Are you interested in financial independence and/or early retirement? Today, I’ve asked some of the top personal finance experts to share their personal and best early retirement tips.
Early retirement may sound like a dream, but there are more and more people who are trying to retire early as part of the FIRE movement. FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early.
There is a lot of debate around financial independence and early retirement, especially about what it really means and how to achieve it.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you have millions of dollars in the bank and never work again. If that’s your goal, then great, go for it! But the idea is more about living your best possible life and no longer being controlled by money.
For some people that means completely getting rid of their debt — no credit card debt, mortgage, car loans, student loans, etc. Other people have an exact number in mind that they want to reach, like $1 to $2 million in savings.
And, something that’s surprising for many people is that early retirement doesn’t have to mean you stop working forever. Early retirement can be quitting a job you hate to pursue a job you’re passionate about.
There are many reasons for why a person may want to reach early retirement or financial independence, such as:
- To be able to pursue a passion without worrying about making an income
- To have more time to travel
- To have freedom
- To spend more time with family and those that you love
The people I’ve asked to share their early retirement tips are bloggers, authors, and business owners who have been working towards financial independence and/or early retirement. These people are experts on finding ways to make more money and save money.
For example, you’ll learn early retirement tips that include geographical arbitrage (being able to become location independent so you can save money by living in a lower cost of living area). There are also early retirement planning tips to help you figure out how the math of FIRE works — it might surprise you!
One of the biggest things you’ll learn from these experts is that reaching FIRE is about changing your mindset.
You have to really find a reason for wanting out of the normal 9-5 job path. You have to be driven and goal-oriented. Some people will have to be willing to completely change their lifestyle to make early retirement happen.
Being financially independent is an incredible feeling, and I love that I can travel more, live on my own terms, and retire whenever I want (not that I plan to anytime soon — I love what I do!).
Even though it’s an amazing feeling, becoming financially independent won’t be easy for everyone. That’s why I’m sharing these actionable early retirement tips with you today.
You will learn the early retirement tips that helped these experts get started, how they stay motivated, that it’s never too late to start working towards FIRE, and more.
More than anything, you will learn that there isn’t one straight path towards reaching financial independence or early retirement.
Related content to financial independence, retire early tips:
- How This Couple Retired at 38 and 41: Interview With OurNextLife
- How This Couple Retired In Their 30s and Now Travel Around The World
- How Elizabeth Reached Financial Independence by 32 And Moved To A Homestead
- How This 34 Year Old Owns 7 Rental Homes
- 12 Passive Income Ideas That Will Let You Enjoy Life More
Here are the best early retirement tips.
1. Go for FIRE.
“After reaching financial independence and retiring at 30, I have three main pieces of advice for anyone who might be interested in FIRE:
1. Go For It
When I talk to friends and family about my journey to FIRE several of them respond that that’s great, but they love their job or enjoy working for their company. And while I am so happy for them, I also gently remind them that nothing lasts forever. The job you love could change, your company could be acquired, your industry could experience massive layoffs. Change is the only constant in life.
Pursuing financial independence is a great goal for anyone simply because it provides financial stability to weather the inevitable changes the world will throw at you. So I suggest everyone go for it even if early retirement isn’t their goal and even if they have no intention to stop working. Having a safety net is never a bad thing.
2. Figure Out What You Want
Inertia is a powerful force. When I was living in NYC and just trying to survive I didn’t take the time to pause and think about what I actually wanted. I had recently gotten a new position that included a promotion and a 37% raise and I was told that the way to enjoy life was to spend money – so I did.
I was told by my friends that I should buy heels (that I couldn’t walk in comfortably) and purses (that I rarely used). And after I spent money like a wild woman, I sat back and realized that the way I had spent it didn’t make me any happier.
So I figured out what actually made me happy. It turns out it’s spending time with the people I love and traveling the world in first class. So I put my money towards those things and even figured out how to do the latter without breaking the bank by getting into travel hacking. Based on my experience, I would suggest not listening to other people about what will make you happy and to figure that out for yourself – and then spend accordingly.
3. Don’t Wait
After you figure out what you want in life I would suggest starting down this path NOW. My partner introduced me to the idea of FIRE in 2013 – and then I ignored it for 2 years. Doing so is the biggest financial regret in my life.
Time in the market matters and I don’t want to calculate how much more I would have or when I could have exited the rat race if I had listened in 2013 instead of shutting down the idea.
Similarly, when talking about FIRE so many of my friends have told me over the years “oh I should look into that” and now that I’ve completed my journey to retirement after 5 years they suddenly ask “HOW?!” They could have been on this path with me the whole time. Just start and before you know it the time will have passed anyway.” “Purple” from A Purple Life, she/her
2. Grow the gap.
“There’s a lot of debate within the personal finance and FIRE communities about whether to earn more or spend less. Ignore that debate and think about growing the gap between the two. To spend less, pick the low-hanging fruit and plug the obvious leaks in your budget. Don’t get caught up in penny pinching – 80/20 your expenses and move on. Use your valuable mental bandwidth to figure out how to earn more instead. Michelle is great for that; she has a lot of recommendations for side hustles on this blog. Once you grow the gap between your income and expenses, then invest the gap. How? Invest in index funds, rental properties, or reinvest funds in your own business or side hustle.” – Paula Pant, Founder of Afford Anything
3. Start investing now.
“1) Invest as soon as possible. Too many people have heard the “you must have absolutely no debt” in order to invest, but that’s not true — especially if you get an employer match through your 401(k). Investing as soon as you can, even if it’s with a small amount of money, means less heavy lifting over time.
For example, I hit my goal of investing $100K at 25. Even if I never contributed another penny, I’ll have over $1.5 million by the time I’m 65 (retirement age.)
2) Don’t be afraid to job-hop. Company loyalty is a thing of the past, and you never have more sway than you do when you’re first negotiating your pay. I always tell clients: companies aren’t loyal to you, why be loyal to them? They’ll let you go, they’ll cut your hours, they’ll replace you — don’t let “loyalty” blind you from moving on to a higher-paying job.” – Tori Dunlap, Founder, Her First $100K
4. Know your why.
“I’ve been writing about financial independence and early retirement for over a decade now. In that time, I’ve come to believe that there are only two things you need to know about the subject.
First, there’s the math. Fundamentally, FIRE is all about creating a gap between what you earn and what you spend. The larger that gap, the quicker you’ll achieve financial independence (or any other money goal you might set for yourself). Folks who are serious about FIRE generally try to save half of their income — or more. But don’t sweat it if you can’t save half. Start where you are. Save what you can. Stick with it.
Second, there’s the psychology. Yes, the math of early retirement is important, but from my experience it’s the mental side of things that’s most difficult. Achieving this goal isn’t like running a sprint. It’s like running a marathon. It takes a long time. You’ll encounter obstacles along the way. And it’s a lot easier to overcome these obstacles if you have a REASON to overcome them, if you have a REASON for achieving financial independence. It’s not enough to want the money for its own sake. So, get clear on your purpose, on why it is you want to retire early.
So, that’s it. Before you jump in, know why you want to pursue financial independence. Then, once you make the leap, do whatever you can to increase the gap between your earning and spending. Those are the two keys to financial independence.” J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly
5. Design your ideal life.
“Oftentimes, I see people overemphasizing the financial aspects of FIRE (while simultaneously undervaluing their quality of life along the way).
The whole point of financial independence or early retirement is to live your absolute best life (which doesn’t necessarily require you to retire early). This is why I recommend ensuring that you focus on designing your ideal lifestyle alongside the savings and investments that will get you to FIRE.
First, start creating your vision of what your ideal life looks like. There are a number of steps you can take to create and refine your vision. You can reflect on your ideal day and week, think through your life’s peak experiences so far, start trying out new things, educate yourself on different flexible career options, and so many more.
Most lifestyle design options are available long before early retirement. So, once you’ve started to create your vision, you can figure out how to incorporate elements of your ideal life now and work toward making your vision a reality in the longer-term.
For example, our vision is to be location independent with a home base. We want to slow travel the country and the world, doing meaningful work, and sustaining strong friendships. Our goal is to make so many small shifts toward this ideal lifestyle so that when we finally hit our full FI number, we won’t need to change anything. We’ll already be living our ideal lifestyle.
Over the last two years, we’ve made small and steady shifts to make this a reality. I took a part-time job that would provide me with more free time to build my business. I built my business to a point where I felt comfortable quitting my job. Now, I’m focused on generating enough income in my business, so that Mr. Fioneer can quit his job and join me as a location independent entrepreneur.
We’ll be living our ideal lives years before reaching full FIRE.” – Jessica from The Fioneers
6. Calculate your FI number.
“Finding your FI (Financial Independence) number is the best place to start on a FIRE journey. Once you know your number, you have a concrete place to start creating a retirement plan. You can find your FI number by calculating your annual expense and multiplying that number by 25. This calculation doesn’t control variables like inflation or what your investments make, but it at least gives you an idea of what you’ll need. My FI number is $900,000, but I want to have a bit more than that because of inflation and medical expenses since I have a chronic illness. It’s important to account for things that may arise in your retirement years. Although you may not have a mortgage payment, you may have an expensive prescription you need to fill. I talk more about my top 10 investing for retirement tips here.” – Alexis at FITnancials.com
7. Review your financial numbers.
“One of the best ways to make progress with your money is to set aside an hour every month to review your financial numbers. Make it a fun date (even by yourself) to go over your money plan and goals, review last month and make adjustments. One of my favorite financial numbers to track is your “GAP” number. That is the difference between your monthly income and your monthly spending. Then each month come up with a way to slowly grow that GAP number by either reducing some expenses, doing a 30-day spending challenge (like no eating out for a month), or finding ways to increase your income or add new income. This monthly GAP number review will help you be more creative and intentional about growing that GAP number. You can put that money towards debt pay off, starting to save for retirement, or another big goal. Once you get your GAP number up to 30-60% of your income, you are well on your way to financial independence!” – Jillian Johnsrud at www.jillianjohnsrud.com
8. Our Wealth = Income + investments – lifestyle
“To reach FIRE, first understand the wealth-building equation. It looks something like this:
Our Wealth = Income + investments – lifestyle.
Building wealth is how we reach financial independence, and financial independence is an implicit requirement we need to hit before retiring early. FI means that we no longer need to earn an income to fully fund our lifestyle.
Our income is the first step in the process, but it doesn’t stop there. When our income is invested in appreciating assets (like the stock market or real estate), we build wealth quicker through the power of compounding interest.
But, the element that a lot of people forget about is lifestyle. The cost of our lifestyle (aka: our spending) reduces our wealth. The more that we spend, and the more debts that we hold, the lower our wealth and, therefore, the further we are from achieving FIRE.
The goal: maximize income + investments and minimize lifestyle spending. When combined, you will build wealth quickly, form healthy habits that won’t drain your pocketbook, and set you up to spend many decades of your life basking in the freedom of early retirement.” – Steve Adcock at SteveAdcock.us
9. Grow your income.
“Work to grow your income. For most people, this means to concentrate on their careers. Your career is a multi-million dollar asset (over the 30-40 years most people work) and if you nurture it, you can make it worth significantly more, which then fast-tracks your path to FIRE. From my experience there are seven proven steps to growing career income which, if implemented consistently over time, will result in substantial, extra earnings. After that, simply control your spending, bank the ever-growing difference, and you’re on a rocket ship to early retirement!” – ESI Money
10. Figure out what you really want out of life.
“My top tip for reaching FIRE is figuring out what you really want out of life. That doesn’t seem like financial advice on the surface, but when you dive into it, you can see how vital it is to your journey to financial freedom. How are you going to know what your FIRE number is if you don’t even know what you want? Instead of limiting yourself and sacrificing everything you enjoy on your quest for financial independence, figure out what your life goals are, and calculate your Fire number based on those goals. You may even come to realize that you need far less money than you originally thought, or that your FIRE lifestyle will include additional sources of income that you didn’t take into account. There’s another great reason for determining your life goals as well. If you just focus on the money goals without intentionally designing your post-work life, you will end up just as unhappy as you were when you were working. So instead, explore your passions and make sure you’re ready to live your life to the fullest upon reaching financial independence.” – Melanie from Partners in Fire
11. Cut back on your top three expenses.
“For those seeking financial independence and/or early retirement, my main advice is to figure out your top three expenses and cut back as much as you can on those. If you’re like most, your top three expenses will be housing, transportation, and food. If you can bring these expenses down and keep them down while still living a fulfilling life, you’ll save far more money than skipping $5 lattes and cutting coupons.
Most Americans have too much house, with rooms left unused or relegated to storing stuff. The average car purchase in America is now over $37,000, when a decent $10,000 used vehicle would meet the needs of most. And most people eat out way too much, draining their budget and compromising their health.
Get these “big three” expenses down, invest the savings in a broad low-cost index fund that tracks the overall stock market, and let compounding interest do its thing.” – Dave at Accidental FIRE
12. Geographic arbitrage.
“One of the most underreported strategies that help people achieve Financial Independence is Geographic Arbitrage. Basically, if people are able to work remotely and they physically move to a low-cost area (or even low-cost country), they can super-charge their savings rate because their cost of living goes down while their earnings do not.
Prior to the pandemic, this was a relatively rare situation as most jobs require you to be in the office by default, but now that companies have been forced to adopt a work-from-home policy, the potential for geographic arbitrage has opened up for a lot more people.
Working remotely may not be for everyone, but if you can, try to make it permanent once this pandemic is over, especially if your job was located in an expensive city like San Francisco or New York City. By relocating to a low-cost country like Mexico or Thailand, you may find yourself changing from just barely scraping by financially to saving so much money you don’t know what to do with it all!” – Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung are authors of the best-selling book Quit Like a Millionaire and founders of the blog Millennial Revolution
13. Think about your why and how.
“Financial independence and philosophy are closely related. So, to achieve financial independence, the first actionable tip I would recommend is to think about why you want to reach FIRE. Then, think about how you want to spend your time once you reach financial freedom.
By thinking about why you want to retire early and how you want to spend your time, you can properly build the framework for your own version of financial independence. Because there isn’t just one way to FIRE.
For example, if you save 50% of your income, you can afford to take one year off for every two years you work. Alternatively, you could consider the slow FI route if you prefer a more balanced journey. Or, you could consider Barista FIRE and work a part-time job to have more time now.
Personally, I’ve tested out a one year mini-retirement and Barista FIRE. I prefer Barista FIRE because it allows me to gain more time now but I still enjoy the lifestyle I want.
On average, I work 17 hours per week now at my part-time job and I am fortunate to work this job from home. During the rest of the week, I invest, blog, and work on building other income streams. Based on my experience, Barista FIRE is the perfect alternative solution to financial independence.
Keep in mind, though, that financial independence begins with putting yourself in the right financial position. To put yourself in position, simply keep your expenses low and start paying yourself first.
If you are diligent enough with your savings and if you keep your expenses low, you will begin to open up other options. Suddenly, taking on a part-time job won’t seem so intimidating.
Moreover, I would recommend that you build additional income streams by side hustling or investing. My side income streams are blogging and dividend investing.
If you keep your expenses as low as possible, pay yourself first, and build additional income streams, you will be well on your way to financial independence in no time.” – Graham at Reverse the Crush
14. Calculate your net worth.
“FIRE isn’t just for the young ones! There is a community of late starters, those of us who start on our FI path in our 40s and 50s and hope to retire early(ish).
Retiring earlier than the traditional retirement age of 65-67 is a bonus!
Start by calculating your net worth – this will tell you your financial position. For example, I discovered that the majority of my net worth was tied up in my house and superannuation (Australian retirement account).
Unfortunately, I can’t access my retirement account until aged 60. Therefore, if I aim to retire at 55, I need to start investing outside my superannuation.
The way ahead is simple, but not easy. We need to come up with extra money to invest and/or pay off our debt. The ‘formula’ is the same for everyone, regardless of age. And compound interest still works, even in our 40s and 50s.
Increase the difference between your expenses and income and invest this difference wisely.
Increasing income may be a bit difficult at our stage of life. Many of us are earning our peak incomes now. And burnout is a real concern. Negotiating a pay rise may mean more responsibilities. Taking on side hustles may not be palatable either, especially when free time is already scarce.
Reducing expenses is something we can start doing immediately – no, there is no need to eat rice and beans at every meal 🙂 But most of us have succumbed to lifestyle creep over the years. As our incomes have risen, so has our taste and lifestyle improved to match our higher incomes. Therefore, the good news is we may have a lot of expenses that we can trim.
I am a spender at heart. For me, tracking my expenses and learning to spend mindfully have made a huge difference. Learning what I value in life and what I don’t also means I am happy to spend on what brings me joy such as travel, but not on what I don’t care about such as clothes.
Taking action consistently is the most important step to reaching FI.
It is never too late to start.” – Latestarterfire
15. Look at financial independence as a journey not just the goal.
“I think that everyone should work towards financial independence, because you can’t reach the ultimate goal of financial independence without becoming more financially aware, confident, consumer debt-free, etc. When you begin to look at Financial Independence as a journey not just the goal, you’ll be able to experience financial freedom while on the journey.
You also don’t have to wait to experience joy and freedom in your life until reaching complete Financial Independence. You can decide to slow down or accelerate the time it takes to reach your goals based on the things you value, how you want to spend your money & time. If you value certain experiences and/or things, make room for it in your budget. It’s ok to spend or rather invest in the things that matter to you and investing doesn’t have to be limited to investing in the stock market or real estate market. You can reframe investing to mean you are investing in your happiness, saving time and skills. You are your best asset.” – Jamila Souffrant from Journey To Launch
16. FIRE is not a race.
“First of all, Financial independence Retire Early (FIRE) is not a race. Don’t compare your FIRE journey with other people, because everyone has different circumstances. Don’t put FIRE on a pedestal and don’t see FIRE as the end goal.
To be specific, early retirement isn’t all about travelling around the world, leaving the 9-5 rat race, saying FU to the employers, and sipping pina colada on the beach. No matter what you do and where you go in retirement, you are still you. So, if you’re not happy about your life now, reaching FIRE won’t magically make you happy. It is vitally important to work on yourself while you’re on the FIRE journey.
For FIRE, the concept is quite simple. It is all about spending less than you earn, invest the money you saved, and let that money grow. You want your money to grow and create a passive income stream. Once the passive income stream exceeds your expenses, you are financially independent and can retire early if you choose to.
Now there’s a misunderstanding that FIRE is all about penny-pinching and reduce your expenses to as low as humanly possible. But that is not true and completely unsustainable. Rather than penny-pinching, I believe in a more balanced approach. It’s OK to spend money on things that you enjoy and cut your spending on things that you do not enjoy. For example, if you like making nutritious food yourself, spend money on high-quality food. If you enjoy travelling, spend money on trips and enjoy the experience. If you don’t enjoy shopping, then cut that expense!
Again, please don’t see FIRE as a race. See FIRE as a life journey. Enjoy this journey!” – Bob from Tawcan.com
17. Focus on all aspects of your FIRE journey, not just on money.
“The nuts and bolts of financial independence include more than numbers and calculators. There are just as many personal and emotional things to figure out. So here’s our advice: Focus on all aspects of your FIRE journey, not just on money.
1. Don’t assume 4% is a safe withdrawal rate, or that someone else’s FIRE number will work for you. Build your own numbers based on your circumstances and life plans.
2. Create a personal plan for your FIRE journey and life after retirement. Think about where you’ll live, who and what your life will include, and what it will take to get there.
3. The FIRE path can be isolating. Find a community to talk to about your finances, plans, hopes and dreams, and all of your fears and concerns too. You’re going to need support and encouragement along the way.
4. Keep an open mind… All Options Considered!” – Ali & Alison Walker from All Options Considered
18. Increase your income as much as possible.
“All the frugality in the world can’t make up for an inadequate income. It’s just math: A person bringing home $25K a year is going to take longer to reach FIRE than someone making $100K a year. Even if they’re using the same hyper-frugal savings tactics to live on $15K a year! The person with the higher income is going to be able to sock away more money and benefit from compound interest on a much faster scale. So if financial independence is your goal, focus your energies on increasing your income as much as possible as quickly as possible. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be frugal–because you absolutely should, ya filthy animal!–but you can only reduce your spending so much. Your earning potential is virtually unlimited. This is the magical truth hidden between the lines of every “How I Saved $100K in One Year” article on the interwebz.” – Kitty and Piggy, Bitches Get Riches
19. Have a goal that is not related to money.
“Set a goal that’s not money-related. Figure out what you want to retire TO and start working toward that lifestyle. Yes, you need to focus on your finances, but without a clear destination, years of saving and investing can start to feel like a slog. Having a FIRE dollar number is important, but it’s not the only thing you need to focus on. After you reach your FIRE number, you need to know what you want to do with your other precious resource: your time. Plus, putting energy into planning for, and researching, your new life is a great way to productively pass the time while you’re working toward FIRE. When you know what you want to do with your time, it becomes a lot easier to figure out what to do with your money.” Mrs. Frugalwoods, www.frugalwoods.com
20. Think about what you want your life to look like.
“Reaching FIRE looks a little different for each person, but the basics are the same. The first step is to figure out what you’d like your life to look like. Spend a little time daydreaming and what-if-ing.. Then estimate the future costs involved with the life you’d like, including healthcare. It’s smart to add in extra for uncertainty.
The more you want to spend, the bigger your FIRE number will be.
Once you have a spending number in mind, you’ll need to find a way to generate that amount each year so that Future You doesn’t need to work. You can use the Rule of 25 and the 4% Rule to get an idea of how much you might need invested and what could be a safe withdrawal rate. You can also use other types of passive income (such as rental income) to bring in money each year, which is the route I’ve gone.
If you aren’t sure how you’ll ever have enough invested, it’s ok to start small and build from there. For example, you could start by increasing the amount you send to your 401k until you’re maxing it out. Or you could make a goal to own your first rental property, and focus on setting aside money for that. Paying down debt can help as well, because it can dramatically reduce your expenses. Every little bit is a step in the right direction.” Jackie, owner of CampFIREFinance.com
21. Focus on earning more money from the start.
“The biggest piece of advice I can offer anyone working toward FIRE is that you need to focus on earning more money from the start. This is how you affect some serious change in your financial life.
Think about it like this: what expenses cost you the most money? It’s debt for a lot of people — credit cards, student loans, a mortgage, etc. Making more money is the fastest way towards paying off that debt, and once your debt is paid off, you can start putting more towards your FIRE number.
The other great thing about finding ways to make more money is that you don’t have to choose between paying off debt and investing — you can do both. So you start growing that long-term stream of wealth (investing) while also making short-term changes to save money. You’re basically attacking your finances from both ends.
I’m not against doing things that cut your weekly budget, like eating out less or cutting cable. That money adds up, but most of the people who have reached FIRE have also earned significant salaries as well. Making more money by side hustling, starting an online business, asking for a raise, etc. — those are tools to help you reach your financial goals faster.” – Bobby at Millennial Money Man
Are you interested in financial independence, retire early? What are your best early retirement tips?