First Person: How I’ll Avoid Working Five Extra Years

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I may receive more social security if I work until my full retirement age, but that isn't my only path to financial security. I don't feel compelled to stay in the workforce past age 62 because I am working hard on my retirement plan now, in my 40s. I recently read an article by U.S. News & World Report about how to avoid working just one more year. I plan to avoid working the final 5 years leading up to my 67th birthday when I am eligible for full social security.

Tricking myself into saving

My best strategy for retiring early is to boost my 401(k) contributions. I have been tricking myself into saving more and more each year. A recent study cited by a CNN Money article showed people who look at retirement income forecasts are more likely to increase their contributions. I can use a retirement calculator when I log into my retirement account. My account tells me how many dollars I'll receive each month in retirement based on my current balance. I can find out how increasing the percentage I save will result in higher retirement income.

Counting on poor returns

Instead of being incredibly optimistic about the return on my money, I actually count on a zero return. The way I look at it, there are no guarantees my mutual funds will go up in value. If I plan on incredibly poor returns, I'll be able to live an extravagant lifestyle in retirement if I'm wrong. If I'm right, I'll still be able to retire at age 62 without worrying about my basic needs.

Reducing my major expenses

I plan to pay off my mortgage by the time I'm 50. I am also saving money into a mutual fund that pays dividends so that I can use the dividends for my ongoing "car fund." I plan to pay cash for the cars I need in the future so I won't have to worry about a car payment in retirement. I'm also planning to retire without credit-card debt or any lingering student loan debt.

Encouraging my husband to work

My husband said he doesn't intend to retire early. A recent Forbes article pointed out men are shrinking their wives' social security by retiring at age 62. By delaying benefits to age 67 or even 70, my husband will be providing me with more income if I live to be much older. According to the article, half of men claim social security at age 62. If I was the higher wage earner, I'd work until I was 70 in order to maximize our social security benefits. However, my husband is the one main provider.

Although I tapped my retirement account through the years for everything from my son's college tuition to a down payment on a home, I still have the luxury of time. At age 40, I have 22 years to build on a $100,000 retirement foundation. I'd love to avoid working those last 5 years when I'll be completely burned out. My husband feels happy that I can retire on his money during the final stretch since he loves his career so much.

More from this contributor:

I'm Not Retiring to a College Town

Retirement Decisions we are Making in our 40s

I'm Not Letting the Recession haunt my Retirement

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