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Columns: Boomer Bucks
Barbara Mlotek Whelehan   Expert: Barbara Mlotek Whelehan
Boomer Bucks
Americans are cheating themselves by not taking all the vacation days to which they're entitled.
Boomer Bucks

Take time off from work
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Guilt plays a part, with women more inclined to indulge in this feeling than men (38 percent versus 28 percent, respectively). Last year, it was the other way around, with 39 percent of men feeling guilty for taking vacation versus 30 percent of women.

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I don't understand why anyone -- man or woman -- should feel guilty for taking some time off from work. Do we honestly believe we are that indispensable? Or might an inflated sense of self-importance be at work here? Or worse, is it fear masquerading as guilt -- the fear of getting replaced?

Last year, one-quarter of American workers checked their work e-mail or voicemail while they were on vacation, according to the Expedia survey.

In another survey by CareerBuilder.com, 7 percent of workers said they lied to their employers to get out of working while they were on vacation, telling bosses they could not be reached while away. Imagine having a boss that expects you to check in when you're clocked out.

The cost of stress
Obviously our work ethic has gotten way out of whack and our values have become distorted. Worker productivity seems to always go up as employers extract more output per hour from us. Meanwhile, we've forgotten how to totally unwind and unplug ourselves from the stress of the workday world.

Stress, after all, is the culprit for our ills, physical and financial. According to statistics from The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, some 75 percent to 90 percent of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Some of these ailments lead to chronic disorders and even heart disease. No big shock there.

If the cost of taking a vacation is holding you back, consider these numbers: American workers give back 460 million vacation days a year (three days multiplied by 153.37 million workers), saving employers $65.52 billion, according to numbers Expedia gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls stress a hazard of the workplace, assessing the cost to American industry at more than $300 billion a year.

This suggests that the price of forgoing vacation is much higher than taking it. If Americans take all the vacation days to which they're entitled, it might go a long way toward defraying the high cost of stress.

Of course, it's important to plan your escape responsibly. Set aside funds for it, and have it paid for ahead of time rather than charge it. If you're counting on future earnings to pay for it, a vacation may not be so enjoyable.

Regardless, go ahead and take your well-deserved break from the routine, even if you don't go anywhere distant or exotic this year. We all need some time off to recharge our batteries and rediscover once again our "raison d'Ítre."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: July 9, 2008
Read more stories by Barbara Whelehan
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