Many people dream of reaching early retirement. Few people, however, are willing to do what it takes to make it a reality. In most cases, to reach early retirement, a person must live differently from how the masses live. People generally don’t want to be viewed as being different from their fellows.
The masses are living for the day, spending most of what they earn, landing in debt, and are in denial about their personal finances. They have high hopes that their financial future will be secure. Hope, however, is not a strategy.
To reach early retirement, a strategy is needed. That strategy will require action and more action. The primary objective of that strategy will be to first reach financial independence. Financial independence is what enables people to retire early. If a person is no longer working, the money to sustain their lifestyle needs to come from somewhere. For most early retirees, that somewhere is their passive investments.
The path to being able to retire early is full of barriers. Many are external like being able to maintain a budget while marketers are doing everything they can to get you to break your budget and buy whatever it is they are selling. Some barriers are mental. The purpose of this post is to identify a few of these barriers and to establish a plan of action to avoid them.
Most people are unaware of what is required when it comes to planning for an early retirement. That is even true for those who have attended college. People who hold a 4-year degree or beyond still struggle with doing what is required to escape having to work for a living.
When it comes to establishing a financial plan, many people truly do not understand what is required. They feel that things will just work out like they have in other areas of their life like landing a good job or getting a mortgage to buy a house. They are generally in denial about what is required to build a large enough net worth to sustain their desired lifestyle once they are no longer working.
The good news is that once a person decides to learn more about personal finance, there is an abundance of great information. Once a person takes that first step towards learning about budgeting, saving, and investing, they have removed one barrier. Once that barrier has been removed, they will discover that the basics can carry a person a long way. The basics alone might be enough to carry some people to financial independence.
Procrastinating is another barrier that stands in the way of reaching early retirement. Not knowing about a topic is one thing. Knowing and not doing anything is another. To reach early retirement, it takes many years of earning a salary, saving a large percentage of that income, and investing it wisely.
The longer a person waits to start this process, the harder it becomes. That is based on compound interest. Let’s assume that an investor needs to have $1,000,000 saved to declare financial independence. They also want to reach this milestone by age 50.
Based on an 8% percent return, if an investor starts to save $1,800 per month at age 30, it will take 20 years to reach their goal. If they wait until age 40 to start saving, they will have to save almost $6,000 per month. If they started at age 22, however, they would only have to save $900 per month.
When you are young, time is on your side. The older you get, the harder it becomes. Don’t procrastinate if your goal is to reach early retirement.
Not investing in stocks
To receive a return close to 8%, an investor will need to have a large percentage of stocks in their asset allocation. Based on how investments are projected to perform for the next 10 years, an 8% return might not be reasonable. Large-cap stocks are projected to earn 6.7% threw 2026. For that same period, investment grade bonds are projected to earn 3.1%.
The average person has the tendency to shy away from stocks. In the short-term, they are volatile. Over long periods of time, they are one of the best wealth building investments for individual investors.
Instead of parking your money in a money market that returns 1%, consider adding stocks to your asset allocation. A good place to start is to look at a balanced portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% in bonds. This allocation is popular because it provides growth from the stock allocation and the bond allocation reduces volatility when the stock market has a correction. Another general rule of thumb is to invest (110 minus your age in stocks). If you are age 25, you might want to consider having around 85% of your asset allocation in stocks.
Lifestyle creep is a form of inflation. As a person advances in their career and their earnings increase, it is natural for their spending to increase. As raises and promotions pile up, people have the tendency to upgrade their lifestyle. Instead of saving more of their earnings, people buy bigger houses, fancier cars, and go on expensive vacations.
If there is lifestyle creep in your life, it is a major barrier between reaching early retirement and being stuck as a wage earner. Lifestyle creep inflates how much money you need in your retirement account before you can retire. In contrast, if you keep your monthly expenses low, the less you will need to be able to retire.
If you plan on withdrawing 4% from your retirement account, have $100,000 in annual expenses, you will need $2,500,000 in retirement savings. For those who only have $40,000 in annual expenses, they just need to save $1,000,000. The higher your annual expenses are, the more you need to have in retirement savings.
To avoid lifestyle creep, some management is required. A solid budget is needed. A financial plan is also a vital tool. First, focus on the big expenses. Keep your housing, transportation, taxes, and education costs low. For example, live in your starter house forever, buy an economical car, live in an area that does not have high taxes, and take advantage of public schools and state universities.
If you can avoid lifestyle creep on the major expenses, you will have more money for savings. This will also lead to less financial stress. Instead of stressing to cover your bills that are always increasing, you will be able to better enjoy your life because there will be less demand for having to earn more and more.
For most people, the road to early retirement takes a long time. It generally takes a couple decades of solid earnings, a high savings rate, and compound interest. To achieve this ambitus goal, there are barriers that need to be identified and managed.
To be successful with personal finance, education is required. The great news is that there is an abundance of good books, blogs, and forums that provide unlimited information. A good place to start is the Resources page on this blog.
There is no such thing as an overnight success. Most overnight success stories have been a fifteen-year work in progress. If you want to be financially successful and retire early, start today. It is not an overnight endeavor.
Without some risk, there will only be a little return. Identify the correct mix of stocks and bonds for your situation. Be sure to take your age and risk tolerance into consideration.
Manage your expenses. The greater your expenses, the more money you must save and grow. By keeping your expenses low, the less money you will need in retirement.
There will always be barriers that stand in the way of reaching early retirement. Once they are identified, they can be managed and overcome. Keep your eyes open for other barriers that might pop-up. Be vigilant and stay focused and you will be sure to reach financial independence and retire early.
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