Many people dream of retiring early, whether it's to escape a stressful job or enjoy activities like travel, while they're still fairly young. If you were planning for an early retirement that's set to kick off in the next year or two, you may now be wondering if moving forward is possible given the recent stock market downturn. But in some situations, it's more than feasible to retire early -- even if your portfolio recently took a massive hit.

It's all about having a safety net

If you're rethinking early retirement in light of the recent stock market downturn, you're probably in good company. But depending on how you set up your portfolio, you may be more than fine to move forward with near-term early retirement plans.

A person at a table with stacks of papers and a laptop.

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People are often advised to shift toward safer investments as retirement nears and keep one to two years' worth of living expenses on hand in cash. That way, if the stock market tanks, they'll still have a means of paying their bills. If you took that advice to heart and are sitting on bonds in your portfolio that haven't lost much value, plus a pile of cash, then you may be in a good position to kick off early retirement, even if your portfolio is down.

It may also be that you have a significant income source outside of your portfolio -- say, a paid-off income property. In that case, you have some options.

While the stock market is down right now, the residential real estate market is still red hot. That means you could potentially sell an income property at a nice profit and use that money as a near-term nest egg while you wait for your IRA or 401(k) plan to recover lost value.

You can also opt to keep that income property and use your monthly rent as income. Granted, you'll need to make sure the rent payments you command are enough to pay your own bills plus cover the cost of owning and maintaining that income-producing home. But if so, you're in a good spot to stick to your early retirement plans.

Make the right call

If your portfolio has lost a lot of value and you don't have cash to fall back on, then early retirement may have to wait. But if you have the means of paying your bills for a few years without having to liquidate investments that are down, then early retirement may be more than feasible -- even if that's a route you're planning to take within the next few months.

That said, there are risks involved in early retirement, like depleting your savings prematurely, having to cover the cost of healthcare if you're not yet eligible for Medicare, and just plain getting bored because you're young enough to want to keep busy. But as long as you recognize those risks, it may be more than possible to bring your career to a close at a time when the stock market is making a lot of investors unhappy.