If you’re tired of the nine-to-five grind and long for the time when you can ditch your day job, make your own schedule, and pursue projects that make you happy, you may be interested in early retirement. While most people retire in their 60s or even 70s, some people are able to retire at a much younger age.
This means having much more money saved up than someone planning on traditional retirement has saved by the time they’re 30. While saving up enough to retire early comes with many sacrifices, it may be worth it if you dream of breaking the shackle of a traditional job and living life on your own terms.
To retire early, you’ll need to save up a substantial chunk of change. If, for example, you want to retire by 30, experts recommend that you save up $1 to $2 million, or 25 times your annual household spending, whichever is higher. While this may seem like a difficult goal to reach, there are a variety of ways that you can make your early retirement dream a reality. An early retirement strategy should include paying down debt as quickly as possible, saving as much money as possible, and reducing your expenses while increasing your income wherever you can.
Table of Contents
1. Make a Plan
If you’re interested in retiring early, you should have a clear plan for what you’re going to do after retiring at a young age. Maybe you dream of traveling the world, launching your own business, starting a family, or devoting time to your creative passions and pursuits. In many cases, early retirement doesn’t mean that you stop working entirely — it just means that you have more time to focus on the things that matter most to you.
Some early retirees find fulfillment in working part time, starting new business ventures, or devoting time to hobbies and leisure activities that make them happy. While you might envision your early retirement consisting of sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping cocktails, and napping in the sun, the reality is that most people enjoy doing meaningful work even when it isn’t attached to a hefty paycheck. Before you retire, you should spend some time making a plan for life after retirement.
2. Organize Your Finances
Before you start on the path to early retirement, it’s a good idea to organize your current finances and calculate what you’ll need to retire comfortably. This includes making a budget, tracking current expenses, and getting all of your accounts in order so that it’s easy to start preparing for retirement.
It’s a good idea to figure out exactly how much you earn each year, how much you spend, and how much you’ll be able to save. If you find that your savings rate isn’t on track for early retirement, having your finances in order can help you see exactly how much more you’ll need to put away each month. Financial planning and retirement calculators can help you determine how much you need to save based on your current spending.
3. Get Rid of Debt
To start down the path toward early retirement, you should first work to get rid of any debt you may be carrying. This includes credit card debt, student loans, personal loans, and other forms of debt. Depending on your financial situation, it’s almost always a good idea to work on paying down debt before you focus on saving. This strategy ensures that you pay a minimal amount of interest and can start building up your savings with a clean financial slate.
4. Save As Much As Possible
After paying down debt, saving effectively should be your top priority. The exact amount you’ll need to save for retirement varies depending on a variety of factors, including your yearly expenses, your lifestyle, and the size of your family.
It’s especially crucial to save aggressively during the beginning stages, since you only have a small window of time before you plan to retire. Many people with the goal of early retirement try to save and invest a high percentage of their income — sometimes up to as much as 60 to 70%.
5. Reduce Your Expenses
If you’re already saving as much as you can, the next step is to find ways to reduce your monthly expenses. This is an effective strategy to save even more money per month.
It’s a good idea to carefully scrutinize your budget in order to eliminate any extra spending. You may want to cancel subscriptions, lower your entertainment spending, or spend less money on eating out or leisure activities.
Depending on your situation, you may want to consider downsizing your possessions, renting a smaller apartment, or finding a roommate to help you split the costs. Making these short-term sacrifices can help you to achieve your long-term goals of early retirement and financial independence.
6. Increase Your Income
Increasing your income is yet another way to boost your savings rate and decrease the length of time until you’re able to retire. If you have a full-time job, you may want to consider asking for a raise, or applying for positions that come with a salary increase.
You may also want to get a part-time job or develop a side hustle that can help you to earn more money in your off hours. Popular ways to earn money on the side include freelancing, selling items online, or even starting your own small business.
The higher your income is, the more you’ll be able to save towards your goal of early retirement. As your income increases, it’s important to put any extra money you earn straight into your savings — don’t be tempted to increase your expenses just because you’re earning more money.
7. Be Aware of Fees and Taxes
If you plan to retire early, it’s important to be aware of the fees, penalties, and taxes associated with retirement accounts. Many retirement accounts levy fees and penalties against users who make early withdrawals before the typical retirement age. You may want to consider investing in Roth retirement accounts, which often come with fewer penalties.
8. Invest Smartly
In order to retire early, you’ll need to live off of passive and interest income during retirement. This means it’s a good idea to invest your savings so that they continue to grow over time.
Popular investments include investing in a business, in the stock market, or in real estate. While no investment is risk free, there are a variety of relatively safe investment options when it comes to retirement, including mutual funds, stocks, and bonds and investment portfolios with low to moderate risk.
If you’ve maxed out your traditional retirement accounts, it’s a good idea to spread the rest of your investment out over a variety of different options in order to diversify your retirement investment and reduce risk.
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