What’s Really at Risk When You Take a Break From Work

Peter Lin



I’m always envious when I see people leisurely jogging while I’m making my way to work. Like, just how do they have so much free time? Do they even need to work? Likewise, it’s probably every Singaporean’s dream to just walk up to your boss and tell her, “I QUIT!” and just head out of the office with your head held high. But the truth is, not every Singaporean can do that and in fact, most Singaporeans won’t. There’s just too much at stake.

Here are the top 6 reasons why Singaporeans won’t risk taking a break from work.


1. Loss of income

Let’s get this out of the way first. This point is so ridiculously obvious I don’t need to say much about it. When you stop working, you lose your main source of income. Sure you might still be earning dividends from your investments, but your cashflow will definitely be substantially hit. What might be less obvious? You’ll also be losing out on your monthly CPF contributions, which could impact your retirement payout.

What does this mean? Though you want a break from work altogether, you should probably consider some side jobs to make sure that you’re not totally burning a hole in your bank account. Heck, consider doing someone else’s homework! I hear it pays up to $250 an hour these days.


2. Personal Liabilities

Just in case it needs to be said, life does go on when you’re taking a break from work. You can’t tell SP Services to stop sending you utility bills just because you aren’t earning as much as you used to. You also can’t tell your body to stop falling sick (especially since you probably won’t be covered by any medical benefits). It gets worse when you consider who else you might be responsible for – your spouse, your kids and your aged parents. We’re not saying that taking a break from work is only for young, single adults, but there’s a lot more to risk when you’re neither young nor single.


3. Career derailment

Maybe, once your break is over, you’re planning to return to the same company you left, or perhaps a competitor in the same industry. Perhaps you’re even considering a career in a different industry altogether! Unless you’re exceptionally talented (and by that I don’t mean the ability to sound like 14 different singers ) chances are you will take a pay cut or even a slight drop in the career ladder when you return. However, if you spend your break learning a new skill, or gaining some valuable experience that you can add to your resume, you may be able to leverage that so that you don’t restart your career almost at square one.


4. Public stigma

It wasn’t that long ago that the civil service in Singapore was seen as an “iron rice bowl” and that people stayed in one company for the entirety of their working life. The whole concept of “taking a break” from work is just so alien to our Singaporean mentality. Imagine going to a family reunion. It’s bad enough to tell busybody relatives that you’re “currently unemployed”. It’ll be worse if you told them that you consciously took a break from your working life, with no plans to return to the work force any time soon.

Trust me, instead of giving you the space you wanted by taking a break, they’ll instead start offering to pull strings and help find you a new job.


5. Not having enough savings to maintain current lifestyle

Many Singaporeans don’t want to take a break from our jobs because of the high standard of living we’ve allowed ourselves to have. This high standard naturally comes with a high cost, and chances are you’ll need to make some budget cuts when you’ve taken a break from work. So no more gorging yourself at buffets, or visiting hipster cafes, or even buying new clothes. Better still, just put your social life on hold for the moment, because hanging out with friends tends to be responsible for the biggest increase your monthly expenditure.

Just don’t expect your friends to be paying for you, though. They’re probably pretty envious that you’re taking the break they so desperately want.


6. Fear of losing current lifestyle permanently

Ultimately, this is probably why we continue to slog for our bosses and put time and effort into a career we may not really be enjoying. Once you’ve gotten used to charging just about everything to your credit card, and you’ve got a gym and spa membership up for renewal, it’s pretty hard to imagine losing all that simply because you want to take a break from work.

Ultimately, when quitting your job, make sure you’ve got your bases covered. If you can no longer afford to visit the gym, then take advantage of your newfound free time to pick up some outdoor activities to stay in shape. After all, a run along the beach shouldn’t cost you a cent.


What’s stopping you from quitting your job and taking a break from work? Let us know.

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Peter Lin

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, technical writer, banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.