When you think about it, retirement truly seems like the key to living your best life. Not only will you be able to escape the grueling pressures of what feels like an endless workday and constant ladder climbing, but you also get to spend your time (and money!) exactly how you please. Sound good to you? You may want to think about aiming for early retirement.
A few things to consider:
You define what “early retirement” means to you. For most people, early retirement means that you live off your savings while simultaneously making passive income. In other words, you still live comfortably and bring in money without going back to working a 9-5.
It requires years’ worth of financial planning, discipline, and risk-taking. The average age for retirement is 67 years old, and most black women don’t get a chance to save enough money even by then. Understand what this goal requires from you and what challenges you’ll be faced with.
Depending on the quality of life you wish to live, you should aim to save at least 25x your estimated annual expenses. Remember that retiring early means you must be able to support yourself for 15, 20, or even 30 years into the future—depending on when you decide to retire.
This includes being able to take care of unforeseen medical expenses. If you’re still willing to walk the narrow—and sometimes difficult—path to early retirement, here are a few tips to get you started on the right path:
Pay Off Debt
Paying off debt is one of those things that is much easier said than done, but it’s possible. Whether it’s coming from years-old student loans or a new credit card, there are a few strategies you can use to break down debt without breaking the bank:
Use the ‘debt avalanche’ method. Pay the required minimum payment for each account, put any extra money toward the account with the highest interest rate, and then once that’s paid off (mostly or entirely), move onto your next debt.
Clear the smaller debts before you start working on the largest expense. This way, you can funnel more of your money in one direction and pay the debt off quicker.
Look into other options such as debt settlement (making a deal with your lender to pay less than what you originally owed + taxes), loan forgiveness, income-based repayment plans, and refinancing.
Remember, how you pay off debt is completely based on your current financial situation. Take a hard, honest look at your finances and be realistic about what is possible and what is not.
LEVERAGE YOUR INCOME
The bottom line is that just saving money is never going to be enough to reach a lofty financial goal such as early retirement. In fact, the only way you’ll make any real progress is if you increase your income. Now, how you’ll increase your income depends on what option is the most suitable for you. Some options:
Aim for a different, higher-paying job or raise. This option tends to be the most popular as it creates a level of stability and security while also increasing your income. Working your way up the professional ladder at your current company may lead you to higher pay and a position with a 401(k) which automatically gives you retirement advantage.
Try a lucrative side job. Starting your own small business or selling your skills and products is a surefire way to quickly make extra money.
If you think you have no time for a side gig, guess again because passive income is your friend. You can make money with little effort by doing things such as selling stock photos, listing your place on AirBnb, investing, and even real estate.
INVEST AND SAVE, EARLY AND OFTEN
They say that one of the main pillars of wealth-building is an investment. At the same time, how much money you make won’t mean a thing if you squander it instead of stacking it. In other words, you need to invest and save as much as you can if you truly want to retire early.
You can invest in the stock market and then grab your cash and go whenever you see fit. Or you can even try your hand at low-cost index funds, which are passively-managed mutual funds that are low-risk, but high-reward.
Whatever you decide, make sure your investments are smart and well-thought-out. If you need help estimating how much of your earnings you should save, here’s a calculator that’ll make the numbers clear and simple for you.