Saving Money for a Sabbatical and Early Retirement: Pablo Seto (Ep. 3)


Graffiti Festival, Montreal, Canada -- 18-Jun-18.jpg

Pablo at the Graffiti Festival, Montreal, Canada, on June 18, 2018, a few weeks before he left his job and started his sabbatical.

Plum Village, France -- 16-Aug-18.jpg

A trip to Europe was first on Pablo's sabbatical plan. Pictured here at Plum Village, France, on August 16, 2018.

Surfing in Terschelling, Netherlands -- 22-Aug-18.jpg

Surfing in Terschelling, Netherlands, on August 22, 2018. After Europe, Pablo heads back to Toronto, to focus on a number of personal projects.



Pablo Seto’s original plan was actually much bigger than taking a one year sabbatical. He wanted to retire by age 38, and was on track to do it. He worked in finance in Toronto, and maintained a super frugal lifestyle, putting away 40% of his salary per year.

Then he started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. For several years, he kept pushing through, until he finally decided to take a year off now, since he had the money, and then aim to retire at 45.

This conversation really resonated with me because of its discussion of how a sabbatical can serve as radical self-care in today’s hard-driving working world.

I also really appreciated how, for Pablo, taking a sabbatical is about really putting his money and time toward his biggest values in life.

If you’ve ever wondered about how you could save for a sabbatical, I hope you get lots of ideas and inspiration from Pablo’s refreshingly focused and disciplined take on money.


memorable insights

  • What the first few weeks of being on sabbatical are really like

  • A sabbatical was part of a larger philosophy of really putting money and time where his values are, which started at a young age

  • Hear his father's reaction, who never took time out of his career

  • How his family, Chinese immigrants to North America, influenced his sabbatical decision

  • Initially wanted to retire early, but decided time off sooner was better

  • Sabbaticals as a form of self-care

  • Enjoying your job, and still taking a sabbatical as a leave of absence

  • How to restructure your life to save more money for your sabbatical

  • Financial and frugal living tips



1. What do you wish you had known before you took your leap?

2. What was the most unexpected thing that came of your leap?

3. For someone who is thinking of doing something similar, what one piece of advice would you offer? 




Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robins and Joe Dominguez -- A great book on how to transform one's relationship with money and how to live in alignment with one's values.

Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker -- A practical book on how to become financially independent within a few short years.


Mr. Money Mustache -- A great blog for efficient and frugal living and optimizing one's life.

The Millionaire Teacher -- A great blog on how to invest and how to save money for expats.

Early Retirement Extreme -- A great blog on how to become financially free within a few short years.


Planswell, a Canadian-based financial planning company. offers a free tool on their website to build a free financial plan in under three minutes which lets them know how much to save, how much insurance to get, and if they should or should not re-finance their loans. If they like the plan, they can have Planswell implement the financial plan for them.

Pablo notes, "While the company is only servicing Canadians at the moment, I think the questionnaire is still a useful tool for anyone who wants to get an initial idea of how much they need to save to reach their financial aspirations. I really like the company because the questionnaire is simple to use, the tool helps to simplify the financial process, and Planswell helps their clients reach their financial goals faster by only doing what is best for their client which includes recommending the right amount of insurance, using low-cost index funds, and helping their clients re-finance their debt at lower rates."

He also adds, "The questionnaire at the moment is Canadian-focused so there may be some terms that will be unfamiliar to you. Here are some American equivalents to the Canadian terms: I.e. RRSP = 401 (K) or IRA; CPP = Social Security."




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