How to Retire Early

These tips will help you exit the workforce ahead of schedule.

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Many people dream of early retirement. No more office politics, cell phones interrupting dinner, or lost weekends finishing a proposal or other last minute project. If you have the foresight to start planning early and are willing to be flexible with your retirement plans, your early retirement dreams might just be realized. Here are some tips that can help you achieve an early retirement.

[See 10 Places to Reinvent Your Life in Retirement .]

Get out of debt. Debt is the number one killer of early retirement dreams. The most common culprits are mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards. However, mortgage rates are currently near all time lows, which makes this a great opportunity to refinance your mortgage and pay it off early. You can avoid auto loans by purchasing used cars with cash instead of taking out a loan for a new car. And you can save hundreds on credit card interest by transferring your credit card balance to a 0 percent balance transfer card and paying it off as quickly as possible.

Make retirement income a priority. You may not be able to count on pensions and Social Security benefits for early retirement because they usually don't start until traditional retirement age, often in your mid to late 50s for many pension plans and in your 60s for Social Security benefits. If you want to retire before then you need to take it upon yourself to start building investments now so you can have a steady stream of income later. This can include starting a business or investing in dividend paying stocks, real estate, or other investments that provide cash flow. You may also choose to retire from the full time workforce and migrate to a semi-retired state where you work a series of part time jobs, consulting gigs, or other work.

[See 10 Retirement Planning Moves to Make Now.]

Downgrade your expenses. Downsizing your expenses is one way to reach retirement faster. For example, you could downgrade to one car from two or move into a smaller home. If you want to take it a step further, you can move to a less expensive part of the country or a state that doesn't have an income tax. Some people even move to another country with a lower cost-of-living.

Rethink your definition of retirement. What does retirement mean to you? Do you plan on living a life of luxury, traveling most of the year and having a higher quality of life than you did during your working years? If so, then early retirement isn't for you unless you are independently wealthy. But if your definition of retirement involves spending more time with family and less time in the office, then early retirement might be achievable.

[See 3 Ways Your Credit Score Impacts Retirement Readiness.]

Set realistic expectations. Most retirees don't magically begin living a life of luxury. Many retirees end up working again because they either have to or want to. Examine your wants and needs and pay off your debts. Set up an income stream and examine the numbers and see if you can make it work. If not, then postpone your dream until you believe you are ready. Early retirement isn't easy, but it is achievable.

Ryan Guina is a U.S. military veteran, writer, and professional in the corporate world. He blogs at Cash Money Life and The Military Wallet.