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Could You Retire in Your 50s? Here's How to Find Out

By Kailey Hagen - Aug 29, 2021 at 9:26AM

Key Points

  • In order to determine when you can afford to retire, you need to know what you have, how long you have to save, and what you plan to spend in retirement.
  • Those who retire in their 50s face some unique challenges.
  • Preparing for these challenges before retirement is key to avoiding costly mistakes.

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You won't know until you actually crunch the numbers.

With many Americans worried they won't be able to retire at all, the idea of retiring in one's 50s probably seems like something only CEOs can afford to do. But if you're a motivated saver, you don't need a massive income to make it happen. Here's how to find out if it's in the cards for you.

How to find out what you need to retire in your 50s

When planning for retirement at any age, you need to have an idea of how much you already have saved, when you'd like to retire, and how much you plan to spend annually in retirement.

Two people discussing something while one looks at laptop screen

Image source: Getty Images.

The first step is to make note of the balances of all your retirement accounts. It's also a good idea to create a my Social Security account to estimate how much you'll get from Social Security. If you have a pension or any other sources of guaranteed retirement income, keep track of that as well.

Figuring out how much time you have until retirement is pretty simple too. Just subtract your current age from your ideal retirement age. If you don't have an exact retirement date in mind, just choose any age to start with. Once you see how much you'd need to save to retire at that age, you can decide if you want to move your retirement date up or if you need to push it back.

The most complicated part is calculating how much you'll spend in retirement. This is unique to everyone, as we all have our own plans for how we'll spend our time. You can use your current spending as a baseline, but remember you'll spend more on some things and less on others in retirement compared to now.

Once you have the above information, you can estimate how much you'll need for retirement. One method is to subtract the amount you expect from Social Security and other sources annually from your annual expenses to figure out how much you'll need to save on your own. Then multiply this amount by 25. You can also use a retirement calculator to help you calculate how much you need.

If you use a retirement calculator, it should also tell you how much you have to save each month. Once you have this number, you can decide whether that retirement date is feasible or not. If it is, you can move forward and feel confident in your plan. If not, you can alter your retirement date or how much you save per month until you find a solution that works for you.

Special considerations

Retiring in your 50s gives you additional years of freedom, but it also poses some unique challenges. These may force you to save even more money or come up with an alternative withdrawal strategy.

One of the biggest problems 50-somethings face when retiring is the 10% early-withdrawal penalties most retirement accounts have if you take money out before 59 1/2. There are a few ways around this, though. You could use the rule of 55, make substantially equal periodic payments, or save in a taxable brokerage account that doesn't have this penalty. If you have Roth accounts, you can also withdraw Roth IRA contributions penalty-free at any age, though you'll face penalties if you withdraw your earnings before 59 1/2.

Early retirees may also have to fund more expenses on their own in the first few years of their retirement because they can't sign up for Social Security until at least 62 or Medicare until they're 65. The only way around this is to ensure you have ample personal savings and a good health insurance plan to help you cover these extra costs.

If you forgot any of these things when calculating your retirement costs, you may want to rerun the numbers to account for them. When in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of saving too much rather than too little.

Revisit your plan at least once per year and whenever you experience a significant change to your finances to ensure you're still on track. It takes only a few minutes to do and it can give you confidence that you're heading toward the future you want.

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