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Retire at 55

Retiring at an age as young as 55 is a dream of many Americans. However, turning this vision into reality involves some significant financial planning and maneuvering. For example, you’ll need to build significant savings, invest your money, account for early withdrawal taxes and more. Consider letting a financial advisor help you plan your early retirement, regardless of whether you’re looking to travel the world, spend more time with your family or relax in the sun.

Boosting Your Retirement Savings

Listening to the conventional wisdom on retirement savings can only get you so far. However, you’ll have to step it up a notch to reach your retirement goals by 55. Of course, the rate at which you can start saving will vary depending on how much you already have saved, your age and how much you think you’ll need in retirement.

You don’t have to double your savings rate, necessarily. For many, that’s simply an unrealistic possibility. It’s important to build your savings by contributing as much as you can when you can. In addition, try to seek out a high-yield savings account at a bank that works for you. Plus, don’t forget that you’ll have access to Social Security benefits when you retire.

The other side of saving for retirement comes down to making solid investments. When it comes to investing, make sure your risk tolerance is suitable for where you are in life. For example, the younger you are, the more aggressive you can be with your investments. An aggressive portfolio might include a majority of stocks at various market capitalizations, as well as a handful of fixed-income securities and cash allocations.

As people near retirement, their portfolio typically evolves into one that’s heavier in fixed-income and cash, while stock allocations shrink. But if you’re planning on retiring early and relying on those investments, you might have to be aggressive for a longer period of time. However, only take on these risks if you can. You don’t want all of your retirement funds to go down the drain because of a downturn in the market. If you’re new to investing, a financial advisor could be a big help.

Plan Out Your Retirement Lifestyle

Retire at 55

A big part of your retirement and your savings is rooted in how you’re going to spend those years. Without the need to clock in or commit to the “9-to-5” grind, you end up with a lot of free time! You’ll need to figure out what hobbies you’ll continue with in retirement to keep yourself busy. Not only that, but you have to figure out how much money you’ll need to live. You may have already planned to finish paying off your mortgage before you retire, but what about food? Clothes? Are you planning to travel once you retire? Answering these kinds of questions will help you figure out your budget.

You’ll also have to figure out how many years you’re saving for. If you and your neighbor retire at 55, you might expect to save for three or four decades while your neighbor only plans for two. It’s important to be honest with yourself so you can save and budget responsibly.

Accounting for Retirement Taxes

It’s often been said that the two things you can never escape are death and taxes. So while retirement involves plenty of rest and relaxation, you’ll also have to stay mindful about taxes. This is especially true if you plan on retiring at 55, as withdrawals from retirement accounts before age 59.5 come with a 10% income tax penalty, courtesy of the IRS. Accounts like a 401(k) or traditional IRA may grow tax-free, but your withdrawals are subject to taxation.

This is where having a Roth IRA can come in handy, as you can contribute to one on an after-tax basis. That means you won’t have to pay taxes when you make withdrawals since you would’ve paid taxes upon the deposit of your money. It can help to have a mix of Roth and traditional retirement accounts to ensure you don’t get hit too hard with taxes in retirement.

Get Your Health Insurance In Order

Retire at 55

It can be easy to take workplace healthcare coverage for granted after having it for decades. But when you retire, especially when you retire early, it involves a bit more work on your part. If you want to retire at 55, you have another 10 years before you reach the Medicare eligibility age.

Without Medicare, you could be taking a huge risk by going uninsured. You should check whether your employer can cover you into retirement. You may also be covered by your spouse’s insurance. There are a few possible routes you can take, but it’s important to have it laid out before you retire. That way you can correctly budget for the costs of healthcare.

Bottom Line

Retiring early can seem like the ideal after working for so many years. But it’s not as easy as simply quitting your job 10 years ahead of schedule. It will take a lot of careful planning to get your income, taxes and health insurance in order. Perhaps most importantly, you need to ensure you have enough savings stashed away for that extra decade or so of income-less retirement. If meeting these goals start to seem unrealistic at any point, there’s also no harm in pushing back your retirement a couple years.

Tips for Retiring at 55

  • Many financial advisors specialize in retirement planning and investing, which are two areas where you’ll need to excel if you want to retire by the time you turn 55. Finding the right financial advisor for your situation doesn’t have to be hard, though. SmartAsset’s free matching tool can pair you with suitable advisors in your area. Get started now.
  • One of the most important pieces of retirement advice is that it’s never too early to start saving and investing. When you retire, you obviously won’t have the same stream of income like you might be used to. In turn, make sure you start socking away money for retirement early and often so you can live out your golden years in complete financial comfort.

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/kali9, ©iStock.com/Milan Marjanovic, ©iStock.com/RyanJLane

Lauren Perez, CEPF® Lauren Perez writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, with a special expertise in savings, banking and credit cards. She is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. Lauren has a degree in English from the University of Rochester where she focused on Language, Media and Communications. She is originally from Los Angeles. While prone to the occasional shopping spree, Lauren has been aware of the importance of money management and savings since she was young. Lauren loves being able to make credit card and retirement account recommendations to friends and family based on the hours of research she completes at SmartAsset.
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