by Jane Brown
We all dream about retiring early. Unfortunately, for many people even to be able to retire at all has become a pipe dream. Social Security isn’t the robust funding mechanism it was intended to be. Interest rates are incredibly low and the economic boondoggle of 2008 decimated a lot of retirement savings accounts.
The good news is that retiring doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. It is something that can actually happen. And, if you’re careful, responsible and work hard, it can even happen early. Yes, being careful and responsible now seems really lame, but wouldn’t you rather put the work in now so that you can goof off later?
What does being careful, responsible and working hard look like? It looks like this.
Find a Job/Keep a Job
Our parents and grandparents might have found a job at 18 and stayed with the same company until they were ready to retire. This isn’t really how we do things these days. While the myth that adults will have as many as seven careers in their lifetimes might not be completely true(1), more and more people are choosing to start entirely new careers in their 40s, 50s and even 60s.
We’re not going to advocate that you never switch jobs or careers. If you find something more stable with better earning potential and benefits somewhere else, go for it! Follow your bliss! We are going to advocate, however, that you do your best to avoid long periods of unemployment between those careers. Lengthy periods of time spent out of work are a drain on savings (aka your retirement fund) and can put potential retirement benefits (like pensions) in danger. So, yes, you might hate your job. And wanting to leave is understandable. But don’t quit until you line up something else.
This probably sounds unfair as your health is not completely within your control. Heredity and environment play a large role in terms of which “big” health risks you might encounter (like cancer, alzheimers, etc). At the same time, there are things you can do to keep the controllable ones at bay.
There are a few pillars of health that you really need to mind: your sleep, your eating and your movement. Making sure to get enough sleep each night, eat as healthfully as possible and exercising regularly go a long way toward maintaining your health (2). Yes, sometimes opting for fruit instead of candy feels boring, but your body will thank you for it–especially when you are older and trying to enjoy your retirement.
Stay Out of Trouble
There are lots of ways to get into trouble. Drug and alcohol addictions wreak havoc on your health, your employability, your relationships, everything. In fact there are some employers who will hesitate to employ people who have battled addictions. This is why “anonymity” is such an important facet of rehabilitation programs.
Drug and alcohol issues can also lead to criminal records. In California, for example, thanks to its “three strikes” rule, someone who gets in trouble for even minor crimes can find themselves facing lifetime prison sentences. Work is being done to change the law and reduce sentences and crime classifications(3), it is still best to stay as out of trouble as possible.
Save Save Save
This seems obvious, but you would be surprised by the number of people who get close to retirement age before they start crunching the numbers, only to be shocked to find out that their Social Security payments and retirement accounts are not going to afford them the retirement lifestyles they’d been dreaming of. It is vital that you do some “extra” saving on your own to help pad those accounts. You can open up your own IRAs, yes, but in addition to that, high interest savings accounts and investments are another corner stone to funding a really great retirement (4). And, the earlier you start doing all of this saving, the earlier you’ll be able to retire.
The point is, if you want to have a great retirement, you need to start working on it now. Retirement is not something over which you should procrastinate. Otherwise you won’t ever be able to accomplish it!
- Bialik, Carl. (2010, September 4). Seven Careers in a Lifetime? Think Twice, Researchers Say. Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704206804575468162805877990
- Miller, Justin. (N.D.). The Habits of the Highly Healthy. Lifehack.org. Retrieved from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/the-habits-the-highly-healthy.html
- California Drug Laws. (N.D.). Michaelshouse.org. Retrieved from http://www.michaelshouse.com/palm-springs-addiction-treatment/california-drug-laws/
- Ultimate Guide to Retirement: How Much Do I Save? CNN.com. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/retirement/guide/basics_basics.moneymag/index7.htm