Today we pretty much take it for granted that we’ll need to work as long as possible in order to be able to one day retire; even if that means remaining in the workforce until we’re 70. It didn’t used to be this way, and we believe it shouldn’t have to. You’ll need to make some dramatic changes if you want to retire as early as 50, that much is true. But the other true thing is that is can be done if you’re willing to take an unorthodox approach to these five areas of your life.
Save more. Lots more.
It’s no secret that teachers are, for the most part, underpaid in our country. So would you be surprised to hear that 12% of America’s millionaires are educators? This tells us that no matter what your income level, it’s possible to accrue wealth. The key is maximizing your income in your chosen profession, living frugally, and squirreling away as much as possible. Some of the Americans who are able to retire the earliest reportedly live on one quarter of their income and save the other three quarters!
Plan to dramatically reduce your expenses later in life.
For the majority of us, housing is by far our biggest monthly expense. Plan to buck the trend, either by paying off your mortgage before you retire or by moving to a part of the country with a very low relative cost of living.
The other big expense to think about cutting is taxes. How can you cut something you’re required to pay? Some states have no income tax, while others have a low or flat income tax rate. Think about it: if you move from a state with a 9% income tax to a state with a 0% income tax, you’re automatically cutting your expenses by 9%. Sales tax and property tax are other factors to consider when deciding where you’ll spend the rest of your life.
Trade for goods and services instead of buying them.
Do you have a home in a desirable location? House-swap with a family on the other side of the country or even on another continent instead of booking an expensive hotel. Is there a golf or country club you’d like to belong to? Offer to work a few shifts per week in exchange for a membership. You’d be surprised how many businesses are willing to work out a mutually beneficial exchange deal.
Keep your current expenses as low as possible.
It sounds obvious, but there are so many ways to reduce our expenses that many of us forget about. For example, live in a town with public transit so you can get rid of your car. You’ll save on gas, maintenance and insurance. Grow your own produce in a backyard or community garden to cut your grocery expenses, or join a local co-op.
Keep in mind that no matter what age you retire, there are still requirements for how old you must be to begin making withdrawals on your retirement accounts and Social Security. Traditional IRAs and earnings from Roth IRAs can’t be withdrawn (without penalty, that is) until age 59 ½. 401 (k) monies, when retiring from a company, aren’t available until age 55. A great way to deal with this gap in income is to tap into your home equity.
When you combine all these factors and follow them diligently over many years, it is possible to cut a significant amount of time off of your years before retirement. We may not all be able to retire at 50, but at least we won’t face the feeling of being forced to work into our 70’s if we don’t want to.