If You’re a Millennial, Here Are 4 Signs You Can’t Afford To Retire Early -- Yahoo Finance

Press Release from Financial Wellness Strategies

Written by: Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy Apr 18, 2024   Millennials face a specific set of financial challenges. They typically experiences a lot of “firsts” — a first job, a marriage, the birth of a child, the purchase of a home or paying off student loans — which can put a strain on budgets.   So when it comes to retirement, there are a slew of factors to for millenials to consider.   A recent Urban Institute study found that 38% of early millennials (those born in the 1980s) will have “inadequate” retirement income by age 70. Northwestern Mutual’s 2024 Planning & Progress Study showed that currently, millennials have on average $62,600 saved for retirement, while it is expected that they will need $1.65 million to retire comfortably.

“One of the best things about being a millennial compared to older generations is that statistically you will live longer — but that also likely means you probably have to work longer. It comes down to simple math,” said Bobbi Rebell, CFP, founder of Financial Wellness Strategies and author of Launching Financial Grownups: Live Your Richest Life by Helping Your (Almost) Adult Kids Be Everyday Money Smart.

And if you are living longer, there are more years of retirement to pay for and it may make sense to work a few more years rather than risk your savings running short, Rebell added. “Add to that inflation, and the numbers needed for those golden years start getting bigger and bigger.”

Here are some signs that, if you’re a millennial, you likely will not be able to afford early retirement.

1. If You Have Too Much Debt

For many millennials, debt is likely the biggest obstacle standing between them and early retirement, said Steve Sexton, CEO of Sexton Advisory Group.

U.S. household debt reached a new high of $17.5 trillion and credit card debt balances rose to $1.13 trillion last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

And this, Sexton said, is likely because many lower income millennials are overextended financially due to inflation and rising living costs — and are relying on credit cards to fund basic living essentials.

“This scenario, coupled with poor financial literacy, can significantly reduce the chances of early retirement for this cohort,” he noted, adding that as one goes deeper into debt, the harder it is to climb out, as you’re constantly paying in interest and losing money throughout the process.

2. Lack of Retirement Savings

While this might be obvious, another obstacle to early retirement is a lack of retirement savings. If you’ve missed out on setting money aside during your 20s and 30s, you likely have some catching up to do — but this can be difficult if you’re constantly playing defense with your finances, said Sexton.

“This includes living paycheck-to-paycheck, going deeper into debt, and not being able to budget your money properly so you can allocate funds to your retirement savings,” he noted.

3. Lack of Financial Literacy

Another sign you might not be ready to retire early is a lack of financial literacy.

“If you find yourself scratching your head when it comes to managing your money, like not knowing how to create a budget or what the difference is between a stock and an ETF [exchange-traded fund], you should focus on increasing your financial literacy before looking at early retirement,” said Taylor Kovar, CFP, Founder and CEO of 11 Financial.

Kovar added that being financially literate isn’t just about knowing the basics; it’s about understanding how to make your money work for you in the long run.

4. If You’re “Keeping Up with the Joneses”

Another telltale sign: if you’re constantly feeling the pressure to match your friends’ lifestyles.

Whether it’s eating out five nights a week, traveling to the latest hot spots or splurging on the newest tech, it could spell trouble for your early retirement plans, said Kovar. “Spending beyond your means to keep up appearances can quickly eat into your savings and delay your retirement goals,” he added.

Along these same lines, cash flow, both in and out, will be the biggest factor in whether early retirement is possible.

According to Stephen Kates, CFP, principal financial analyst at Annuity.org, your relative savings rate is of huge importance.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you make, if you spend too much of it,” he said, adding that it is also important to save with your future retirement lifestyle in mind, especially if you intend to spend more in retirement than you do today.

“If you want to travel, have nice dinners, and treat yourself during retirement, you’ll need to save enough to cover those on-going expenses,” he added.