How to retire early—the healthy way

How to retire early—the healthy way

If your health, or the environment’s health, is important to you, consider retiring early.

How to retire early—the healthy way

    I always look for ways to live a healthier life. In the sense of mental and physical health, but also in the sense of making sustainable choices for the planet. You’ll often catch me walking to my neighborhood farmer’s market with an armful of reusable bags, and I’m the self-appointed recycling queen of my neighborhood…

    But what does this have to do with retiring by 40? It turns out, studies have found that early retirement is good for you and good for the planet.

    Retiring early helps you live longer

    You heard that right! Multiple studies have shown that retiring early can actually extend your life. Who among us doesn’t want to live as long as possible? I’ve got plans for rocking out in my retirement for at least 40 years.

    Dr. Sing Lin Ph.D. found that employees who retired at 65 received pension checks for only an average of 18 months before they died. However, people who retired before 65 received pension checks into their 70’s and 80’s.

    Another study found that retiring early has the same positive health impacts as going to the gym regularly and eating healthy meals. On average, early retirees lived more than seven years longer than their workaholic counterparts.

    There is one slight condition to retiring by 40 in order to live longer, though. Martin Seligman’s book Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death found that people who retire and slip into inactivity tend to face serious health declines. Thankfully, the savvy early retiree knows that you need to find ways to fill your time…

    Early retirement allows you to focus on your hobbies (and hobbies are good for your brain)

    I love trying new recipes (usually they’re tasty, occasionally I light things on fire…). I wish I had more time to dedicate to my kitchen experiments, but at this point I’m still working in the corporate world. When I retire early you can bet that I’ll be filling my time with lots of cooking--and I’ll probably pick up some new hobbies, too.

    Likely, anyone with the goal of early retirement knows that they aren’t defined by their 9-to-5. The key to a fulfilling early retirement is finding passions to fill your time. It doesn’t hurt if you can monetize your hobbies, but it’s not mandatory.

    According to a Mayo Clinic study on neurology, “lifelong learning is the key to maintaining cognitive function”. When you have time to dive deep into passion projects, you’re actually keeping your brain flexible, which will help to keep your brain in tip-top shape for longer.

    Retiring early allows you to spend time with the people who matter to you

    I often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend with my favorite people. By the time I get home from work, go to the gym, cook dinner, and handle whatever administrative tasks I have on my plate, I’ve got about an hour to spend with my family every night. However, I have noticed that when I have a solid amount of time connecting with my friends and family, I feel calmer and more focused on my goals. It turns out, these feelings aren’t just in my head.

    Spending time with loved ones can make your brain function better, improve your mental health, and even help you lower your blood pressure. When you retire by 40, you’ll have more time to dedicate to your relationships.

    Having strong social connections has been found to give you a 50% higher chance of surviving any health obstacle. Getting out of the rat race means that you’re more likely to live into old age. Imagine spending unlimited free time with your loved ones and living longer because of it! That’s the dream.

    Retiring early can lower your carbon footprint

    Steve and Courtney are all about low-impact living. They just bought a totally off-grid home, and they travel all over the country in an airstream. Not only is downsizing your life financially smart, it can actually have a major impact on the planet.

    Inspired by Steve and Courtney’s example, I’ve been looking for ways to downsize my own life, and my spending, to be more frugal and lower my environmental impact. This includes shopping at my neighborhood farmer’s market, working from home a few times per week, and living in the smallest space I possibly can.

    One study found that people who downsized to houses under 400 square feet reduced their carbon footprint by about 45%. Downsizers achieved this carbon-shrinkage by using rainwater catchment systems, growing their own food, and traveling by car more often, among other things. Coincidentally, all of those activities will save you money in the long run too!

    Even if you don’t decide to downsize, simply ending your daily commute to the office can majorly reduce your environmental impact. People who commute to work generally waste 38 hours idling in traffic each year. This can cost over $700 in gas alone.

    Can you afford to live longer?

    You may be wondering if you can afford to retire by 40. What if you outlive your savings thanks to all the new health benefits you’re reaping? I know that was my first thought (as wild as it sounds).

    Thankfully, Steve has some killer advice about maintaining your retirement savings for a long time. Here’s how he and Courtney keep themselves ready for anything in retirement:

    1. Keep at least a year's worth of expenses in short-term savings
    2. Understand that things happen and we can't control everything
    3. Remain flexible enough to adjust when necessary

    The rule of thumb when it comes to retirement savings is to withdraw only 4% from your retirement savings per year. At that rate, you shouldn’t outlive your nest egg. If you feel comfortable living off of 4% of what you already have saved, then congratulations--you are likely ready for early retirement.

    Keeping careful track of your budget can help you stay on top of this number. Steve advises that you should , “Save a lot...but don’t be afraid to spend money on things that make you happy. Re-evaluate your money situation often. [and] Always look for confirmation that you’re on the straight and narrow”, if you want to live off of your retirement savings forever.

    So, how do you retire early?

    That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it. Don’t worry. Think Save Retire has tons of tips to help you retire--no matter where you are on your journey.

    Here are some topics on the blog I’ve found to be the most helpful in getting myself set up to retire early:

    Consider coming up with some ways to earn income on the side:

    10 ways to run a high-income business from the road

    Game the system for deals and savings in order to reach your goals faster:

    How to game the system to your advantage

    Study up on how to master your early retirement lifestyle: part 1, part 2, and part 3

    Check out some early retirement tips from some of our favorite blogs, too:

    Learn how to retire early with the $50 a day method from My Millennial Money.

    Explore early retirement by the numbers with My Money Wizard.

    Retiring early isn’t just possible, it’s good for you. Science says so! If you’re a smart saver, a go-getter, and you’ve got lots of plans to keep you busy--it’s time to start thinking about early retirement.

    Did you know about the health and environmental benefits of retiring early? Do these health impacts make you more interested in retiring by 40? Let us know in the comments!


    Sarah Thibeau

    36 posts

    Sarah is an avid reader, a beer nerd, and a social media guru. Sarah loves all things millennial money. She's working on nailing this "adulting" thing, and she's happy to have you along for the ride!