How To Retire In 15 Years (Regardless Of Your Age)

Regardless of where you are on your financial journey, it’s possible to retire in 15 years.  While that may seem a bit hard to grasp, today I’m going to prove that it’s possible.  BIG NEWS:  I’ve convinced a real live person to be “Test Subject #1” to prove that the theory works in real life.  His name is Roger, you’ll meet him in the post below.  It’s an exciting development, and I’m excited to share it with you today.


How To Retire In 15 Years

I’m certainly not the first to have written on this topic, and I’ll be referencing some of the excellent content I’ve read for today’s post, including one of the most-read blog posts in the history of personal finance on the internet.

Using these resources, I hope to explain how to retire in 15 years.

Regardless of where you are on your journey, it's possible to retire in 15 years. Today, I'll prove it. Click To Tweet

The idea for this post came after I read Precisely Follow This Savings Plan and You Can Retire In 15 Years. In the article, the author John Rampton lays out the following steps on how to retire in 15 years:

  • Set Your Post Retirement Budget
  • Stop Accumulating Debt
  • Manage Your Career
  • Find Multiple Streams of Income
  • Review And Adjust Your Budget

While I found the above article interesting, and his points valid, it still doesn’t “prove” that it’s possible.

For that, we have to turn to a legend in the blogosphere, Mr. Money Mustache.


Proving It’s Possible

One of the All-Time Classics ever written in the personal finance/early retirement space is Mr. Money Mustache’s The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement.  (if you’ve not yet read that post, go there now.  I’ll wait….)

Mr. Money Mustache, or Pete as his friends call him, has written perhaps the best post ever published on how to retire early, based on the math.  The article has generated 6 years worth of discussion, and it’s still going strong.  A powerful blog post, with unbelievable staying power.

There’s a reason it’s in the Hall Of Fame.  It’s good.  Really, really good.

In the article, the biggest buzz comes from the following table, which shows how long it will take you to reach retirement at certain savings rates (see the article for the assumptions behind the math, they seem reasonable to me):

Source: Mr. Money Mustache

That table has generated more discussion in the blogosphere than perhaps any other Personal Finance piece ever published.

Go back and look at the table again, and take a few minutes to think. (I’ll wait….again).

BTW, I’m exceedingly patient today which is a good thing given that this post is focused primarily on those patience-testing Millenials whom I treasure and adore.

Side Note About Roger, The Millenial:  Last week, I wrote “The Ultimate Pre-Retirement Checklist”. It’s proven to be a very popular post, but  I got some candid feedback from my Millennial friend, Roger, who you’ll meet in a minute.  The feedback was given during a business conference call, with my co-workers on the line!!  He’s a bold man, that Roger.  Since it appears that you Millennials didn’t “get anything” from my pre-retirement checklist, today’s post is for you. I hope you enjoy it, my Millennial friends, as we have a little fun together.


Retirement Is A Math Problem

In reality, retirement is nothing more than a math problem.

  • How much you’ve saved,
  • How much income it will generate, and
  • How much you need to spend

Those are the simple variables.  It’s pretty straightforward, actually. High school algebra comes to mind, and all we need to do is solve for the X.  The math proves that it’s possible.

The numbers of FIRE prove that it's possible. They are not a judge, they're just numbers. Live as you'd like, but understand the impact on retirement. Click To Tweet
  • You can choose to “Live Large”, and save 5% of your pay.  By looking at the table, or simply clicking on this cool interactive chart, you can quickly figure out how long it’ll take you to able to retire (66 years, if you must know.  Live Large, but realize you’ll likely never be able to retire).

Life’s about choices, not judgment.  Just understand the consequences of your decisions when you make them, and take time to think of the impact of those decisions on the longer-term perspective of your Life.

Do you only want to save 5%? No problem, just be prepared to work for 66 more years. It's simple math. Click To Tweet

How Long Do You Want To Work?

Another way you can use the power of math is to decide when you’d like to retire, then use the math to see how much you need to save.  Simple math.

Want to retire in 20 years?  No problem, just be prepared to save 45% of your pay.

Are you ok retiring in 30 years?  You can cut your savings to 28%.  You can spend more now, but you’ll need to work an additional 10 years for the privilege of that consumption today.

Is it worth it?

Know the consequences of your decisions, especially as they relate to your retirement date.


Here’s The Proof

The proof lies in this amazing and very cool interactive chart from Networtify that Mr. Money Mustache mentions in his post.  For today’s post, I played around with some scenarios and share the results with you below.

Turns out someone who:

  • Has $0 Saved
  • Makes $80k per year
  • Saves 54% of their income

Can retire in 15 years.

If the assumptions in my example don’t represent your situation, simply run your numbers yourself.  Enter your savings rate, and see how long you’ll have to work.  I’ll wait….(again.  Gees!)

I Never Said Retirement In 15 Years Would be Easy.

It takes work, an aggressive savings rate and a real commitment to your highest priorities in life.

Serious stuff, but it can be done.

Retirement In 15 Years Is Possible, regardless of your age.


The Ultimate Test Of The 15-Year Theory

To prove that the theory presented in this post can be achieved in the real world, we’ve recruited a Millennial to be a test subject.  The test subject is my aforementioned friend Roger, the guy who provided feedback on a conference call at work (with my peers) that my Pre-Retirement Checklist provided no value to Millennials (oh the boldness of those Millennials)

After some private discussion, I’ve convinced Roger to become our Test Subject #1, and I couldn’t be more excited to be making this announcement today.

Roger will prove, through his life as a 35-Year Old Millennial, that retirement in 15 years is possible. Click To Tweet

Here’s Roger’s profile, I consider him a bit of an Avatar for our stereotypical Millennial reader:

  • Age:  35
  • Long-term relationship, marriage & children planned.
  • Location:  Outside the USA, but somewhere in the World
  • Anonymous
Roger, our unwilling Test Subject #1, A Stereotypical Millennial

Roger will apply the math in this post, and begin saving 55% of his income starting on July 1, 2018.  I appreciate the sacrifice that Roger is making for this experiment, and trust he’ll be pleased with the results. We’ll continue to monitor Roger, and will report in on his progress over the years.  I’m planning an annual post with an update on Roger, including all of his numbers.

In 15 years, when I’m writing on this blog as a 70-year old, Roger will retire as a 50-year old.  You’ll watch it all unfold.

We’ll follow his progress along the way.  Every year.  About this time on the calendar.

This is going to be fun.


Conclusion

How To Retire In 15 Years.  Today, we’ve proven that it’s possible, though not easy.  Over the next 15 years, we’ll demonstrate through the life of Roger, our Test Subject #1, that it can be achieved in real life.  Stay tuned for updates.

BTW, you may have noticed that this post was published on Sunday, April 1.  I’ve always enjoyed April Fool’s Day, and decided to have a bit of fun with you, and my friend Roger, in today’s post.  All of the math demonstrated in this post is true. However….

…What may not be quite as truthful is my claim regarding Roger’s agreement to become Test Subject #1.  I made a promise to Roger during the conference call (yes, that infamous call, and his feedback, did actually happen) that today’s post would be written for Millennials, and I promised to make him a subject of the post.  His involvement as Test Subject #1 was entirely a figment of this author’s imagination, as I realize that April 1 coincided with my writing of this post.  Therefore, the post was scheduled, atypically, for publication on a Sunday.

Sunday was April 1.

I planted some hints of this spoof throughout the post.  I’m curious if you’ve been paying attention.  Roger is learning of his “involvement” at the same time as you, the reader.  Sorry, Roger, but you’ve earned this playful payback (looking forward to seeing you in May, btw! Hope you’ve enjoyed the playful jab as much as I’ve enjoyed working with you these past years).

Happy April Fools Day.

Fun aside, I trust that I was able to achieve my purpose of proving How To Retire In 15 Years.  It can be done, and everything else written in this post is valid.  The math works.

Understand the importance of your savings rate in determining how soon you can retire.

Save more, retire sooner.

Simple Math.

34 comments

  1. The possibilities… have you controlled for inheritance and the lottery as potential externalities on your subject. Who is you control subject that will save nothing for 15 years and see how it turns out? 🙂

    1. Gees, for an April 1 post, I absolutely SHOULD have written a post focusing on how to leverage inheritance and lottery as keys to an early retirement! As for that control subject, I’m afraid we have millions of folks to choose from….. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I had a feeling that this was going to be an April Fool’s Day Post even before clicking. Today is the day of the year that I have the least trust in anyone lol! I thought for sure this would be a post about receiving an inheritance or winning the lottery – but I’m glad to see it was both funny and worthwhile!

  3. Great stuff! I was going over the MMM The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement post this morning with my 15 year old son. We have started him a Roth IRA as well to begin his journey.

  4. Happy April Fools Day! I think the chart is great but the real percentage needed to be saved is influenced by where the money is put and it’s location tax implication. Take for example our story. As a baby boomer we had forced retirement savings, an employee contributory pension (3.25% plus we paid income tax on this and social security that eliminated 13% in taxes right off the top for retirement of our gross income) starting DH first day of railroad work at age 21. Earliest time you could touch this and it was reduced by 30% was at 55 after twenty years with the same company or 100% with thirty years of service age 60. Hey, tough for the FIRE community plan except for increase later life streams. In our mid thirties the company started the 401k up to 6% match with 25 cents, tax deferred thankfully so we saved the max ( thus saving 25 % at our top marginal federal and 3% state tax rate on less then $50,000 income for a Family of four). So 20.5 % retirement savings rate on our gross pay. Few years in to 401k the company up the match to 50 cents, then four years later 100% match of company stock. So 22% to 25% gross being saved. Also instead of cash bonus they introduced ESOP for twelve years, and the first one vested two days before the October 1987 crash! Most of the guys cash in on that Black Friday but I convinced my DH not to. I was in the dog house the whole weekend! Of course I got a dozen roses when my decision became the smart one!So another three to five percent being saved with ESOP , so 28% to 30% retirement savings but really only 6% voluntarily and that was because we saved 32% on taxes so only 4% reduction of our take home pay. At DH age of 45, 24 years with company, first buy outs offered only 25% of his monthly gross income, not enough to make it work if we wanted to help the kids with college. Darn! Age 48, 1998, bidding war to takeover the company and our minimal company stock gain was 400%. WOW! Almost millionaire status! Most of the coworkers are upgrading their cars and lifestyles taking the tax hit. I quit my job to take care of my ailing parents and the trustee transfer of 401k to an IRA becomes are emergency fund if needed for college tuition without the 10% penalty. Luckily, the total use was only $13, 000 throughout the next six years so really not too bad. Frugal ways saved the day. Late 1998, Another buy out offer could possibly make it work for us (no health insurance the issue) and the kids take student loans,but DH chooses to stay to help the kids till he reaches 55 and because company still giving early retiree health care with just slightly higher premiums. Three weeks shy of 55 accepts golden hand shake with sweeten 100% pension and same health care as age 55 rates. Great blessings for his Hard work 😓. Now are plan was we took 72 t distribution from portion of IRA to maintain 100% of our take home pay till age 60 when Railroad retirement pension with 30 years service started.
    So Fritz, Do you include in the percentage saved Social Security, having a contributory pension , 401k match and tax deferred IRA or Roth contribution? At 24 years we could have opted out with 60% of our gross income more then covering are expenses and inflation rate but cut dramatically are future income streams and discretionary dreams and goals with just a four percent voluntary savings rate plus 2% tax savings. Or if you take in the pension and Social Security ( equilvalent Railroad Retirement ) 17% total savings rate which looking at the chart estimate forty years! I didn’t see what amount of replacement gross income the chart is based on replacing for retirement, which is very relevant to when you flip the switch. Sincerely, Lara

  5. Lara, a great comment to demonstrate the value of employee benefit plans, and the compounding effect of employer contributions. You were very fortunate to receive employee retirement health care coverage, very few employers offer that these days, and the high expense of private insurance is, unfortunately, going to consume a fair bit of our employer contributions to our retirement plans.

    As for how to count employer contributions in the calculation, most “experts” say it’s ok to include your employer contribution into your calculated savings rate. It’s real savings, so it’s ok to count it.

    1. When I priced out health insurance it ran between $12,000 to $18,000 for the two of us and then coverage for the kids was cheaper at their colleges. It’s really the deal breaker for most early retirees. Lara

  6. I love you blog and find your postings very informative, inspiring, and entertaining. This may be a stupid question but I am going to ask because I would love to retire early someday too. I just would like to know if paying off debt (especially paying down a mortgage) is including as a part of that savings rate or even if part of that savings goes into a money market account paying non existent returns (to have cash on hand). I wish I would have started this journey in my 20s, but I am now in my 40s and have something accumulated, but not nearly enough.

    Thanks for reading this and for what you do! So excited for your future.

    1. Welcome, Karen! You’re certainly not alone in “starting late”. You may enjoy “It’s Never Too Late To Start Saving For Retirement”, the story of a reader’s parents who started with nothing at Age 50, yet retired by Age 65.

      As for paying off debt, I typically don’t count that as “savings rate”. However, eliminating debt before retirement is always a good strategy. Also, savings into a Money Market Fund count, even with the current dismal returns. It’s important to have some liquid savings in your allocation to cover unexpected short term expenses, or as “Bucket 1” in a Bucket Strategy for retirement income.

      Thanks for being a reader of The Retirement Manifesto!!

  7. The ever important savings rate…truly anything is possible if you spend less. Changing that habit is what is hard. I am hopeful that I too will be retired or at least semi-retired at 50…but only time will tell.

  8. It works.
    I didn’t have a fixed percentage of savings. I lived on what I wanted/needed and invested the rest. As I got raises and bonuses I invested them since I didn’t need more money. I then built multiple streams of income. As the cash came in, I reinvested it. It allowed me to have a high savings rate without sacrificing (or even budgeting). Looking back, I averaged about 38% savings based on gross income which is about 50% savings rate based on net income. I reached FI within 17 years which is exactly what that chart says! I tell my fellow medical specialists that if you start at age 31, you can still be financially free by age 48.

  9. I’ve personally seen someone able to achieve FIRE in about 10 years. So I know it’s possible. The math is a good start for discussion and seeing how long it might take. There is a but here. There are many many variables that can affect this. Choices, life events, timing of market increases and troughs, unemployment, types of investments, etc etc.

    So yes it’s possible, and this math is a good starting point. But it’s only the beginning of planning and discussion. Much of it will need to happen along the way to see how investments and life actually turn out based on your initial plan. And then you adjust as needed. Sometimes to come in line with plan, sometimes you just can’t completely make up if there’s a delay. But a year or two difference, in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal.

  10. Hi Fritz,

    I found your blog about a year ago and find your articles very informative. Last week was the best!! This week is interesting. At 50 I had very little saved for retirement . Most of my non essential money went to my hobby until it got to be expensive. I put most of the things related to my hobby up for auction. The auction occurred TWO days after the stock market crash!!! I took what money I received and invested it. Started to save and invest as much as I could. I found a 2nd source of income related to my hobby and invested that as well. As a result I will be retiring (Hopefully) in July 2019 at 64. So this can work, but it is painful at times.

    It should have been a lot easier like my brother who maxed out is IRA every year for 40 years and retired at 61 and did not have to suffer like me.

    A friend of my makes a lot more than me, but is not saving enough. He will not be able to retire until he is 68-70.

    As you say, “Life is about Choices” I tell that to all of the young people I meet.

    God Bless!!

  11. “Roger, Roger. What’s our vector Victor? ”

    The thread just brought back that classic line from the movie Airplane. :>)

    Mrs. PIE this morning has shared with a friend and work colleague that she is retiring at 44. You can imagine the “Shock and Awe” on the friend’s face. I suspect there will be some follow-up math questions once she digests it all. Now we know the math works but explaining to others, that is a bit trickier.

    An airplane needs a runway for sure but it does not have to be a tremendously long runway before it can soar….

    1. Haha, that’s truly funny, Mr. PIE! What a classic movie!

      Excited to watch as you and the Mrs. pull the plug just a month before we do! Let me know if there’s any turbulence in that low altitude air, I’m taking off right behind you, Roger! 🙂

  12. Thanks for the AFD post! Apart from the laughs, I did revisit the networthify calculator which was a good reminder. Apparently I can retire within 3.x-7.x years, depending on expected rates of return and the SWR selected. So far it looks like I should be able to make that goal – as long as I keep earning until then 🙂

  13. Fritz! I love the idea of following Roger on his journey. And it’s interesting that you refer to his as a ‘stereotypical millennial’ in here… As a card-carrying millennial myself, I have a post about the millennial stereotype coming out in a few weeks. I’m interested to see how your millennial, Roger, performs in the wild!

    Nice work, Fritz!

  14. I’m very excitable and gullible, Fritz… thanks for showing me I still could use improvement in that area. This sounded a little more jovial than the normal post. Your challenge now is to make a Roger follow through!

  15. Super cool how we both had such similar ideas in our post-hopper this week, Fritz! Yours is total Golden Nameplate quality, while mine is lacking all the nifty info-graphics and a REAL test subject. Alas…

    Similarly, we both went back to Mt. Olympus for our shared inspiration – Zeus himself, MMM. I think it was his post on having only one kid that marked the beginning of my awakening. Funny enough, we’d just welcomed twins into the world the year prior.

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