Retiring before you turn 65 is a goal that many people in their 50’s strive for. At this stage of life, there is a lot to lose if you get this wrong. If you have this goal in mind, there are several key steps to prepare and create a plan so these risks are reduced. With an inspiring vision, well-researched action plan and an accountability buddy in place, your early retirement goals are achievable.
(NOTE: You may be married or have long-term relationships and plan to retire and grow old together. Modify each step to include your partner or spouse).
1. Create a vision for your retirement
This is the fun part. You may have been thinking and planning your retirement for many years and have a very clear vision of how you want your retirement to look – fantastic! Or this may be the first time you’ve actually thought about it. Either way, you need to spend the time now to get your vision crystal clear as without that, you will not be able to stay on track to achieving it. If you don’t know where you are going, how can you plan the trip? Here is an exercise to help you get the vision so clear you can replay it inside your head whenever you want – preferably daily or weekly. Creating your retirement Vision Exercise (Link)
2. Create a ‘Mind Map’ to achieving your vision (free online software may be useful). A mind map will help you brainstorm, think through and capture every element of life. Work backwards – start with your vision of you retired and of all the wonderful things you want to be doing. Then ask yourself – I want to be doing X, what would I have needed to do to get there. Here are some examples:
- When I retire, I want to fly business class when I travel. Great! Then you need to research business class fares, so you can build them into your retirement budget when you do it.
- I want to go and live in other countries and experience the lifestyle there as a resident, not a visitor. Fantastic idea! Find websites that carry all sorts of information about the best places to do this and find out the cost of living so you can add this to your budget in step This one is a good example https://internationalliving.com
- I never want to worry about money. Me too! There are so many ways to do this, I can only mention one or two here – the rest you will find on another blog post of mine – How to top up your retirement funds without working yourself into the ground. For now – pay off your mortgage faster. When was the last time you checked the market to see if your current rate is still competitive? Contact a mortgage broker (with a BIG book of possible lenders) and let them do the work for you. You can save thousands a year and it won’t cost you a cent for the service – the banks pay the brokers.
If you gave up one or two little luxuries now, how much more could you save each pay? Saving that money into your retirement fund allows you to get the most from the tax benefits available. For example, cutting out one $30 bottle of wine a week over ten years adds $15,600 to the coffers! What if you brought your lunch from home each day? save perhaps $8 or $10 a day? around $45 per week ads up to an extra $23,400 over ten years. just these two changes made by one person add around $39,000 to your retirement funds. A friend of mine has just retired early and is headed to Cambodia where she can live a life of relative luxury (compared to her Sydney lifestyle) for around $1,600 a month. According to International Living, “the standard of living is high, leading to more retirees and expats choosing to make this country their home.”
3. Research to find the information you need. Once you have drawn your mind map, spend however long it takes to research to gather all the facts you need regarding what needs to be done, how, and the costs associated with doing it. Depending on your retirement vision and planning you have already put in place, this may take many hours.
The investment in time is well worthwhile as, without the facts, you are dealing purely in fantasy. Sadly, that’s what I did for many years – reassuring myself that with what I had in place investment wise, I would have a wonderful retirement. When I finally got the facts together and asked an expert – I was wrong. Do the work now so you are dealing only with facts. The earlier you know what’s needed, the more time you have to correct.
4. Create a budget. Now that you have the facts, it’s time to do the budget so that you can get the true and accurate answer to the question ‘How much money do I need to retire?’. There’s only one person who can answer this question as there’s only one vision for your retirement and it’s in your head. Use your mind map and research online to add a reasonable estimate next to each area (e.g. travel) for how much per year you need for that area. Having a budget will help you avoid one of the biggest mistakes many retirees make – spending too much of their capital too early. Use this helpful guide or one of the many calculators available online.
5. Create an Action Plan. Good news – most of the hard work and research is now done. Congratulations for getting everything you need to be able to make your dream retirement happen. If you have now reached the conclusion that it’s impossible to retire early, and you might have to work until you’re 70 (which is what I thought), don’t despair. There is help available.
Those who have enough funds now, need to create an action plan. Not just a checklist or a ‘to do’ list, but a detailed and comprehensive list of what you will do to move you forward to your dream, how you will do it and by when it will be completed.
There are lots of action plan templates available online. If using Excel or Word or similar it is VITAL that you also open your calendar and fill it with reminders to start and finish each action. Without this, it’s predictable that you will get busy and the actions list will lie on a shelf or in a folder forgotten. Isn’t that what always happens? You have to keep the actions ‘in your face’
6. Find an accountability buddy. If you are serious about succeeding in achieving your dream, you need an accountability buddy. An accountability buddy is someone who will hold you to account for staying on track. They care enough about you to call you on your usual ‘crap’ when you start to find excuses. These will be very familiar to you as they have stopped you achieving goals before. ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I’m under too much pressure’ etc. You know the ones.
If you get off track or start lagging behind your dates etc, your accountability buddy will say to you, ‘Close your eyes for a minute and start running that movie in your head called ‘my retirement’. Tell me what you see’. Describe your perfect early retirement to them so it’s really present for you. Then they will say, ‘Are you serious about wanting that dream to come true?’ Then you have to answer honestly. If you answer yes, they need to say, ‘Apparently, you’re full of it’, or ‘The evidence before me your honour, is that you have not completed your actions as promised this week. Therefore, I conclude that you are not serious about having this retirement at all’.
You then need to decide if you are wasting their time and yours, or are you serious about retiring early? It’s up to you. Choose someone who cares about you enough to tell you the truth and won’t let you away with anything (it cannot be your spouse or partner!) Book in for a 15 to 30-minute check-in fortnightly – face to face, online video conference or phone is fine.
For those of you who can afford it, I strongly recommend that you get yourself a professional Life Coach. As Bill Gates says, ‘Everyone needs a coach’. I have a coach and she makes the world of difference to how productive I am. Contact your local Professional Association of Life Coaches for a list of qualified professionals. You don’t need an expensive coach. A coach who has any level of coaching certification and some good testimonials will be just fine. If you are not satisfied with the level of accountability, try another one.
7. Schedule your actions. Schedule a bi-annual review of your vision, map and action plan. Add reminders the week before. Make an appointment with your accountability buddy or your coach. Do not do this alone – you may not be rigorous enough. This review is essential to achieving your dreams. Make any changes needed ONLY after your buddy approves it as a necessary and sensible change – not because it all got a bit hard and you want to make it easier.
8. Commence taking the actions. With your careful planning and the appropriate actions taken, or with a new source of income in place, you will retire early. You can head off into the sunset to start living your dream retirement. Let me know how it goes, won’t you?
All comments and feedback are welcome below. We will do our best to read them and respond.