You might be ready to finally stop living paycheck to paycheck and start enjoying the retirement you always dream about, but you may need to face reality.
There are good ways to prepare for that dream retirement, but you might be in a tough spot if there are issues holding you back.
Want to be financially independent and retire early? Here’s why that might not happen by the time you’re 60 years old.
Do you dream of retiring early? Take this quiz to see if it's possible.
You started investing too late
The sooner you can start investing, the better when it comes to your retirement accounts. Any money and interest you generate early on will work for you and add more money to your retirement investments the longer it sits there.
It’s much easier for your money to work for you if you start investing a little at a time in your 20s than to try and catch up in your 40s or 50s. So you may face a daunting reality when retiring early if you waited too long to start investing.
You’re too conservative with investments
You may have followed the rule to start investing early, which is a great step toward financial independence.
But taking risks early is a good way to make more money than putting your money in risk-averse investments. Sitting in cash or conservative investments probably won’t help you reach the finish line early.
Pro tip: Revisit your retirement accounts regularly and rebalance them as you get older. Taking more risks when you’re younger is good, but you’ll want a more conservative strategy as you get closer to retirement.
Your salary is too low
Your salary is an important part of how much income you have to cover expenses like your home or utilities and giving yourself extra money to save for retirement.
But extra savings will be hard to find if your salary isn’t high enough or you haven’t received a raise in years.
You may want to reevaluate the market for your particular industry and ask for a raise or consider moving to a different job that can pay you more.
Living costs are too high
Americans felt the pinch of inflation in 2022, but it’s coming down after peaking in June 2022. However, the rate was still above 4% in May, which could affect basic living costs like gas, groceries, or other expenses.
Remember to factor in inflation when you create your monthly budget and consider cutting out fun spending or extra costs until rates go lower or you find other ways to decrease your cost of living.
You spent too much money on big-ticket items
You may have dreamed of a big house and a fancy new car and bought both as soon as you had the money. Or perhaps you closed on that second house you always wanted.
You may have been able to afford those big-ticket items at the time, but they can blow big holes in your long-term plans.
Factor in the cost of a home or car in the short and long term when it comes to your budget. And remember to include the expense of maintaining those big-ticket items, such as higher utilities for your home or premium gas for that car.
You never talked with a financial advisor
A financial advisor can be a great resource when making a retirement plan. An advisor could find extra ways to save money or suggest investments that can maximize your returns to set you up for early retirement.
But you may be struggling without that guidance, which could sink your plans for financial independence.
Raising kids is expensive
Having kids can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but it can also be expensive.
Check your budget regularly to see if there are ways you can cut back on expenses for your kids, like shopping at a cheaper store when they go through growth spurts.
And remember that you should pay yourself first, so consider adding cash into your retirement account before you fund their college expenses.
You don’t take advantage of retirement accounts
Retirement accounts are a great way to focus on saving for your future. They could also give you additional advantages you can’t get from a savings account.
Accounts like IRAs, Roth IRAs, and 401(k)s are set up to encourage you to save and take advantage of tax breaks to help you get to retirement.
So make sure you’re taking advantage of these accounts now to help you when you retire later.
You can’t take Social Security until at least 62
Social Security can be a welcome addition to your retirement savings after you’ve paid Social Security taxes as part of your paychecks when you were working.
But it’s important to factor in when you want to take distributions. You can’t begin to collect Social Security until you’re at least 62 years old, and there are advantages to waiting longer than that if you can.
Pro tip: The Social Security Administration has a quick calculator that can help you see how much you would collect and how that amount could change if you wait longer before you get Social Security.
You can’t start Medicare until 65
Healthcare costs can be a big expense that you’ll need to save for. As you get older, you’ll need to pay for additional health and potentially nursing home care or other extended care.
But it will take you longer to qualify for Medicare than Social Security with the starting point at 65 years old. That could require you to work longer and stay on employer-provided care if you don’t have enough money to cover costs between retirement and Medicare.
It can be depressing to see why you might not achieve financial freedom before you turn 60, but everything's not lost.
Create a budget now and find ways to curb your current spending to add that cash into retirement accounts and grow your wealth. And check on the rules for those accounts, as you can contribute more as catch-up contributions after you turn 50.
And think about making some life adjustments, such as getting a used car instead of a new one or downsizing your home. You can then invest whatever money you save from those big-ticket changes into your retirement account.