Yes, when you add up all the vacation time that an American gets throughout their working life, it only comes out to 1.5 years of vacation.
Here is the math:
Assume you start working at 22 and stop working at 65 for a total of 43 working years.
The average vacation time given in the U.S. is 2 weeks.
14 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 602 days = 1.65 Years Off
But, out of your 14 days vacation, 4 of those days are weekends that you have off already so:
10 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 430 days = 1.18 Years Off
It gets worse. If you consider two days lost in traveling back and forth on your vacation you get:
8 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 344 days = .94 Years Off
And one last thing, 658 million vacation days went unused last year. If there are about 160 million people in the workforce, then they each lost about 4 days each. So now:
4 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 172 days = .47 Years Off
Some might argue that my assumptions are a little extreme, but even if you take the best case scenario of getting 1.65 years off, is that really much better? Think about that, you work for 43 years only to get 1.5 years off to yourself. Are you okay with that?
Okay, that sucks so what can I do about it?
At a minimum, you should make sure you use every vacation day given to you even if you are just going to stay home and do laundry. This is the low hanging fruit if you just want more free time without changing your lifestyle. Unfortunately, many Americans do not take all the time off they are allowed because they are afraid for their job or think their work is too important to leave to someone else while on vacation.
You can try to get a job in Europe where they get double or more the amount of vacation time. This is a little better, but you will have to disrupt your whole life and move out of the country just to get twice as much time off. This is not for everyone.
Another idea is to save up a year or two living expenses while you are still young and take a year or more off from work to do what you want to do. You might find out that when the year is up, you want to do something completely different from the work you were doing before.
Or, you can do what my blog and many other blogs advocate and work, live below your means, save, invest and retire early. This is not easy, but if you can do it, then you can really see what you want to do with your time. I know people say that work is a purpose in your life that you need, but if the work you were doing was so purposeful to you, they wouldn’t need to pay you because you would do it for free.