Do you daydream about retiring while plodding through your 9-to-5 job? Are you wondering how it is that a neighbor or relative managed to quit working at 59 and go traveling?
For many people, retirement — never mind early retirement — seems out of reach. The median retirement fund held by people ages 55 and older contained $104,000 in 2013, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
But don’t let the statistics get you down. With a little focus and self-discipline, you could have enough to retire early. Here are 20 tips to get you started:
1. Spend less than you earn
The formula for retiring early starts with you actually saving money. Social Security alone isn’t enough to have you living the good life during your golden years, and as we’ll discuss later, you’ll want to put off taking that money as long as you can.
Some experts recommend you spend no more than 90 percent of the money you make and sock away the remaining 10 percent.
If you have zero savings right now, concentrate on building an emergency fund in a savings account first. Once your rainy-day fund is full, put that 10 percent you’re not spending into a dedicated retirement fund.
2. Start saving early
Thanks to the power of compounding interest, a little money saved now can go a long way at retirement time. But to get the most benefit, you’ll want to start saving as early as possible.
Even if you can’t hit that 10 percent goal, every bit helps. Let’s say you’re 20 years old and can manage to put away only $100 a month into your retirement fund. Assuming you average 8 percent returns (optimistic, but possible with good investments) you’ll be closing in on having half a million dollars — $463,806 to be precise — by age 65. Even better, over that 45-year period, you’ll only have invested $54,000 of your money to get all that cash in return.
If you wait until you’re 40 to start saving $100 a month, you’ll put in $30,000 of your money and — at that same rate of return — build a nest egg worth $87,727 by age 65. Not bad, but wouldn’t you rather have half a million?
3. Don’t leave money on the table
If someone tried to hand you $100, would you say no?
That’s exactly what you’re doing when you fail to take advantage of a 401(k) employer match. Your company is basically giving you money with the only string being that you need to pony up some of your own cash for the retirement fund too.
You won’t get rich by passing up golden opportunities like this for extra cash. If your employer offers a 401(k) match, make sure you are taking full advantage of it.