A couple calculating how much they need to save for early retirement

What it Really Takes to Retire by 30

The average American retires at 62, is retired for 18 years, and has about $44,000 saved for retirement. What if you could be retired for most of your life? Retiring at thirty seems unattainable and even a little unrealistic, but it can be done.

Live way beneath your means.

America is focused on upgrades. You’re expected to move into a bigger home as soon as possible, buy a bigger TV, and drive a brand new car every few years. Take the money you’d spend on keeping up with the Joneses and put it away. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the typical American household spends $51,000 a year and devotes 2/3rds of that money to housing, food, and transportation. Cutting back in these three areas can make a bigger difference than limited your other expenses.

You can save so much money by quitting costly habits and making serious lifestyle adjustments. Are you ordering take-out for dinner every night? Channel your inner Julia Child (or Gordon Ramsey if you’re particularly fiery) and get cooking. You don’t need a swanky, high-rise condo; a modest, older apartment can be just as nice with some TLC and personalization. And while you’re looking for a more affordable apartment, consider the walkability of the area. Riding your bike or walking to work is free; compare that to the $9,000 a year the average household spends on transportation.

Save most of your paycheck.

To retire in your thirties, you’ll need to be saving a lot of your paycheck. Examine your finances and determine the maximum percentage of your check you can save while still being able to survive. Mr. Money Mustache, a self-described “thirtysomething retiree” famous among the online early retiree community, says you can retire in just under 11 years as long as you save 64% of your take-home pay.

Ideally, you need to have enough saved to withdraw 4% of your savings each year. Building a massive retirement fund and investing it will allow for a comfortable retirement. To determine how much you need to save, find out how much money you spend per year and multiply it by 25. The average household spends about $50,000; Mr. Money Mustache spends $25,000, and he has a spouse and a child. Wow.

Is uber-early retirement realistically possible?

Depending on your career, it could be easy or difficult to part (temporarily) with a significant amount of your salary. Many of these 30something retirees worked in well-paying fields, such as engineering or computer science, and had nearly six-figure salaries short after graduation. However, not everyone has a STEM degree—or a college degree at all.

Start saving and investing as early as possible. Take advantage of your employer’s 401k contribution match (who doesn’t like free money?), and have a solid investment portfolio focused on stocks. You’ll need to tackle your debt head on: consider picking up a side hustle and setting aside the earnings for monthly payments. If you can undergo a lifestyle upheaval, retiring in your 30s isn’t so crazy after all. 

Last Updated: May 11, 2024