10 Ways to Retire Earlier Than Friends on the Same Salary

To retire early, the decisions you make are as important as the money you earn. Here are some strategies for achieving that goal.

The notion of early retirement is all the rage, with books and blogs devoted to the idea of quitting work while you are still young enough to enjoy life.

If you are not lucky enough to work for a company that provides a pension, self-funding an early retirement may seem daunting. But it can be done.

The key is to understand that the decisions you make are at least as important as the amount of money you earn.

If you want to retire early — or at all — keep these suggestions in mind:

1. Marry/partner with the right person

His/her love gives you such a thrill, but remember, love won’t pay the bills. Although it’s not unheard of for people to ask about credit scores on the first date, you probably shouldn’t push it quite that hard.

However, talking about other goals and about money management can be fine fodder for those getting-to-know-you chats.

As the relationship heats up, you need to talk frankly about finances. (“10 Money Matters to Discuss Before Marriage” offers tips on how to do so.) If the object of your affections is vague about future plans or careless about spending, ask yourself whether you want to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to cash.

2. Don’t be in a rush to pair up

So what if all your friends from high school or college are getting engaged? That is no reason to rush into matrimony. Keep your eyes wide open with regard to financial as well as personal compatibility.

You want to pair with someone with whom you can share goals and who is willing to do what it takes to achieve them.

Trouble is, love makes it easy to overlook red flags such as careless spending patterns, high debt load and an inability to plan for the future. The old saying “marry in haste, repent in leisure” has a lot of truth to it.

3. When you do get married/partnered, stay that way

Many relationships have rough patches. Be prepared to work through them. Put bluntly, divorce is expensive as well as traumatic. It may also be unnecessary; some problems that feel insurmountable can be overcome through couples counseling.

Unless your safety or your long-term financial well-being is at stake, remember why you married that person and work hard to work it out.

And if you do wind up splitting? Please, please read “15 Smart Financial Moves to Make Before You Divorce.” What you learn could make the difference between solvency and despair.

4. Don’t have kids too early

An unplanned pregnancy can take a major toll on your finances, and even on your emotional well-being. That is especially true if it turns out that the person you thought was Mr. or Ms. Right is the wrong fit.

Even if you plan to wait to have children, remember that no birth control is 100 percent foolproof. That’s another reason you need to be on the same financial page with your beloved. The more organized your finances are, the more likely you will be able to cope with an unplanned pregnancy.

5. Consider a smaller family

“How many kids should we have?” is a good question to discuss before you get married. Some people opt for only one or two children due to the high cost of raising them. Others keep their families small because they feel fulfilled and happy with producing only a couple of outstanding new citizens.

Remember, it isn’t just a question of whether you can feed and clothe more than one or two children. Family size can also affect:

  • Your mortgage. A two-bedroom starter home won’t be large enough for your version of “The Brady Bunch.”
  • Your car payment. You cannot tote five kids in a compact car.
  • Your retirement. If one parent takes a lot of time off to raise kids, he or she will likely put a lot less into both Social Security and any personal retirement program.

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