Are You Retiring ‘Early’?

I retired much earlier than most people. I was 49 years old, just two weeks short of my 50th birthday. As I talk with people about early retirement, I find that most people don’t really know how early is ‘early’.

The average retirement age in the USA is 62. That’s a bit higher than it was a few years ago, it’s also a bit lower than people originally plan. Unfortunately, health and job lay offs often result in people retiring earlier than they planned. This chart from Gallup shows that many people retire 4-6 years earlier than they think they will:

Based on some 2010 research from the University of MN that I found online, it looks like less than 5% of folks retire at 50, and less than 15% by 55. A huge percent of workers join the FIRE at 60, and a very small percent are left by 75.

So what should you shoot for if you want to say you ‘retired early’? I think anything 55 or earlier definitely counts as “retiring early”. That is early enough to feel like you really achieved something that few people have been able to do. You could even argue that any age that starts with a 5 could be considered an early retirement since it is well before people are Medicare or Social Security eligible.

Having been early retired for a couple years now, I would say any amount of time you can save yourself is SO worth it. I look back at all of the things I have been able to do the last two years and consider it worth a lot more than I would have made in salary.

How early do you consider ‘early retirement’?

Image Credit: Pixabay

25 thoughts on “Are You Retiring ‘Early’?

    • Well, on a percentage of when people retire, age 52 still qualifies as amazing. I think few people even realize that if they have a healthy savings orientation they SHOULD be able to retire in their 50s.

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  1. Anything before 55 is what I consider early retirement. Interesting to see the actual retire age creeping up. Let’s say you start F/T work at 25, retiring at 55, means you work for 30 years, retiring at 62 mean working for 37, and retiring at 66 mean working for 41, ouch!

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    • Yes – I’m surprised the retirement age is creeping up, too. Most folks think it is trending the other way.

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  2. I believe that 52 (54 at the latest) is when I would like to pull this trigger. That will be the last year that we have kids at the house, and it gives us another 8 years of saving. The good news is that the kids’ college plans are fully funded so we don’t have to worry about that.

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    • We were in the same situation. I walked out six weeks before our (only) son graduated from high school. It was a great time to do so. We had a great summer and off he went to college.

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    • Yep – I definitely agree. At the generous MegaCorp I once worked at, that was said to be the average retirement age of most executives.

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  3. I personally consider anything below 62 yrs as “early retired”. The 30’s and 40’s folks are simply amazing! And my hat is off to anyone capable of pulling the trigger so early. My wife retired at 51, and I followed a few months later at 52 yrs old last May. I had planned to do it two years earlier (at 50), but decided to add a few more rental properties, while our market was still hot. While in the process of aligning those rental purchases, I agreed to help a friend get a business sold, so I signed on for a short 12-18 months to help him through that sale. Fortunately, we closed that sale in 17 months, and I was able to exit the corporate world completely last May. Thrilled to have pulled the chord at an “early” fifty-two years young!

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    • 52 years old is what I’ll reach next month! We’re probably both retired earlier than 90% of the workforce. Best job I never had, for sure!

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  4. We retired at 51 and 52, though I would agree with Thom…if it’s below 62, it would count as “early retired.” I sometimes find myself wondering about those 30 year olds. Are they really “retired,” or have they just quit jobs until they realize that their retirement will be unsustainable? Time will tell. As for us, we would agree that these extra years, our Encore Voyage, have been so very worth it. We often find ourselves saying, “If only we’d known then…” ~ Lynn

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    • 1. Many depend on subsidized Obamacare.
      2. Name one 30’s “retiree” who doesn’t have a working spouse and who isn’t still producing active income over 25k a year.

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      • YES – I for one reject the idea that you are ‘retired’ if your spouse is still working. I think that makes you simply a ‘stay at home spouse’. Great for them, but not the same as being early retired. Especially if the have a ‘side hustle’.

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    • I agree that I scratch my head at the 30-40 year old retirees. I know the math says if you live on half of your income you can retire in 16.6 years, but that means a LONG retirement with a lot of financial risk.

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    • Sometimes I think that what the 30-somethings mean when they say they “retired” is that they are financially independent. As in they have built enough wealth that they are living frugally off the returns – not the same as being retired in my opinion. I doubt that these folks will never work another day in their lives. I’d get bored very quickly at that age, with potentially 50-years of my life ahead of me.

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      • Admirably, the millennials also seem to be the ‘side hustle’ generation. There are so many fewer barriers to getting in business now, for many of them being self-employed = FIRE.

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  5. My last years I made repeatly the joke: “I will retire at 40th anniversary”. Well, I am 40 now (40 + 1 month) and I put the number on the paper: no chance to retire but in 10 years yes, if I keep the actual savings.
    But if I do more…

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    • Keep at it – savings grow exponentially as money compounds. It happened for us faster than I imagined!

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  6. It is an interesting question. I’m retiring in 3 days at the age of 58. When I told my mom I was retiring her response was “you are too young to sit around and do nothing”. Funny – I don’t remember telling her that I have decided to “sit around…”. I also reminded her that my dad quit his “normal” job at age 45 and became a serial entrepreneur. The only job that my dad had planned for was the one he did after quitting his “normal” job. I expect that something like that may happen to me but it is nice to know that I don’t have to work any more.

    I think retiring at 55 or younger feels like early retirement. It is a long way away from US sponsored health care (Medicare) and should represent 30+ years of retirement. I don’t know big my nest egg would have to be to retire before age 50. Then again we have 4 kids – all done with school, so there were still some pretty big bills when I was 50.

    I think my first time commenting but I have read your blog for quite some time. Really enjoy it.

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    • Thanks, Keith & congratulations on being just a few days from your FIRE Escape! I still get the reaction that I must be sitting around doing nothing all day. The fact is that there are a lot more wonderful things to spend your time on in retirement than people imagine. What’s the saying – “there’s no boring times, just boring people.”?! 🙂

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  7. 1st Time commenting…have read your blog for over a year now. I’ll be 55 in 6 months, which was my goal when I was 30 to retire by. I could of retired 3 1/2 years ago…but started a new job that had a 5-year vesting period to attain a small pension because I just wasn’t ready to stop. Not life changing money by any stretch but all the same a nice augmentation to our income by the time we start SS @ age 67 to 70 as with our investments. For me to get it, I need to work 1 more year to age 56 (my date is 1/1/2020) to retire from the rat race. I guess, I figured if I’m this far, I might as well finish and not leave anything on the table. … I’m going to have to exercise some self-discipline because my patience is running thin with some of the recent personnel issues I’m managing through!

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    • Nice to hear from you, Paul – thanks for the comment! I think it’s hard not to get anxious when you are SO close. A friend of mine is also close (just coming up on his 12 month mark) and I told him that for me, things kind of slowed down in that final year and that encouraged me to savor the parts of working you wouldn’t experience ever again. I didn’t savor budgets, forecasts, and personnel issues – but there is a rhythm to working and elements that are well worth appreciating while you are still in the moment!

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  8. This was a short and sweet read, thank you for writing this. It inspires me to continue with my family’s financial planning because the thought of “retiring” early so that we can chase some dreams of ours is a great motivator to save big now. Thank you for your point that people often retire earlier than they originally planned for health or other reasons. It is a reminder to be saving as much as you can, within reason, while you can and early on. If you think it is hard to save for retirement now in your twenties, thirties or even forties, it is horribly difficult if you are older, have health issues and are on a fixed income. The time is NOW.

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    • That’s right – save early & often. You can always spend it tomorrow. I love the Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is NOW.” 🙂

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