Here's How Much Money You Actually Need to Retire at 55
Most people work 90,000 hours in their lifetime, which is one-third of the average lifespan, according to a study from Gettysburg College. Want to shave a few hours off that average, cut your time on the 9-to-5 grind short, and get to retirement early (so you can spend more time traveling)? We talked to a financial educator about early retirement — specifically, how to retire at age 55 — to shed some light on the subject.
"As the proverb goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago," Danetha Doe, a financial wellness educator, tells Travel + Leisure of when the best time to start planning for retirement would be. "The second best time is today."
In other words, it is never too soon to start saving for retirement, especially if you want to retire early.
According to Doe, those looking to retire early should start saving as early as their 20s or 30s. But, "don't despair if you didn't start saving in your younger years," she says. "It is also never too late to start saving for retirement. However, the longer you wait to start, the more strategic you will need to be to ensure you save enough for your retirement years.
To figure out just how much money you need to save to retire by 55, Doe suggests using a common rule of thumb: take your current salary and multiply it by 10. Keep in mind that this is just a jumping off point — there are many other factors you'll need to consider. To that end, Doe takes this formula and builds off of it. She offers the following example:
"If you earn $80,000 per year, the formula states you will need to have access to $800,000 to retire. Now, keep in mind, if you are planning to retire at 55, you will (heaven willing) need to have enough saved for 20 years or more. Using the formula I just shared, that means you will be living on $40,000 per year or half of the salary you were accustomed to ($800,000 over 20 years). For some people, this would not be enough. Or, $40,000 per year may be enough if you choose to retire in a part of the world where the cost of living is [lower than you're used to]. My suggestion is to use the formula to set a baseline. Then, do research on what it would cost to live the lifestyle you wish to experience in retirement."
Want to make it to retirement even sooner? There are ways to do it, but it means putting in a lot of effort. Doe suggests looking into the F.I.R.E. approach; F.I.R.E. stands for Financial Independence Retire Early.
"The basic premise of F.I.R.E. is to cut expenses drastically and live off of 25-50 percent of your income," Doe explains. "With the extra money you have, you invest it into low-fee funds such as index funds."
Others can try to accomplish early retirement by creating a successful side hustle business, which could help provide the additional income needed to retire early. Some even approach side hustling with the goal of generating passive income, which effectively creates an additional income stream without too much additional work (think: owning a rental property). However, even if you don't hit a magic number, Doe says there are still ways you can achieve that retirement feeling without giving up work altogether. Her methods could be particularly helpful for those trying to integrate travel more into their life, beginning now, rather than waiting for retirement.
"At the core of it all, most folks wish to retire early because they want financial freedom. They want to take a year to travel, explore an artistic outlet, or to devote their time to philanthropy. All of these experiences can be achieved without retiring in the traditional sense," Doe says. "[Someone I coach] goes on a four-month sabbatical every year and calls it a mini-retirement. They've been on five mini-retirements — all before the age of 40. So, whether it's early retirement, mini-retirement, or generating passive income, the key is to get clear on what you wish to experience, define success on your own terms, and take the steps necessary to turn your dream into a reality."