How to retire early from the best industries for employment

How to retire early from the best industries for employment

Early retirement is possible, no matter what your job is.

How to retire early from the best industries for employment

    Want to retire early? You don’t need to change careers, sell out to a high-paying but stressful job, or grind yourself down working long hours to generate extra income.

    You can do what you love (or hate the least) and retire by 45.

    Or 40.

    Or even earlier.

    It all depends on the financial and lifestyle decisions you make right now.

    Yes, it’s true that some careers are easier to retire from than others. They pay more. Their workforces skew younger. Some even offer pensions (yes, those still exist). Common examples of such jobs include firefighter, engineer, and air traffic controller. Check out our updated list in our new article: Looking for a Job? June 2023's Hottest Industries.

    But let’s say you’d rather not put out fires, come up with solutions to highly complex problems, or spend every day with the lives of hundreds of people in your hands. Instead, you’ve chosen a career in education, business services, retail, or another common industry.

    If that describes you, the path to early retirement may not be obvious, but it’s certainly possible—and probably easier than you think.

    Inspired by The Balance Careers’ most recent list of the 10 best industries for employment, here are some tips for retiring early from each of the top industries in the U.S. right now. (No matter what you do for a living, be sure to read every tip below, as they apply to more than one industry!)

    1. Retiring early from a healthcare or social assistance career

    In theory, the healthcare field is a perfect environment for early retirement. Many medical professionals (at least those with medical degrees) earn large salaries, so they can put away big chunks of money per year and build up their savings relatively quickly. At the same time, they tend to experience burnout. Long hours and difficult work—not to mention the constant presence of death—take a toll mentally and physically.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • nurse
    • doctor
    • social worker
    • therapist
    • caregiver
    • home health aide

    Tips for retiring early as a medical or healthcare professional

    • Pay back those student loans. Don’t let student loan debt hold you back from financial freedom. The sooner you pay it off, the better.
    • Take it slow and steady. Many healthcare and social assistance professionals are already stretched thin before they start planning for early retirement. Don’t make your life harder than it needs to be. If the only way you can retire in 5 years is to take frequent back-to-back shifts, extend your timeline to 6, 7, or 10.
    • Think carefully about how you’ll spend your retirement. Leaving work behind can be bittersweet for anyone. When you’ve spent years literally saving people’s lives, the vast amount of time and possibilities ahead of you can come as a shock. You may suffer an identity crisis. Figure out what you want to do with your post-job life—whether it’s volunteering, engaging in hobbies, writing a book, or dedicating yourself another meaningful pursuit.

    2. Retiring early as a construction worker

    Construction industry professionals have it tough. Strenuous physical labor, long shifts, and hazardous working conditions wear the body down. Early retirement is not only a common goal, but for those who suffer injuries on the job, a necessity. Unfortunately for non-supervisors, a comfortable retirement at any age often seems unattainable. I’m here to tell you it’s possible—you just need to make a few good financial decisions.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • laborer
    • equipment operator
    • welder
    • carpenter
    • roofer
    • electrician
    • plumber

    Tips for retiring early from a career in construction

    • Save early, save often. Set aside a certain percentage of each paycheck as soon as you can afford to. Always automate this if you have the option.
    • Take care of your health. No one is immune from the wear and tear factor. Preserve your health and you’ll preserve your wealth. Go in for regular physicals and check-ups. Avoid smoking and other unhealthy habits. If you’ve gotten injured, try not to jump back into work until you’re 100% better.

    3. Retiring early as an educator

    Education is perhaps the most important field out there. And yet teachers are underpaid, undervalued, and overworked. Many use their own money to purchase necessary supplies and spend their unpaid, off-the-clock hours developing lesson plans, helping students, grading papers, and so forth. An “early” retirement is hardly early when you’ve worked every waking hour of your adult life.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • teacher
    • teacher’s assistant
    • librarian
    • tutor
    • school administrator

    Tips for retiring early from working in education

    • Set financial boundaries. It can be tempting to give everything to your work, but be sure to pay yourself (i.e. your future self) first. Keep the costs of classroom supplies and prizes to a minimum—buy things like candy and pencils at the dollar store, or in bulk. Get creative and take advantage of alternative resources.
    • Eliminate education debt ASAP. As we recommended to medical professionals, the sooner you can pay off student loans and other debts, the better.
    • Find a way to make money in the summer. Don’t limit your income to the school year. If your institution doesn’t pay you year-round, take a summer job or gig.

    4. Retiring early as a business professional

    Okay, this one’s a wide net. If you commute to an office, work from 9–5ish, and can only wear jeans on Fridays, consider yourself a business professional. Your salary may range from minimum wage to six figures per year. Your education may end with a high school diploma (or less) or master’s or post-graduate degree (or above). In any case, you’d like to avoid spending the better part of your life around cubicles and K-cup machines.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • business administrator
    • salesperson
    • marketer
    • account manager
    • customer service representative
    • HR manager
    • supervisor
    • administrative assistant
    • executive

    Tips for retiring early from the corporate world

    • Don’t give into lifestyle creep. Keeping up with the Joneses is a waste of time and money. Focus on your current needs and goals and live life on your terms.
    • In fact, live below your means. Save more than you spend. It’s as simple as that.
    • Take control of your retirement account(s). Don’t leave your 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan on autopilot. Stay connected to your money and your goals or you could veer off-course.
    • Create a budget. Don’t leave your household expenses on autopilot, either. Smart budgeting pays off—even a few dollars per month can drastically shorten your journey toward retirement.

    5. Retiring early from a mining or oil/gas extraction career

    The mining and natural gas industry isn’t going away. As Balance Careers contributor Alison Doyle writes in the article that inspired this one: “Loosening of regulations, further reliance on domestic natural resources, and discovery of mineral deposits in the U.S. are expected to fuel an expansion of job opportunities in the mining and oil/gas extraction industry.” More opportunities should also mean more room to retire early.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • truck driver
    • roustabout
    • miner
    • technician
    • equipment operator
    • health and safety manager

    Tips for retiring early in the natural resources field

    • Stay healthy. Similar tips for construction professionals apply to this job category as well. Take it easy on your body. Practice safe workplace behavior. Don’t smoke. Eat right. See your doctor regularly.
    • Take advantage of low costs of living. Many mining and oil/gas extraction jobs are located in relatively unpopulated areas. You don’t need to live in or around an expensive urban environment to be near your job, particularly if you’re on the road or working on a rig for weeks at a time. Avoid the temptation to buy household luxuries with the money you’re saving and stow it away for an early retirement instead.

    6. Retiring early as a self-employed professional

    In today’s gig economy, more and more people are choosing to become their own bosses. Whether you define yourself as a freelancer, entrepreneur, or business owner, the independent life has its ups and downs. On the plus side, you’re (theoretically) in control of your day-to-day work. How much you make—and when and how you make it—is up to you. However, you also need to be ready for long periods of stress and uncertainty. You need to be able to manage your work–life balance and build your financial future all your own. You can use it as a means to retire early, or end up a self-exploiter—the choice is yours, and not everyone is equipped to make it. If you do not know any of these skills but would want to learn one of the best places to learn these skills is Skillshare.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • designer
    • artist
    • writer
    • lawyer
    • psychologist
    • driver/chauffeur
    • babysitter
    • bookkeeper
    • property manager
    • many, many more

    Tips for retiring early as a consultant or independent contractor

    • Charge what you’re worth. Advocate for yourself and get paid what you deserve. Low-paying clients aren’t worth your time.
    • Consider establishing a self-directed retirement account. No one will hold your hand in helping you create a retirement account. Do it yourself and do it early.
    • Develop your network. For self-employed professionals, relationships are everything. A healthy network of clients and business contacts is the key to creating a steady stream of income. It can be the difference between retiring early and “hustling” into your 50s and 60s.
    • Figure out what kind of life you want to lead. Before and after retirement. It doesn’t have to be traditional, but it does have to work—to give you the money and meaning you need to live.

    7. Retiring early from a leisure or hospitality career

    The leisure and hospitality industry is easy to get into, but difficult to stand out in. On the lower-paying end are jobs like server and ticket taker. On the high end are professional athletes, entertainers, and celebrity chefs. In between are fitness trainers, hotel managers, and the like. Wherever you fit, you always have the means to retire early.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • performer
    • actor
    • director
    • producer
    • cook
    • caterer
    • hotel manager
    • trainer
    • athlete
    • musician
    • many more

    Tips for retiring early from a career in entertainment or hospitality

    • Don’t wait to start saving. You can and should save with entry-level wages. Every dollar counts.
    • Don’t be blinded by lifestyle. Income disparities and obscene displays of wealth are common in this industry. Remember that it’s all image. Keep your head down and keep making—and saving—money.
    • Focus on your passion. Whether it’s art, food, performance, athleticism, or something else, your passion will sustain you throughout your career and in your retirement.

    8. Retiring early from a career in finance

    This one’s a no-brainer. When you work with money all day, it’s easy to imagine retiring early. You have financial knowledge and perspective that many people in other careers never attain. You may know how to budget correctly, invest successfully, save on taxes, and so on. Use your skills to your advantage and get out of the working world as soon as you can.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • accountant
    • financial analyst
    • financial planner
    • auditor
    • actuary
    • bank teller
    • underwriter
    • loan officer
    • tax planner
    • investment advisor

    Tips for retiring early for financial professionals

    • Flex your financial muscles. Put your professional expertise to work in your personal life. Treat yourself the way you endeavor to treat the people you serve. Consider it your fiduciary duty to yourself.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Early retirement can be a challenge for anyone. You may have uncommon financial knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you need to chart your future alone, without the support of friends and family.

    9. Retiring early from the wholesale industry

    It’s the lifeblood of companies like Amazon and Walmart, but it’s grueling labor for many people involved behind the scenes. The wholesale industry combines low pay with long hours and dangerous work—not exactly an environment anyone wants to spend years of their life in. Fortunately, as we’ve learned so far, early retirement is possible for everyone at every income level.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • general laborer
    • truck driver
    • forklift driver
    • freight handler
    • warehouse clerk
    • warehouse associate
    • packer
    • shipping specialist
    • quality assurance specialist

    Tips for retiring early from a career in wholesale

    • Don’t push yourself at work. Don’t sacrifice your health or sanity for the job. Take care of yourself on and off the clock. An injury could take a serious financial toll now and greatly impact your ability to continue generating money.
    • Look for additional sources of income. Investments and other kinds of passive income can be particularly important for people in low-wage jobs. Here’s a story about a couple who retired earlier than expected thanks to some smart investing.

    10. Retiring early from a career in retail

    Retail of all kinds, and particularly e-commerce, is in the middle of an explosive growth period. One of the advantages of retail is its flexibility—shop owners can spend as much or as little time as they want running their stores. Meanwhile, positions such as cashier and sales associate can be easy for anyone to get hired in, regardless of age or experience level. These factors make retail an attractive part-time job option for many people, including retirees. But if you want to retire from retail rather than into it, that’s definitely possible too.

    The kinds of jobs we’re talking about

    • sales associate
    • cashier
    • buyer
    • stock clerk
    • floor manager
    • merchandiser
    • store owner

    Tips for retiring early from retail

    • If you’re in ownership or management, think of retail as an investment. You get what you put in. Find your niche and take the number one spot, whether that means offering the best product, the best prices, the fastest shipping, or all of the above. Put in the work to succeed and you’ll reap massive rewards.
    • If you’re a retail employee, focus on smart saving strategies. Again, the secret is living frugally. Look for ways to spend less and save more. Keep your household expenses low. Learn more money-saving habits.

    Ultimately, it’s not your career that defines your future, but the choices you make along the way.

    If there’s one point you take away from this article, it should be that your job isn’t everything. No matter where you work or how much you make, you have what it takes to retire early.

    What industry do you work in? Have any of your professional skills helped you along the way to early retirement?

    What advice would you give to someone looking for a new career?


    Melissa Goff

    25 posts

    Melissa loves content, comedy, and all things West Coast. She is grateful to wake up every day with the chance to bring stories from unlikely sources to life and enable others to design and live the