse may need to reshuffle their personal finances to be able to support the whole family.
Settle your debt: Try not to have debts by the time you take a break. Or make sure you don't add any new debt because of your break.
Save and invest as much as you can: Save more when you can, which is usually the earlier the better or at a young age when you have limited responsibilities.
Speak to an accredited financial adviser about the right investment and savings tool for you and your needs. The right savings will depend on your specific financial goals, the amount of time you have to achieve them and the risk appetite you need to meet your goals. If you have any retirement fund policies, such as a retirement annuity fund, don't cash these in to pay for a break this will be to your disadvantage at a later stage in your life when you need the money. Keep in mind that you will pay tax on any amount you take as cash.
Speak to your employer: Make sure you understand your current company benefits. See if you would you still benefit from the company's co-contribution into your medical aid, or whether you would you still be eligible to benefit from the company group life cover. . Review your current insurance policies such as life, medical, home and car insurance to make sure your basic requirements will be taken care of.
Earn extra income: You could look into earning extra income either as a way of bolstering your current savings ahead of your break or to make money while you are on your break. You could work part-time using your current skill set or do something new such as teaching English, waitressing, housesitting, or freelancing that will generate an income to add to your savings.
Plan for emergencies: Even while you're on a break, life happens and you may need access to a contingency fund. Whether it's paying excess on a vehicle or buying a plane ticket because of a missed connection, an emergency fund will give you the peace of mind of not being financially stranded. It's important not to use this money unless it's a real emergency.
Kotze says a break does not mean the end of your career. "While you are not working and you want to remain within your career, keep in touch with your ex-colleagues and up-to date with industry news and developments. Keep a network of work colleagues who can inform you when they know of opportunities.
Depending on the career break, employees can consider working part-time within an old career or working part-time from home. "This can be especially helpful to new parents who can ease back into work while spending time with their children," says Kotze.
Whether you decide to go back to your old job or not, don't burn your bridges. Follow the correct procedure of resigning from a job, says Kotze.
Submitted by Corporate Image PR
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