Retiring at 50 can seem like something that only happens to wealthy people or those who get very lucky. But it’s easier than you think to plan for successful retirement savings. With some time and effort, anyone who starts early enough in life and takes the right steps has the potential for a successful retirement at 50. Here are 5 of the most important steps to get started today.

1. Stay (or Get) Out of Debt

Staying out of debt (or getting out of the debt you already have) isn’t always easy. It takes discipline and sacrifice to say no to things you want but can’t afford to buy without credit. In some cases, it might not be possible to avoid debt completely. If you have a medical condition, for example, you could end up with some debt related to that.

You may also need to go into debt to purchase a house because you don’t want to be renting and throwing that money away when you’re trying to save up for retirement. But your retirement plans should include a way to pay off your house before you turn 50, if possible. One of the best things you can do to retire early is to get out of debt and not have monthly payments to worry about.

2. Live Below Your Means

Your personal finance planning is a very important part of setting yourself up for early retirement. A big part of that planning includes putting money back for retirement, and one of the ways you can do that is through living below your means. Part of a plan for successful retirement includes spending less than you make so that a lot of what you’re bringing in can go straight into savings.

If you drive an older car, look for bargains when making purchases, choose a modest home, and avoid getting caught up in society’s push for the latest, greatest things, you can live below your means more easily. You’ll want to be careful of your spending on entertainment and travel, for example, and reduce the times you go to restaurants or buy expensive gifts for yourself or others.

3. Save As Much Of Your Income As Possible

A big key to planning for successful retirement at 50 is to make sure you’re saving as much of your income as you possibly can. You’ll have taxes and expenses that you can’t avoid, of course, but you should save the rest of your money instead of spending it. So many people get caught up in the cycle of spending what they have in the bank, but that won’t get you to your retirement goals.

Instead, focus on where you want to be instead of the things you might want to do right now. Delaying instant gratification is absolutely necessary for anyone who plans to retire at 50. Avoid unneeded expenses and upgrades that really aren’t very important in the long run, so you can have the money you need put back for retirement.  

4. Invest Aggressively

The right money management tips are vital when you’re looking at retiring early, and one of those tips is to be aggressive about investing. You aren’t going to get the money you need to retire if you’re putting all your money into a savings account with a 1% interest rate. You need to get the money you’re saving into the stock market, where it has the chance for significant growth.

When you’re younger, you can take more risks with higher-yield stocks. As you get closer to retirement, you’ll want to adjust your portfolio just a little bit, so you aren’t risking as much loss during market downturns. You may also consider investing in real estate or other opportunities, but make sure you do your research carefully so you don’t lose your retirement savings. 

5. Maximize Retirement Savings

Maximizing the savings you’re building for retirement is another great way to plan for the future. When you want to retire early you should make use of available options. For example, if your employer has a 401(k) program you should be contributing the maximum amount you can. Some employers match contributions, which is even better.

Be sure you’re maxing out your IRA, as well, and look into additional investments where you can put your money and watch it grow. As you focus on bringing in money, eliminating debt, and maxing out your retirement contributions, you can more easily see how retirement at 50 can be a possibility for you. 

You have to start early and be aggressive, or you could end up working a few more years before retirement is an option. Ideally, you should start saving for retirement as soon as you start working, but many people don’t. If you start in your early to mid-20s and follow these steps, you should be well on your way.

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