Early retirement isn’t for everyone. But for those who do dream of it, it’s an idea that sounds very enticing. If you’re thinking that you’d rather not spend your sunset years toiling away at a 9-5 job, you have options. Just don’t give your notice until you’ve considered some of the following factors involved in granting yourself an early release from the workforce.
This means is that if you decide to retire from your career at the age of 59, you’ll have three potentially long years to wait before you can begin to receive monthly Social Security checks. Unless you’re in line to receive a generous pension from your employer or have a lot of money saved up from years of penny-pinching, coupon-clipping and resisting impulse shopping, you may have no choice but to keep working until you are 62—or even older.
In other words, the monthly check you’ll get from the Social Security Administration won’t be as high if you retire before 66 as you’d receive if you wait until reaching the full retirement age, which is determined by the year in which you were born. Although the checks will begin to increase in value the closer you get to 66, it’s an incremental process. For example, if you retire at the age of 62, you’ll only receive 75 percent of the full value of your Social Security earnings. If you retire at 63, that amount rises to 80 percent. At 64, you’ll get about 87 percent, and at 65, around 93 percent. There are plenty of retirement age and income calculators available online, include this one from Allstate’s Tools & Resources Section, which takes a snapshot of what you have and helps you make the most of it.
Medicare doesn’t kick in until you’ve turned 65—but what are your options if you choose to retire early and are still years away from that age? If your current employer’s pension plan offers medical coverage, this is likely going to be your best option, as long as it’s affordable. But, if health care isn’t offered, or if it’s too expensive or is only offered for a short period of time, that’ll leave you uninsured until you’re eligible for Medicare. You may be eligible to get group health insurance as a paying member of the American Association Retired Persons (AARP). There’s also this: If you’re retiring within 18 months of your 65th birthday and your employer isn’t offering a retirement health care package, you could always pay for COBRA benefits to bridge the gap to Medicare coverage. Needless to say, this is expensive, but it may be a better option than crossing your fingers and hoping you won’t get sick between now and then.
If you decide to retire at the age of 55 and have a nest egg of a $250,000, you may want to consider: How far will that money get you in another 20 years, when inflation has its way with the cost of living, and what’s affordable now may be downright expensive then? As a rule, whenever you’re planning your retirement—early or not—it’s critical that you take into consideration what inflation will do to your savings much further down the line. Check out this inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get an idea of what you may be looking at and how far your dollar will take you in a couple of decades.
Early retirement may be doable, as long as you’re willing to do the math and plan far in advance. Whether you’re 25 or 55, it’s never too early to start planning ahead. The sooner you do, the better chance you’ll have at spending your sunset years enjoying yourself instead of losing sleep over money.