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No magic number for retirement

An early retirement can be enticing, but make sure you plan ahead and avoid pitfalls which can cost you later.

This week, listener L.J. from Virginia asks, "I'm in my early 30's and I same 25 to 30 percent of my take-home pay, and I would definitely like to retire early. What is the best way to determine when I'll be eligible to, is there a rule of thumb based on how much I spend per year, or how much I make? I'm just not sure." 


A guide to U.S. retirement accounts Learn more about what kind of plans are out there and which is best for you. Plus, browse our other resources to help you reach your retirement goals.


Though some sites say that retirement lies in a magic number, like saving $1 million or 10 times your annual salary, it's more important to figure out what you're saving for, since every retirement situation looks different. 

Questions to consider

  • Where will you live? Do you still owe money on your home or pay rent monthly? Would you be able to afford that even if your income stopped? 
  • Do you plan on still working? Even if you do leave the 9-to-5 behind, could you work a part-time schedule or find freelance work if necessary?
  • Will you have to take care of family? If your parents aren't adequately prepared for retirement, will you have to support them?
  • Where will you live? Other cities, and countries, offer significantly lower costs-of-living. Would you be willing to leave?
  • How much debt do you have left? Will you be able to juggle payments even without income?
  • What will you do? Some people aren't content with sitting at home. Will you travel or volunteer abroad? How much will that cost?

About the author

Carmen Wong Ulrich is the former host of Marketplace Money, APM’s weekend personal finance program.

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