Retirement is a massive financial undertaking. But it’s also more flexible than many people believe. At different stages in life, it’s really possible to retire earlier than you might realize. However, retiring at age 30 with $1 million comes with a lot of leg work and a bit of luck. It’s not impossible, but a lot of things have to go right for you. We’ll discuss what to consider.
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Your Retirement Income With $1 Million
The $1 million is a common benchmark for FIRE advocates, which means “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” The basic philosophy is this: Maximize every penny of earnings early in life. Save hard, spend little and invest wisely. Then, ideally sometime before age 40, have enough cash to retire for good.
The trouble is that $1 million does not actually generate that much secure income in retirement, at least not before you can supplement it with Social Security. The rule of thumb used by most financial professionals is that you should expect a 4% drawdown each year.
This means that for a sustainable retirement, you should budget to live on about 4% of your total retirement portfolio. For a retiree with a $1 million portfolio, this comes to $40,000 per year.
We can also adjust up from 4%, given that it is admittedly very conservative. So you can hit that number holding nothing but bonds and getting no returns beyond simple coupon payments. So take a number like 6%. This gives you an annual income of $60,000.
Now, that’s not nothing. According to the Census Bureau, it’s less than the median income of $70,700. But not by that much. The problem is that you need to live on that money for a long time.
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Costs of Retirement In Your 30s
When the New York Times wrote on this subject, they profiled a man who retired at 43 on his $1.2 million savings. The man’s wife still worked, supplementing the household’s budget significantly. Even still, the article wrote, the couple lived a life, “Rich on time but short on luxuries: Groceries are bought at Costco, car and home repairs are done by him.”
This is the problem with retirement in your 30s. The odds are that it leads to a lot of sitting around asking, “Now what?”
3 Tasks to Solve
First, you will have to account for all the basic expenses of life: Housing, food, utilities and more all add up.
If you have collected $1 million at age 30, the odds are good that you live in or around a city, where the higher-paying jobs are located. For example, if you live in Washington D.C., rent alone can consume almost an entire $40,000 income. And if you move, that will mean leaving your friends and connections, as well as an entire lifestyle that you have presumably come to enjoy.
Second, there are the employment-related expenses of life. Mostly this means finding your own health insurance. At age 30, you might be able to get away with a cheaper high-deductible plan, but as you age into your 40s and 50s that will be increasingly less of an option.
Third, there are situational costs. If you have children, they will need their own care and feeding. According to SmartAsset’s 2023 study, raising a child can cost up to $30,000 annually in the U.S. And as your parents’ age, they might need care both personal and financial.
And unexpected expenses crop up on a regular basis. Home and auto repairs aren’t always do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, for example. If your car throws a rod or (to cite this writer’s experience) a four-story elm dies in your backyard, that’s thousands of dollars directly from your own pocket.
What to Look Out for at Age 30
At age 30, you have a lot of time and responsibilities ahead of you. Every retiree needs to plan for the unexpected. But when you’re a young adult, far more people will count on you and you will have far fewer resources.
Medicare and Social Security won’t kick in for several years. And Medicaid won’t help someone who is voluntarily unemployed. Family members will look to you for support, property will need tending and many of life’s biggest expenses may still be on their way.
To put it another way, you’re not a kid anymore and there is no backup plan. For the next 30 or 40 years, you are the backup plan. By retiring this early with this budget, you are planning to face that with virtually no room for error.
The FIRE Lifestyle
There is a very good reason that early retirement has caught fire (or FIRE) in recent years. Work for millennials and, as they age in, Generation Z, is worse than it was for past generations. Employers expect ever-longer hours and make ever-broader demands.
For Baby Boomers and Generation X, it can seem bizarre to plan on leaving the workforce by age 40. In large part, though, that’s because theirs was a generation that still got to clock out at 5 and only worked on the weekdays.
“The rule books our parents have given us is advice that’s perfect for 1970,” wrote the New York Times in one representative quote. “We have to throw out that rule book and write a new one.”
Current generations were brought up in an era where every job has been migrated to salaries to avoid overtime pay. And most days end well after 5:00 p.m. This is a working world of smartphones, seven-hour half-days and “just real quick” Saturday assignments. It’s easy to understand why so many young workers want to opt-out.
Considering the Alternatives
Consider the other side of that lifestyle carefully, because you may not be buying yourself the freedom that you think. You will have freedom from burning out on work culture and the stress that comes from expecting work e-mails at all hours of the day. But you may not have the freedom to for very long.
In other words, you may not have the freedom to live the kind of lifestyle that you want to enjoy. If you have a home, you may not be able to afford anything else. On a $40,000 – $60,000 per year budget, there probably won’t be much left for travel, dining and other luxuries.
Your plan might be Netflix and dinner for a long period of time, for example. If, as many young retirees do, you choose to travel, then those temporary travels may become more permanent than you’d think.
Is it possible to retire at 30 with $1 million? Yes. But the odds are it’s likely that it will do more harm than good. If you have $1 million at age 30, you’re doing beyond great. If you keep this money in a series of solid, comfortable investments, then you almost certainly can retire early. The truth is, you probably can target retiring at age 40 or 45. Give this account another 10 years or so to ride. And let compound growth increase over time.