Is retiring early one of your life’s dreams?
Do you long to be able to take off a few years while you are still young and healthy and travel, spend time on your hobbies or doing something else you love? Do you want to feel the confidence that comes when you’re not sweating the balance in your account?
Despite the bad economy, it can be possible to retire at 55, if you’re willing to sacrifice and put in some work now.
The trick is to make optimizing your finances part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth or loading the dishwasher. Small, consistent actions often have a more powerful long term effect than one or two large ones. By spending the equivalent of just ten minutes a day to focus on your finances, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year towards your retirement.
Here are a few ideas of the small things that you can work on that will allow you to save more money and take advantage of the power of compound interest to make it grow for you. Please note although it seems like now is a terrible time for the stock market, there are still relatively safe investments that you can make that will allow you to get a better return on your money than sticking it into a savings account.
1. Track your spending daily. You can use a program like Mint or simply design a spreadsheet. This will allow you to see where your money goes and discover ways to slash spending so that you can save more. I know that everyone gives this advice. There is a reason: it works.
2. Make the effort to pack your own lunch and prepare meals and snacks at home. This is not only thrifty, it’s also almost certainly healthier than buying food at restaurants and will help you stay fit and healthy long into your retirement.
3. Learn more about investing and the different options that you have. At a minimum you should understand all the basic terminology involved in investing and make it a point to know the fees involved in your retirement account.
4. Look for ways to increase your income. Even an extra $100 a month that you can throw into your retirement fund can have a big effect down the road, especially if you’re still in your 20s or early 30s.
5. Spend time visualizing your goals. This will make it easier for you to stick with your plans and stay committed to working towards your long term goals.
6. Be ruthless in removing clutter from your home. This might seem unrelated to saving for retirement, but clutter can weigh us down. When we are constantly seeking to remove clutter, it makes us less likely to spend money on objects that we don’t truly need or love. As a bonus, you can also make a little extra cash by selling items you no longer need or want.
7. Keep your home and vehicles well maintained. Maintenance is cheaper than repairs and will allow you to keep your car for many years before you replace it and could possibly help you sell your home for more money down the road.
8. Look for inexpensive forms of entertainment. My advice would be to be on the lookout for inexpensive or free activities in the community such as art exhibits and free concerts. Maintaining a rich network of social acquaintances can help you learn about new opportunities and feeling connected to your community will help increase your happiness. Happiness, in turn, makes it easier to find the motivation to work towards your goals.
9. Discuss your plans with your partner often. Make sure that you are both on the same page and are fully committed to working on things together. When one partner feels like their concerns aren’t being heard, they can become obstinate and sabotage the other’s efforts to save. Make sure that you both feel like you’re part of a team.
10. Don’t forget to have a little fun today. Constant deprivation is no way to live and the truth is none of us know what will happen in the future. Spend time every day focusing on working towards a good retirement, but don’t forget to spend most of the day living in the here and now. It might even make more sense to take a year off now to travel or work on a personal project and retire at the traditional age. Choose the timetable that makes the most sense for your own life.
Are you spending some time every day working towards building a happy, financially secure retirement for yourself or are you just wishing and hoping it will somehow magically happen for you without any effort on your part? Retiring early is a big goal that might seem almost impossible but if you’re determined, you can find a way to make it happen.
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Tracy O’Connor blogs about ghostwriting and living a better life. Follow her on Twitter.