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30 Best Jobs If You Want To Retire Early

Gabrielle Olya
·14 mins read

Even if you love your job, it’s hard not to fantasize about an early retirement. But the reality is that many Americans will end up having to work past the traditional retirement age of 65 due to a number of factors, including longer life expectancy, stagnant wages and a lack of jobs that offer a pension plan to guarantee income in retirement. Many people simply won’t be able to save enough to retire comfortably before 65 — you’d need to have saved over $1 million, regardless of your state, another GOBankingRates study found. But some jobs offer a better chance at an early retirement than others.

GOBankingRates determined the best jobs for those who want to retire before 65 by looking at the age people in each occupation expect to retire, the average employer 401(k) contribution per hour of work, average salary and the average retirement savings someone in that occupation would have saved in a 401(k) by the early retirement age, 62. If you want to retire early, these are the best jobs if you want to retire rich.

Last updated: October 7, 2020

30. Mechanical Engineers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 58%

  • Annual average wage: $91,500

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $574,743

If you want to know how to retire early, consider a job as an engineer. Mechanical engineers make a high average salary compared to most of the other jobs included in this study, so they have more income available to be put toward a 401(k).

29. Kindergarten and Early School Teachers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 16.9%

  • Annual average wage: $57,110

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $358,727

About 61% of early educators plan to retire by age 62. It’s the occupation with the fifth-highest percentage of employees who plan to retire early — and the third-highest percentage of employees who plan to retire by age 65 — compared to the other occupations included in this list. Overall, kindergarten and other early school teachers are the fifth-most confident that they will be financially able to retire compared to people employed in the other occupations included in this list.

28. Insurance Sales Occupations

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 37.9%

  • Annual average wage: $66,990

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $420,787

Employers of those working in insurance sales make an average hourly 401(k) contribution of $2.47 — tied with one other job for the fifth-highest average hourly contribution.

27. Psychologists

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 27.8%

  • Annual average wage: $82,770

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $519,907

Although more than half of psychologists (56%) plan to work past age 62, less than a third plan to continue to work past age 65.

26. Special Education Teachers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 25.5%

  • Annual average wage: $62,640

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $393,463

Most special education teachers plan to retire early, with only 44% of those surveyed saying that they plan to work past age 62.

25. Industrial Engineers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 49.8%

  • Annual average wage: $90,340

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $567,457

The average salary for an industrial engineer is higher than the average salary of most other jobs included in this study. If these engineers contribute just 3% of their salary to their 401(k) and receive a 50% employer match, they’ll have saved over half a million dollars by age 62.

24. Secondary School Teachers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 21.7%

  • Annual average wage: $62,730

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $394,029

As with kindergarten and special education teachers, most secondary school teachers plan to retire early. Only 44% of those surveyed said they plan to work after age 62.

23. Insurance Adjusters, Examiners and Investigators

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 28.3%

  • Annual average wage: $66,250

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $416,139

Like insurances sales jobs, insurance adjustment jobs tend to receive a high employer 401(k) contribution, with an average contribution of $2.47 per hour — tied for the fifth highest employer contributions of the occupations included in this study.

22. Inspectors and Compliance Officers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 19.3%

  • Annual average wage: $71,540

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $449,367

Only 35% of inspectors and compliance officers expect to be working after age 62. The job has the fourth-highest percentage of employees who plan on retiring early compared to the other occupations on this list, as well as the fifth-highest percentage of employees who plan to retire by age 65. Inspectors and compliance officers are the third-most confident that they will be financially able to retire compared to people in the other jobs included in this list.

21. Computer Programmers, Support Specialists and Administrators

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 38.5%

  • Annual average wage: $87,530

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $549,806

Although most computer programmers — 56% — plan to work past age 62, only about 39% plan to work past age 65.

20. Financial Services Sales Occupations

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 64.3%

  • Annual average wage: $97,440

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $612,054

Those who work in financial services sales make an average salary that’s just below six figures. The high salary that comes along with this occupation makes it easier to build up a healthy nest egg in a 401(k) account.

19. Accountants and Auditors

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 28.4%

  • Annual average wage: $77,920

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $489,442

About 71% of accountants and auditors plan to retire by age 65; 39% plan to retire by age 62.

18. Management Analysts

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 41.4%

  • Annual average wage: $93,440

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $586,929

Most management analysts plan to be retired by age 65, and 44% plan on retiring early by age 62.

17. Electrical Engineers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 40%

  • Annual average wage: $99,580

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $625,496

Electric engineers have a high average salary, and therefore have a higher estimated 401(k) savings by age 62 compared to people in the other occupations included in this study.

16. Mathematical and Computer Scientists

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 22.9%

  • Annual average wage: $90,460

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $568,211

Most mathematical and computer scientists — 64% — plan to retire early by age 62. By age 65, about 77% plan to be retired.

15. Civil Engineers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 22.4%

  • Annual average wage: $91,790

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $576,565

About half of all civil engineers plan to be retired by age 62, and the majority plan to be retired by age 65.

14. Post-Secondary Teachers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 36.7%

  • Annual average wage: $82,880

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $520,598

For every hour of work, post-secondary teachers typically will receive $3.18 in employer contributions to their 401(k). That’s the fourth-highest average contribution amount when compared to the other occupations included in this study.

13. Managers of Medicine and Health Occupations

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 33.8%

  • Annual average wage: $111,680

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $701,501

Those who work at the manager level in the medical and health fields earn nearly $112,00 a year. With that salary, the average person with this job can retire with over $700,000 in 401(k) savings by age 62.

12. Physical Scientists

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 14.3%

  • Annual average wage: $88,470

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $555,711

Most physical scientists expect to be retired before they hit age 65, and even before they hit age 62, with only 27% of those surveyed responding that they plan on working past age 62. It’s the occupation that has the highest percentage of people who expect to retire early, and the second-highest percentage of people who expect to retire by age 65. Overall, physical scientists have the most confidence about being financially able to retire compared to people in the other occupations included in this ranking.

11. Firefighting, Prevention and Inspection

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 50%

  • Annual average wage: $52,560

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $328,263

Firefighters benefit from generous employer retirement savings contributions. The average hourly 401(k) contribution made by employers is $5.83, tied with one other job for the second-highest average contribution for all the jobs included in this study.

10. Managers in Education and Related Fields

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 26.1%

  • Annual average wage: $95,270

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $598,424

About half of employees who work as managers in education and related fields plan to retire early by age 62. By age 65, about 74% plan to be retired.

9. Lawyers and Judges

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 61.3%

  • Annual average wage: $137,660

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $864,690

Lawyers and judges have the fifth-highest average salary compared to the other occupations included in this study. Thanks to the high salary that comes with these positions, people in this occupation have the fifth-greatest estimated 401(k) savings by age 62 compared to people in the other occupations included in this study.

8. Aircraft Mechanics

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 23.3%

  • Annual average wage: $62,540

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $392,835

For aircraft mechanics, the average hourly employer 401(k) contribution is $5.13 — tied with one other job for the third-highest average contribution compared to the other jobs in this study.

7. Pharmacists

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 11.7%

  • Annual average wage: $121,710

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $764,503

Most pharmacists expect to retire early, with only 30% of those surveyed saying they plan to continue working after age 62. Of the jobs included on this list, it has the second-highest percentage of employees who plan on retiring by age 62, and it also has the highest percentage of employees who plan to retire by age 65. Pharmacists have the second-highest level of confidence in being financially able to retire compared to the other types of employees in this ranking.

6. Police and Detectives

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 22.1%

  • Annual average wage: $62,960

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $395,473

Two-thirds of the police and detectives surveyed plan to be retired by age 62. Of the jobs on this list, it has the third-lowest percentage of people who plan on working past age 62. It’s also the job with the fourth-highest level of confidence among employees that they will be financially able to retire.

A big boost to police and detectives’ ability to retire early is the high average employer 401(k) contribution. The average hourly contribution is $5.83, tied with firefighting for the second-highest employer contribution compared to the other occupations included in this study.

5. Electricians, Electric Power Installers and Repairers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 19.1%

  • Annual average wage: $57,910

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $363,753

Less than a fifth of electricians plan to continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65. It’s the occupation with the fourth-lowest percentage of employees who plan to work after age 65 compared to the other jobs on this list. It’s also the job with the most generous employee 401(k) contribution, with an average contribution of $6.52 per hour.

4. Financial Managers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 43.8%

  • Annual average wage: $143,530

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $901,562

Of all the jobs included in this ranking, financial managers earn the third-highest average salary, and they will have accumulated the third-greatest estimated 401(k) savings by age 62. However, it’s worth noting that the average financial manager will have less than $1 million saved, so that could explain why 69% of people employed in this position plan to work past age 62.

3. Dentists

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 75%

  • Annual average wage: $180,010

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $1.13 million

Dentists earn the second-highest average salary of all the jobs included in this study, so they also have the second-largest estimated 401(k) savings. By age 62, the average dentist will have saved more than $1 million in his or her retirement account.

2. Physicians

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 64.2%

  • Annual average wage: $214,700

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $1.35 million

Physicians have the highest average salary of all the occupations included in this list, and they also have the largest estimated 401(k) savings. By age 62, many physicians will have a large enough retirement nest egg to retire early.

1. Airplane Pilots, Navigators and Air Traffic Controllers

  • Average percentage of people who believe they will keep working past 65: 25%

  • Annual average wage: $138,690

  • Estimated 401(k) savings: $871,127

When it comes to jobs with early retirement, airline pilot holds the top spot. Airline pilots earn the fourth-highest average salary compared to all the other jobs included in this ranking, and they also have the fourth-greatest estimated 401(k) savings by age 62. In addition, the average hourly employer 401(k) contribution is $5.13, which is tied for the third-highest compared to all of the occupations in this study.

Should You Retire Early?

Before deciding to retire, it’s important to take stock of your finances and assets — which can include your home, investments, 401(k), IRA, Social Security income and other income — and decide whether you really have enough money to support yourself for the rest of your life.

Although most people now retire without a pension, having guaranteed income throughout retirement is the best financial safety net you can have. It’s worth noting that many of the best jobs for early retirement still come with pensions, which explains why many people in these occupations plan to retire early without having $1 million or more saved in their 401(k).

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates found the 30 best jobs to retire early by analyzing 50 jobs across the following factors: (1) the mean percentage of people who think they will continue working past 62 and 65, sourced from University of Michigan EDU research data from 2015. This data was used to find employees’ retirement confidence in a variety of different professional segments; (2) average retirement benefit contributions, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017 Employer Costs for Employee Compensation data; (3) mean salaries, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2017 occupational data; and (4) average retirement savings in a 401(k) assuming a 50 percent employer contribution match on a 3 percent employee contribution (the national average), assuming the person retires at 62 years old and starts investing at 35 with a rate of return of 6.5 percent. Estimated 401(k) savings were calculated using SmartAsset’s 401(k) calculator. Each individual category was scored, and the scores were added together to determine the best jobs to retire early. Mean percentage of people who think they will retire was multiplied by 0.5, so that category wasn’t weighted as heavily as the others. This research was conducted on March 7, 2019.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 30 Best Jobs If You Want To Retire Early