Does the idea of early retirement sound appealing? Many people dream of retiring early and traveling or moving abroad, and for many, it seems out of reach. However, it is often a possibility when you make smart money moves at the right times.
If you want to retire early, the most important advice you need to hear is to begin planning today. And by reading this article, you’re taking an important first step toward turning off your 6 am weekday morning alarm forever.
We asked dozens of financial professionals and educators to offer their insights and tips to help us learn what actions we should take today and in the future in order to retire abroad early with enough money to last a lifetime.
Below, you’ll find their words of wisdom covering topics ranging from saving and investing to choosing where you will live to make your money go further.
Decide What Early Retirement Means to You
Retirement is such a loaded term. It means different things to different people. If you’re interested in retiring early, good for you. But you’ve got some work to do.
First, you need to define what “early” is for you. Is it age 55 or 65? Then you need to consider what retirement will cost for you. For example, will you really spend less in retirement as many financial advisors would lead you to believe? Will you have income from Social Security or a pension? And what savings and investments have you accumulated to supplement your retirement lifestyle?
These are important questions, and they’re best answered with a holistic retirement and financial plan. It will help determine where you are today and illuminate a path to early retirement and beyond.
Russ Thornton | Wealthcare for Women
Decide What You are Retiring “To” Not “From”
Traditionally retirement has been defined as retiring from a regular job, to do something else. A lot of people retire from a job because they don’t like it.
Redefine your idea of retirement, and get clear on what you are retiring to, not what you are retiring from. Be as specific as possible, for example, “I want to travel to XYZ country to do…”
With that clarity, you can work with a financial advisor or figure out on your own what you need to save, and what steps you need to take to get there. You have a lot of options for where (outside the US), but that’s a part of the how and the what. Don’t limit yourself.
Jane Mepham | Elgon Financial Advisors
Use Retirement Calculators to Help Decide When You Can Retire
An important part of picking a date for early retirement is to know if you have enough money saved. Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way of knowing exactly how much money you need.
But there are many free retirement calculators you can use. By inputting a few numbers, like your age, amount of savings, and annual spending, you can get a close estimate to see how you stand. This will give you confidence that when you do quit the rat race, you will be able to get by financially.
Jon Dulin | Money Smart Guides
Hire a Financial Advisor or Coach
If you have your eye on retiring early in your 40s or 50s, your preparation will need to adapt to a financial reality that differs from traditional retirement. Retiring early from conventional work hours doesn’t necessarily mean that you will stop working altogether, but you may limit your hours to live more freely.
When visualizing early retirement, you’ll need to bridge some gaps with a more extended retirement phase with less income and without company benefits like health insurance. There may be many moving parts, and working with a financial professional may help you overcome challenges.
Retiring in your 40s or 50s is a worthy goal. Early retirement doesn’t mean you will stop working altogether, but you may limit your hours working a side hustle to live more freely. You’ll have to get ready, or you can employ an experienced financial coach or advisor to design a comprehensive financial plan for your needs. A financial advisor can incorporate budgeting, savings, investments, and tax optimization strategies into your plan.
Linda Meltzer | The Cents of Money
Get a Second Job
If you are not a high-net-worth individual, you most likely find yourself thinking about retirement. A way to get there faster is by obtaining a second job. Working another job will enable you to pay off debt quicker and save more money. Have you heard of overemployment?
People are secretly working multiple remote jobs and earning double their standard pay. It’s definitely something worth looking into if you want to retire early.
Isaiah Webby | Get Loot
Prep Your Meals for Physical and Financial Fitness
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly $408 billion in food is thrown away yearly in the United States. Meal prepping not only helps to alleviate food wastage and helps you to make a healthier choice but also helps you save on groceries. Meal prepping entails cooking in bulk and portioning out meals ahead of time.
The main benefit of meal planning is it encourages you to eat healthier. More importantly, you can save money on takeout and alleviate food waste. The funds saved by utilizing meal prepping can go towards your retirement fund so you can retire sooner.
Charmaine | LuvMeKitchen
Find a Side Hustle
Many people have side hustles to help them make extra money. You could use the side hustle money for several things, including allowing you to retire early.
The extra money earned can help you increase your savings goals. You can also use the extra money to invest. Over time, those funds will add up, thus allowing you to retire early.
Jason Butler | My Money Chronicles
Head South of the Border to Mexico
If your idea of retirement includes a carefree lifestyle full of lazy afternoons spent walking along a world-class beach, you’re in luck. Mexico is one of the best places to retire, and many Americans are already doing it. In fact, more North Americans have moved to Mexico to retire than they have anywhere else in the world.
Many Mexican cities offer a low cost of living, beautiful weather, and a wide variety of lifestyle options. Retiring early takes strategic planning to make happen, but moving to Mexico can help you reach your goal by making your retirement funds go further than they would in America.
Not to mention you’ll be able to take those lazy afternoon walks on a beautiful Mexican beach whenever you’d like.
Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey
Move Further South of the Border to Ecuador
Relocating to a country with a lower cost of living is a great way to save money to retire early, but currency conversion fees and exchange rates can quickly eat away at your savings. Avoid these fees altogether by heading to one of a handful of foreign countries that uses the U.S. dollar as their national currency.
Ecuador is among the most popular choices, a top international destination for retirees from the United States. There are plenty of things to do in Quito to keep you busy, and this mountainous city is popular with ex-pats. Or, if you’re looking for warmer weather, you’ll find inexpensive beachfront real estate along the coast.
Carley Rojas Avila | Home to Havana
Invest in Low-Cost Index Funds
If you want to retire early or retire at all, the best tip I can give is to make sure you’re investing your money. Many people think investing is for rich people to make a lot of money. But really, investing is for everyone, no matter how much you earn.
Investing most of your money in low-cost investments such as index funds is the best way to make sure you’ll grow your money over the long term. Investing as little as $100 a month in your 20s can make a HUGE difference in your net worth over time.
Jeff | Have Your Dollars Make Sense
Instead of trying to save money by always looking for the lowest price, try to spend intentionally by buying fewer but higher quality items and services.
Sometimes, the cheapest price is all you need. However, focusing entirely on price and never on value can lead us to unsatisfying and low-quality purchases, causing us to spend more money on repairs and replacements in the long run.
Sam | Smarter and Harder
Use the Right Investment Accounts
An often overlooked item for those on the path to early retirement is what we call “savings location”. It’s important to save money in the correct account type and that is magnified for people retiring before age 59 and-a-half. Saving into accounts other than 401(k)’s, IRA’s, and Roth IRA’s is key – meaning that taxable accounts can still be your friend.
My clients with large taxable accounts often have more optionality than those that don’t. There are still tax-efficient ways to invest using a taxable account and they don’t have an “age padlock” with penalties like many retirement accounts do.
A lot of retirement is focused on accumulating dollars for later. It’s important to accumulate those dollars in an efficient way so that the (even more important) withdrawal phase can go as smoothly as possible.
Doug Oosterhart, CFP® | LifePoint Planning
Increase Your Earnings
A lot of tips related to retiring early focus on limiting spending (bananas and saltines for dinner, anyone?).
With my clients, I talk about how the equation to achieve early retirement has three major factors: aggressive saving, mindful spending, and increasing earnings. For many people who want to enjoy life now while also saving for financial independence, increasing earnings is one of the most powerful tools in their toolbelt.
Melissa Walsh, CFP®, CFA, AIF | Clarity Financial Design
A Handful of Tips to Earn More, Spend Less, and Build Savings
5 easy things you can do right now to decrease expenses, build savings, or build income:
- We live in a subscription society – comb through your credit cards and debit cards to determine which subscriptions can be canceled that you no longer use. Pay for an app you no longer use? Online yoga subscription? Magazine/newspaper? Streaming service? I’m certain you can find a few to trim.
- Renegotiate or revisit any bills that may be negotiable or interchangeable (i.e. internet, cell phone, gym membership) Is there a new deal out there you can ask for from your current provider? Or is it time to switch providers to reduce cost?
- Try my “Amazon challenge” – give yourself only 1 day per month you can buy items from Amazon, Target, or Walmart+ or anywhere you can click and buy in seconds.
Instead of buying everything the moment you think of it, add each item to your cart and ‘save for later’. On your one buying day, look at that long list and divide items into 3 categories a) Items you truly want and need now – add those to cart for purchase today. b) Items that someone could gift you for your next birthday or holiday – add those to your public wish list. and c) Items you probably don’t need – delete them!
Slowing down this buying process and using the rational brain can reduce your impulse buying throughout the month and decrease your spending.
- You own too much stuff and you have cash sitting in your closets, attic, garage. Sell items you no longer use or need on Facebook Marketplace, LetGo, Mercari, or other sites.
- Pick up online freelance gigs with your spare time. There are many different websites like Fiverr.com that post short freelance jobs with hundreds of categories. Can you help someone edit their website? Provide a voiceover? Provide financial, legal or business consulting?
Emily Rassam, CFP®, CRPS, AIFA, NSSA, CDAA | Archer Investment Management
Hire a “FIRE” Financial Advisor
If you plan to retire early, having a financial advisor who specializes in working with FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) clients can help catch financial mistakes that are common within the FIRE community.
For those who are planning to FIRE soon, consider hiring a financial planner to double-check your finances before making the big leap. Reaching FIRE takes accountability and resilience, having someone along your journey who can help you make the most out of every penny.
Danielle Miura, CFP® | Spark Financials
Invest Beyond Your Retirement Accounts
Invest outside of a retirement account. Typically you need to be debt-free, be maxing out retirement sources, and still have money left over to consider this option. Be sure that you don’t want to invest money that you may need in the short run, however.
Investing outside retirement is one of the best tools to use for leaving the option open to retire early since retirement funds aren’t accessible until after age 59 ½ without penalty. Funds outside of a retirement account are accessible before then.
Cady North, MBA, CFP® | North Financial Advisors
Practice Makes Perfect
Within five years of your planned retirement date, it is important to practice retiring. We call this “pivoting.” The idea is that you participate in new hobbies, adjust your sleep schedule, and modify your budget. If possible, try to pay off all consumer debt and save one year of cash reserves heading into your retirement.
Darryl Lyons, CFP, AIF, BFA, ChFC | Pax Financial
Get Health Insurance
Health insurance is a topic all retirees think about, and for early retirees leaving the workforce before Medicare eligibility (age 65), it’s a key concern. It should be a concern, typical medical expenses can run $300,000 per couple over the period of their retirement.
Before you leave your job, have a solid healthcare option lined up. That could be private insurance via the marketplace, a part-time job that offers health insurance as a benefit or opting into coverage through a spouse’s plan. Don’t wait to get this issue resolved – any gaps in coverage could be an issue should you come to file a claim later in life.
Dave Grant, CFP® | Retirement Matters
Optimize Your Social Security Benefits
Prepare a budget and determine how your cash flow needs will be met. Yes, you can take Social Security as early as age 62. However, if you’re in good health and have access to other sources of income, it usually pays to wait and let your benefit grow.
Taking your benefit at 62 will reduce your lifetime payment, and spousal survivor benefit, by as much as 30%. On the other hand, you’ll receive an 8% increase, plus inflation increases, for every year you wait after your full retirement age, up to age 70.
I’d consider a part-time job to bridge the gap and let your benefits grow. Receiving a guaranteed, lifetime revenue stream, inflation-adjusted, and not subject to market volatility should not be underestimated.
Brett Tushingham, CFP® | Tushingham Wealth Strategies
Choose a Financial Advisor with Specialized Credentials
Before you hire any professional, it’s essential to consider their qualifications to ensure they have the proper education and experience for your individual circumstances.
You’ll find that many financial advisors and coaches have chosen to earn financial certifications to demonstrate their knowledge and dedication to helping their clients achieve their financial goals.
To find a financial advisor who can help you retire early, you may want to consider hiring a Certified Financial Planner with advanced knowledge to assist with investment planning, insurance planning, estate planning, income tax planning, and retirement planning.
Many advisors with a particular focus on retirement planning have also attained specialized designations like the RICP designation which places an emphasis on generating income in retirement, or the CRPC designation which focuses on holistic retirement planning strategies.
Brian Thorp | Wealthtender
Harness the Power of a Taxable Brokerage Account
401Ks and IRAs are tremendous retirement savings vehicles, especially for those that are looking to retire after age 59 ½. However, if early retirement is a goal for you, a 401K or an IRA can’t be your only investment vehicle. In fact, simply maxing your retirement vehicles with no additional dollars left over to put towards other liquid investments will likely preclude you from having the ability to retire early.
Joshua Lutkemuller, CFA | Strongside Asset Management
Avoid Telling Yourself Big Money Lies
To retire early, avoid telling yourself these Big Money Lies, which can be detrimental to your ability to achieve your financial goals:
- I’ll be happier when I have $_______. If you make the mistake some magic number will flip a happiness switch for you, think again.
- I deserve it, regardless of whether I can afford it. We usually say this to ourselves after an expensive purchase we know, deep down, we don’t need.
- I have strong financial willpower. The 374 million of us shopping with credit cards typically spend 10% more than we would if we were paying with cash.
- I’ll save more later. Fewer than 1 in 6 of us are saving more than 15% of our income, and 1 in 5 aren’t savings at all.
- I have plenty of time to plan for my financial future (& I don’t need to think about it yet). It’s the rationale we use when we have a hard time managing our negative feelings or uncertainties about our financial futures. And it makes us turn a blind eye to the years of interest that we lose out on when we don’t plan.
- There is good and bad debt. Instead of focusing on whether debt is “good” or “bad,” concentrate on the total cost of the interest over time (it’s often higher than you think) and on deciding whether the loan is really helping you achieve your goals.
- Wanting more is bad. When we frame wanting more as a positive motivator, it can be easier to take the chances or do the work needed to get to that next financial level we may want.
Richard Archer, CDAA, CFA, CFP, MBA | Archer Investment Management
Establish Multiple Sources of Income
You must generate enough money to retire early. Saving money and downsizing can only stretch your budget so much when inflation is going through the roof.
Retiring early does not mean one will stop working. It simply means you are not trading so many hours for compensation. You’ll enjoy things you love and, at the same time, produce enough income to live comfortably. Start with a side hustle and build a business that is semi if not entirely passive.
Ram Chakradhar | Dollar for Cent
Change Zip Codes to Reduce Your Cost of Living
If you’re looking to retire sooner rather than later, you may want to consider moving to a place with a lower cost of living. By making this move, you can reduce your expenses and save more money each month, which will help you reach your retirement goals sooner.
By changing zip codes and living in a place with a lower cost of living, you can have a smaller mortgage or no mortgage, which will allow you to save money and invest in things with a higher rate of return so you can retire early.
Ashlee Fechino | The Happiness Function
Know Your Cost of Living
If you want to retire early, it’s a good idea to get clear on what your baseline cost of living is or will be. This is the amount of money you’ll need to cover your essential living expenses from housing, utilities, medical coverage, household expenses, and meals.
Don’t forget to factor inflation into your calculations for the number of years you estimate living beyond your retirement date. If needed, you may want to find ways to reduce your monthly expenses in order to make your retirement goal figure more attainable.
If you are able to save beyond what you actually need, you’ll be in better shape to enjoy retirement with less financial stress.
Jessica Bishop | The Budget Savvy Bride
Focus on What You Can Control
Retiring early is a great goal to have. The biggest question is whether or not it is realistic. If we’re not saving the right amount of money in all the right places then retiring early, pre-59 1/2 can become further from reality.
Things to consider as you strive toward retiring early:
- Save 25% or more of your annual gross income
- Make sure you have great balance between your ‘liquid’ and ‘illiquid’ investments
- Consider the extraordinary expenses you’ll incur by not having access to health insurance at early retirement
- Try to map out when you anticipate turning on Social Security Income in order to maximize your benefit and where you’ll pull income from until then, i.e., “Mind the Gap.”
At the end of the day, retiring early can be achievable if we focus our efforts on the things we can control, such as how much we save and put back onto our balance sheet annually and making sure we’re being efficient with our asset location strategy.
Michael R. Acosta, CFP®, ChFC® | The Dumas Team, Consolidated Planning, Inc.
Mind Your (Financial) Behaviors
Financial behaviors will be of paramount importance to retire early. A pattern of consistency is so much more important than looking for the big windfalls. Keeping your lifestyle simple but fulfilling is another major key.
To do this it would all start with reasonable spending, savings, and investing plans. As someone approaches retirement making sure they have a fully funded emergency fund will be huge.
Schuyler Lemler, AFC® | Apothecary Financial
Have a (Financial) Plan
“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Benjamin Franklin’s iconic quote showcases one of the most important things you need to do if you want to retire early: plan. Your financial plan should include your assets, liabilities, assumptions, and needs.
Use your plan as a framework to help guide you toward your early retirement goals. Having a plan will help you set realistic and achievable goals and show you where you may need to make changes to achieve your ultimate goal of retiring early.
Melanie Allen | Partners in FIRE
Focus on the Personal Finance Trifecta
For those that want to retire early, we recommend a greater focus on what we call the personal finance trifecta: Cash Flow Management – Investment Management – Tax Planning. Cash Flow Management allows you to have increased control over where your money goes so that you can divert more towards investment opportunities.
We believe that your Investment Management should be nimble and tactical, in order to improve performance and reduce risk.
Advanced Tax Planning may help you keep more of your money. Those are our 3 keys to building wealth. By following these principles, you can set yourself up for a bright financial future – and an earlier retirement date.
Patrick Traverse, CFP®, EA, CEPA™ | Breakaway Financial Group
Treat Yourself to an Affordable Vacation
Just because you’re saving money for retirement doesn’t mean you can’t also go on vacation. And a nice one at that!
For over 20 years, savvy travel bargain hunters have been booking timeshare rentals on trusted, A+ Business Bureau-rated websites to save 50% off or more at global resort chains.
Today’s timeshares bring together the space and home-like conveniences of an Airbnb with the prime location, resort amenities, and cleanliness standards of worldwide hotel chains like Hilton, Westin, Hyatt, and even Disney.
This resort is a destination in itself with a championship golf course, putt-putt, four pools, tennis & basketball courses, and a long list of family activities across 600 acres. You’d never know you are only 2 miles from Walt Disney World Theme Parks and minutes to Universal Studios at this price point!
Monica Fish | Planner at Heart
Get a Green Thumb
If you have some spare space or land, growing high-value cash crops can be an excellent side hustle to get to retirement faster. Some homeowners make up to $10,000 per month selling microgreens from their basement.
With high-value crops, you can afford to hire help and turn it into passive income. Also, after you retire, you can continue to sell at farmer’s markets and enjoy the community aspect.
Davin | Nature of Home
Use the Rule of 25
When you want to retire early, one of the first things to do is know how much you need to save or invest. You want to know your retirement number.
Calculate your retirement number with the rule of 25, where you multiply your expected retirement expenses by 25 to know how much you’ll spend. For example, if you expect to spend $4,000 per month in retirement, you can retire early when your investments reach $1 million.
There are plenty of things you can do to reach your retirement number and retire early. Investing in the stock market is a popular choice, like investing in total market index funds like FZROX or FSKAX.
Marjolein Dilven | Radical FIRE
Get Out of Debt
Be smart with how you pay off debt. Frequently, people delay investing entirely so they can tackle their debt first. However, it can be beneficial to hold some debt while investing to take advantage of being in the market longer and earning more compounding returns.
Compare the potential return on investment (ROI) between your debt (the interest rate) and what kind of returns you expect from the stock market.
By paying off high-interest debt early, then investing while only paying the minimums on your low-interest debt, you can save more and retire earlier.
Becky Neubauer | TwentyFree
Grab a Gig Economy Job
Set up multiple streams of income, such as starting a side hustle while you work your 9-5. The gig economy is huge right now, and there are plenty of flexible ways to earn more income doing something you enjoy, whether that’s writing, driving, or walking dogs.
This way you’ll have more money coming in to save and invest. It can be a great strategy to put all side hustle income directly into your retirement investments to be able to retire early.
Kelan Kline | The Savvy Couple
Live Below Your Means
Committing to living below your means for the long term is the foundation for setting yourself up for early retirement. Work towards paying off high-interest consumer debt and spend your money intentionally to avoid more debt.
As your income grows, put that money to work for you by investing it instead of keeping up with the Joneses or succumbing to lifestyle creep.
Look for new ways to save money on your monthly expenses. Consider starting a side hustle to increase the gap between your income and expenses so you have more money to save and invest in preparation for your early exit from the workforce.
Lisa | Adapt Your Dollars
Become a Creator
Building up a side hustle that is passive or semi-passive is a great ticket to help you achieve independence. Building a brand and following online can be a way to tap into this. For instance, TikTok creators get paid when people watch their content.
This decouples your effort with payout, where it takes a lot of effort to get started and build the following, but once you have it, you can reap the benefits over a long period of time.
Tyler Weaver | Relentless Finances
Fund Your Brokerage Account
Years before you step away from your job, you should be funding your brokerage account while saving for retirement. Adequately funding a brokerage account will allow you to potentially:
- Lower your taxable income in retirement
- Have the resources to be able to choose to delay Social Security
- Keep your retirement assets growing longer and uninterrupted
- Create other favorable tax planning opportunities
By getting started today, and understanding what it takes to retire early, you can increase your odds of being able to achieve early retirement.
Nick Covyeau, CFP® | Swell Financial
The Bottom Line
No matter your stage in life whether you’re 10 years away from retirement or just getting started in your career, you can improve your financial health and increase the likelihood of affording a comfortable retirement by applying any of the tips shared above that make sense based on your individual circumstances.
If all of this feels overwhelming, simply take a deep breath and remember preparing for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint.
You’ll also find a wide range of resources available to help you feel more confident about your financial future, ranging from books on retirement and personal finance blogs, to money coaches and financial advisors near you who can get to know you and develop a personalized plan.
This article was originally published on Wealthtender.