Early Retirement: Can You Really Retire In Your 30s?

Early retirement is all the buzz in the financial world lately. It seems like everywhere you turn there is someone who is smarter, faster, and hustling harder than you are. And on top of that, they’re planning on retiring decades ahead of you. Obviously, they didn’t screw up like you did and they must’ve had the inside scoop from the day they were born – a whoppin’ 30 years ago. Okay, okay, before anyone blows a gasket and starts calling me a hater, I want to make myself clear. I absolutely LOVE the fact that there are 30-somethings out there retiring. But, I also want to talk about how feasible it is to retire in your 30s and what it takes to actually get there.

Can You Really Retire In Your 30s?

Early Retirement | Financial Freedom | Financial Independence via @MadMoneyMonster

The short answer is a resounding YES, and there are plenty of personal finance bloggers out there who have done it! Mr. MMM and I are unfortunately NOT included in that exclusive and elusive group – we were way too busy screwing up in our 20s to realize early retirement was even an option. You can read all about our disastrous past here!

But to be fair to us, I don’t think early retirement was an option when we were in our 20s. I mean, of course if we would’ve had the foresight and ambition to blaze a new, non-traditional trajectory, we could have accomplished it. Interestingly though, the concept of early retirement hadn’t yet exploded onto the mainstream scene when we were flashing our IDs at the bars and taking out student loans. Social media was also in its infancy, so even if there were a few people chattering about their awesome financial accomplishments, it wasn’t common knowledge and certainly didn’t reach us. Of course, in our opinions, our inability to retire in our 30s is strictly due to the fact that we were ill-informed Gen-Xers. Womp. Womp.

What It Takes To Reach Early Retirement In Your 30s

 

Now that we’ve established that it is indeed possible to retire in your 30s, let’s take a look at what it takes to actually get there. Most of the people who have done this and are doing this earn above average salaries, keep their living expenses extremely low, and invest a significant amount of money each month over the course of years. Let’s examine each one of these key ingredients:

Key Ingredients To Retiring In Your 30s

Couples: It’s not unusual for wicked-early retirees to be coupled/married. Let’s face it, we all know living together is cheaper than living singularly. And if you have two people earning above average salaries (see next point), you are bound to build wealth at a rapid pace.

Above Average Salary: An above average salary is almost a must to be able to retire as early as your 30s. When I say above average, I’m not saying you need to be making doctor’s wages – although that would help! But, anything less than high five figures means you’ll probably be working and saving at least into your 40s, which by the way, is still REALLY good!

Living Expenses: People doing this in 10 years or less are also living below their means – way below their means. Oftentimes, they live in a low cost-of-living area. They frugalize everything from housing to haircuts. And they do it over the course of YEARS. You up for that?

Savings Rate: Their savings rate usually hovers between 50 and 70% of their take-home pay. That means they’re saving up to 70% of their pay after taxes and 401(k)/IRA contributions. Yeah.

Kids: It’s not unusual for 30-something retirees to be kid-free. That’s not to say some don’t have kids or aren’t planning on it. Some plan for children after they hit their goal – or not at all.

 

Fortunately, Mr. MMM and I fall into the above categories. Unfortunately, we will never hit the early retiree status in our 30s, since we didn’t even know each other until a few years ago. And that’s okay. We’ll hit it in our 40s. We won’t be making headlines or making any reporters salivate, but we’ll still be decades ahead of schedule. #Winning

Related: Early Retirement Will Take A Little Longer If You’re Total DIKs

Various Other Things You’ll Have To Get Right To Retire In Your 30s

Choosing A Partner: You won’t have time to hop in and out of relationships. To maximize your earning power in your 20s you’ll need to choose a partner that shares your financial aspirations. It would also be a huge plus if that partner is a high-earning partner.

Avoid Debt: People who retire in their 30s also avoid debt of any kind. You’ll need to steer clear of student loans, credit cards, cars, etc.

Start Young: In order to retire in your 30s, you need to start your journey as soon as your college degree lands in your hands.

How Much Money Do You Need?

 

Cat and beer - Early Retirement

People who retire in their 30s don’t blow their money on beer. Mad Money Cat never worked a day in her life.

Let’s assume you’re interested in heading down the path to financial freedom decades before social norms expect you to check out, you need to run your numbers. Most financial advisers will tell you that you need to run your calculations based on your earned income – that is simply not true. What you need to do is run the numbers based on your living expenses.

For example, if you’re earning $100k/year and only need $35k/year to pay all your expenses, with some fun money to boot, that’s the number you need to use for your calculations. The general rule-of-thumb is that you need 25x your annual expenses (not salary) invested to be able to retire and employ a safe withdrawal rate to live off of your investments indefinitely. The safe withdrawal rate is the percentage you can safely liquidate each year to have your money last you the rest of your life. Financial experts tend to recommend a safe withdrawal rate between 3 and 4% – check out the Trinity Study for the actual research.

Can You Really Retire In Your 30s?

 

The question persists, is it really feasible to retire in your 30s? I’d say it is possible, but not probable. I know it isn’t feasible for us; we’ll never be that Yahoo headline. But, it could still be possible for you! All it takes is the right combination of youth, determination, and financial finesse.

So, let’s hear it. What do you think about the feasibility of someone retiring in their 30s? Do you know anyone who has done it? Have YOU done it?

 

Early Retirement | F.I.R.E. | Financial Freedom | Financial Independence via @MadMoneyMonster

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • @Guyon_FIRE Jul 18, 2017, 10:13 am

    Love this post. You show all the various sides of ‘retiring early’. Early retirement is possible for anyone, however, retiring in your 30s is a stretch unless our get your financial act together at a very early age. Most people would be thrilled to retired in 40s or 50s; that is still a awesome accomplishment.

    Personally, I plan to retire as quickly as possible. I am 27 and aim for 30 (or earlier). I plan to use passive income from real estate and stocks to support my retirement. Things could change but by 35 I will absolutely have the ability to walk away from work.

    Thanks for sharing another great post.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 19, 2017, 12:18 pm

      Wow! Retiring by the age of 30 will definitely put you in a very small category. Like you said, it can definitely be done as long as you get all your ducks in a row early on. I’m convinced I would’ve met such a goal had this community been around when I was 20. 🙂

  • JJ Jul 1, 2017, 1:37 am

    Agreed, It can be done and as mentioned the ingredients are there. We are not even close especially with just one income and two kids; however, doing what we can for now and maybe we pull the trigger in our 40s we’ll see. Some additional ingredients I would add to the list include: 1) discipline, 2) courage and 3) lots of education!. Others might be more specific so will leave it at that. Great post!

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 3, 2017, 12:25 pm

      You are absolutely right. Discipline, courage, and education can also be thrown into the FIRE mix! I think anyone who reaches FI before the traditional retirement age can consider themselves a success 🙂

  • Dividend Daze May 30, 2017, 3:52 pm

    I know I have read this article before and thought I commented, but apparently not lol. I like some of the points you made. Everyone talks about the classics like start early, save high percentages, take advantage of compounding, etc. But few talk about the other side of the spectrum. It does make it way more difficult and time consuming for an individual to reach FI if they are single. So having a partner in crime with a second income always helps. Going along with that, having higher income (or second income) helps to speed things up. It is possible with out these things but it is way easier and efficient.

    • Mad Money Monster Jun 7, 2017, 8:45 am

      It’s definitely true. There is a unspoken “formula” that most of the really early retirees are following. If you deviate, it can take much longer – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the journey. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad this comment made its way to the feed! FYI: Sometimes WP throws good comments into the spam folder. *eye roll*

  • Jing Pei May 9, 2017, 12:35 pm

    I definitely hope to retire early, maybe in my late 40s. I just discovered the FIRE community and am only dipping my toes for now! I just turned 27 and while it feels like time is on my side, it also feels like so much unknown is as well–partner and kids being a huge one! Just the idea of inflation adjusted college tuition makes me dizzy.

    • Mad Money Monster May 9, 2017, 1:09 pm

      Welcome to the community! One step at a time and you’ll get there.

  • Millennial Dollar Apr 29, 2017, 7:19 pm

    Even though I do wish I had developed the financial sensibility to think about my future and my retirement even earlier, I feel fortunate to have recognized how important my 20s is for being able to eventually reach financial independence. I know I won’t retire in my 30s but I forget that many people never develop the smarts to realize how much impact even simple financial decisions can have on their ability to retire early or even at all.

    I think a lot of people that do get their financial priorities straight only after they’ve made mistakes and gotten themselves into massive amounts of debt (myself included), which makes retiring in our 30s pretty much impossible.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 30, 2017, 8:03 am

      Yep, that’s definitely the boat we’re in too. We finally got our crap together in our late 30s – that means we definitely won’t be retiring until our 40s. Which is still going to be awesome!

  • Joe Apr 28, 2017, 11:47 am

    You listed all the right ingredients. High saving rate is really the key to early retirement. I didn’t know about early retirement until I’m in my 30s, but I was always frugal and saved a big chunk of my income. That gave me a chance to push through the finish line in just a few years.
    Also, having the right partner is extremely important. If your partner is not supportive, then it’s not going to work. Good post!

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 3:02 pm

      Thanks! Great comment! I definitely agree about the partner. I was in a relationship in my 20s where we just weren’t on the same financial page. It would’ve been impossible to make that work in the long run.

  • Mr. LostinJourney Apr 28, 2017, 9:22 am

    I agree with what you laid out as the key ingredients. Avoid debt, high savings rate and live well below your means. Took us until our late 20’s to figure this out but we are on track to FI(RE?) at the age of 39, so I believe it can be done. One key ingredient that I think some people may over look is to invest. Put your money to work…Real estate, stocks, whatever you enjoy. Cheers!

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 10:16 am

      Congratulations! You guys definitely fall into the exclusive early retirement camp. I wish I would’ve had the foresight to figure it out in my 20s. 🙂

  • Kyke Apr 27, 2017, 9:16 pm

    I’m shooting to semi retire by 30 with a backup at 35. Not a super high income earner but decent with taxes. I have 2 rentals and keep my expenses at or below 2400 a month. Once I pay of both rentals or sell my company if I feel like it those rentals would cover that plus more . However I plan to scale back work to 3 days a week to keep busy and building investments etc. I’d like to call it quits when I have around 80-100 k in income outside of work

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 7:48 am

      This is an awesome plan! You are definitely in the minority – retiring in your early 30s is even tougher!

  • FullTimeFinance Apr 27, 2017, 8:22 pm

    In theory we could probably retire around 39 or maybe 40 based on our target numbers. I doubt we will just because I don’t care too. The strategies you mentioned are a big part of it. I’d add one more, sustainability. The easy part is executing any of the items you mentioned. The hard part is doing so over the at least a decade of time that will pass.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 7:47 am

      Exactly. Doing these things for the long haul is tough. Life has a tendency of getting in the way. Good luck on your goal!

  • Mrs. Groovy Apr 27, 2017, 3:39 pm

    It definitely can be done. The Swannigans are a great example! Good jobs, good habits, and a low cost of living area. It takes a plan and the earlier you start the better chance you have. I also think high salaries aren’t totally necessary. They help, but if you’re willing to live on less (or in a tiny home, van, trailer – or in Thailand) you can make it work.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 27, 2017, 4:11 pm

      Agree. Agree. Agree. I wish I had known all this stuff way back when. 🙂

  • Mustard Seed Money Apr 27, 2017, 7:04 am

    I think it will be difficult for people living in high cost areas of the country to retire early in the high cost areas. I feel like a lot of early retirees move to cheaper places after living in high cost areas.

    Ideally I’d love to retire where we live now since it’s close to family. So while I could potentially retire now, I would rather be close to family.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 27, 2017, 9:44 am

      Absolutely true. Most people cut their expenses by any means possible to make early retirement a reality. Great point!

  • Erik @ The Mastermind Within Apr 26, 2017, 12:55 pm

    I don’t know if I want to retire when I’m in my 30s, but I definitely want to be able to have the option to retire.

    Wealth is the ability to experience life the way you want to.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 26, 2017, 3:34 pm

      I completely agree. I think “retire” is kind of the wrong word to use…let’s face it, how many people really retire early? The people who have accumulated so much wealth that they can stop working mean they usually pursue other interests. All I really want is the option to “retire” early 🙂

      • Joe E. Apr 28, 2017, 12:10 pm

        My wife and I could technically retire today and live comfortably at the age of 44. I don’t really think either of us are actually “ready” to retire though. I would at minimum want to work part time doing something that I enjoyed. I don’t think I am quite ready to not have some sort of work identity or other purpose. Plus, I would like to accumulate additional security for about 4 more years.

  • Frugal Fanny Apr 26, 2017, 9:53 am

    I wish I knew then what I know now! If you start early enough, retiring in your 30s is absolutely possible but in reality life just gets in the way for most people like having children etc blah blah. You’re right, high salary helps and gives you more options but I just want to retire now! I’m too impatient. I often fantasise about living a ‘van life’ and living off the rent of my home. That’s a form of retirement right? Maybe an option for me to retire early but when I eventually want to move back into my home I’d have to get a job as would have no income and little savings. Hmmmm. It’s defo an option. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 26, 2017, 10:12 am

      I agree with you! If only I had known what young people today know. But really, the movement hadn’t started yet. And life does get in the way.

      I, too, dream about renting out house out and living in a trailer. I just can’t seem to sell my husband and daughter on the idea though 🙂

  • The Green Swan Apr 26, 2017, 8:44 am

    I realize that my wife and I check many of these boxes. We married young, were always conscious of our finances and saved like crazy. Only recently did we realize we were on the path toward early retirement and even that took a while to really hit home. We didn’t always make above average salaries, but recent years we have and we’ve milked it by keeping our lifestyle in check. I call it the Green Swan way of life! 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 26, 2017, 9:41 am

      You guys are rocking it! It really is a specific formula that needs to be executed to hit early retirement – especially early retirement in your 30s.

      So glad I’m lucky enough to follow along with the Green Swan way of living! #motivation

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