Americans may have a reputation for being a nation of workaholics, but they’re not alone.
In 2016, Canadians left an average of three unused vacation days on the table, according to Expedia. That represents nearly 31 million unused vacation days in 2016 alone.
While leaving a few leftover vacation days may not seem like a big deal, research shows that not taking holidays can be bad for your health.
One study, by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that men who take frequent annual vacations were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease as people who didn’t take any vacation.
In another study, it was discovered that women who took vacation once every six years or less were about eight times more likely to get coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations a year. A lack of vacations can also increase stress, depression and anxiety, too.
Unfortunately, many people would rather stay at work, in part because they’re too busy to leave or they think that taking time off could hurt their jobs, though there’s little proof that vacations kill careers.
So, what can you do to ensure you get away?
Plan early. Schedule your holidays for the coming six to 12 months and immediately block those days in your calendar – then stick to it. Don’t expect to ever find the perfect time to get away, just plan your days well in advance so that you have enough time to prepare for your time out of office.
Don’t be afraid to delegate. Many people don’t want to burden their colleagues with extra work while they’re away. They may even fear losing out on a raise or a promotion if they let someone else do their job. However, a research study by the U.S. Travel Association showed that people who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6 per cent likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. Comparatively, people who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4 per cent chance of receiving a raise or bonus.
Pay yourself first. If you’re self-employed or receive holiday pay on every cheque instead of paid days off, it can be difficult to put that money aside to fund your time off. Consider setting up an automatic transfer from your chequing to your savings account so that when holiday time comes, you don’t take a financial hit.
In the end, the key is to make your vacation time a priority. It will pay off when you return to work refreshed and refocused.
Jeff Somers, BA, RRC, CFP works at Investors Group in Charlottetown. This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. and Investors Group Securities Inc. presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own adviser for specific advice about your circumstances.