Have you heard of the FIRE movement? It stands for financial independence, retire early. And people who’ve joined have retired in their 50s, 40s, and even earlier to travel for leisure and pursue passion projects.
With the FIRE outlook in mind, you’ll get to decide when, how, and for whom you work, if you even want to work at all. It’s ironic that planning for early retirement requires a lot of work, but it pays off in the end, making it worthwhile. Here are a handful of key strategies that can make early retirement an attainable reality rather than a pipe dream.
Make some adjustments to your current budget
Reduce your budget as soon as possible. Consider whether you can live on half of your income, and place the rest of your earnings in a savings account. Pay off your debt, and look at your expenses to see which ones you can get rid of entirely. Make time for a part-time gig or a freelance side job. Instead of spending the money you earn, put all of the money you earn in a retirement fund or other savings account.
Calculate your annual retirement spending
Create a retirement spending estimate. Look at your current monthly spending and think about how it may change. What can cause it to go up or down? How can you add to your savings or eliminate certain expenses altogether? Add up your final monthly expense estimates, and multiply that number by 12. That’s your magic number — your annual retirement needs. Now increase it by 10% to 20% to give yourself wiggle room.
Pay special attention to health care. If leaving your job early means letting go of your policy, you have some options when it comes to replacing it. If you’re married and your partner still has a job, join his or her plan.
Think about purchasing private insurance. You can also look for a plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Since the loss of existing coverage counts as a qualifying life event, this means you are likely eligible to enroll in an insurance plan even if the annual open enrollment period has already ended. You can also search for a part-time job that offers health insurance. Consider looking into industry associations that offer group coverage as well.
COBRA is a costly way of continuing your workplace policy for up to 18 months by covering all of the premiums yourself. While this is an option for you, we recommend that you view this as a last resort.
There are many tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, each of which has its own rules regarding when to take qualified distributions. In most cases, the age requirement is 59.5 years old, so taking money out of your retirement account prior to this age can result in higher taxes and penalties.
However, Roth IRAs are an exception. They allow you to distribute your contributions, though not your earnings, at any time. You’ll also have the option to enact a series of substantially equal periodic distributions, which the IRS permits, provided you follow a specific protocol. Work with a financial professional to develop a strategy to do so.
Take a close look at your money
Estimate your total savings and consider these two calculations:
The Rule of 25: It is advisable to save 25 times the amount of money you anticipate spending in your first year of retirement before you actually retire. If you expect to spend $35,000 in your first year of retirement, then it is wise to save $875,000 before you retire. While this is a lot of money to save, knowing about the Rule of 25 years in advance can help you prioritize saving money over time.
The 4% Rule: This rule suggests that you should withdraw only 4% of your savings within the first year of your retirement. It’s a great way to ensure that you don’t overspend early on and spend your savings too quickly.
As you approach your planned retirement date, shift your savings and put your money toward liquid assets. This way, you can prevent having to sell your investments at a loss. When your money grows for you, your odds of returning to work later on in life are greatly reduced.
If you want to live your life on your own terms and provide yourself with not only the freedom but also the security of retiring early, then planning ahead is key. Before you can plan for your future, you will need to identify what gives life meaning for you and establish a purpose for yourself.
That way, your early retirement will add value to your life instead of being a stressful, work-free time. For more insight into how you can retire early, reach out to financial professionals and advisers who can help you get to where you want to be.