No matter how much you love your job, the desire to fast forward to a time when you can freely enjoy the rest and relaxation that retirement brings can be strong. Whether you have grand plans to travel the globe, pursue passion projects, or you simply want to relish free time with your family, early retirement is possible if you plan for it — and these are the best jobs to help you get there.
According to data from the Census Bureau, the average retirement age in the U.S. is 64, though this number does vary from state to state. As Ladders previously reported, however, experts say that 50 is actually the ideal age for retirement.
Recent workforce trends reported by The New York Times support this idea. These trends show that despite an aging population, the pandemic has inspired a shift toward early retirement for many, even before workers reach the age (62 at the earliest) where Social Security benefits kick in.
The path to early retirement requires the perfect mix of financial planning and careful consideration of your career path. As Yahoo Finance reported, most workers need to have saved more than $1 million to retire by age 65. With an average life expectancy of 77.3 years for most Americans, the amount saved pre-retirement will logically need to be higher for those who wish to retire well before then.
The best jobs to have if you want to retire early
The key to planning for early retirement is to choose a career that is lucrative, in a generally stable industry, and setting aside enough money in savings (in a 401(k), IRA, or similar) to build a post-work life nest egg that you can comfortably live off of.
Though positions that offer a pension plan are fewer and farther between with each passing year, jobs with pension programs are another solid option to seek in a job if you’re looking to retire early.
GOBankingRates recently compiled a list of the best jobs for people who aim to retire before age 65 based on the age at which people in those occupations expected to retire, their average annual salary, the average retirement savings set aside in a 401(k) by age 62, and the average hourly 401(k) contribution by employers in those industries.
Inspired by this data, below are some of the best jobs to have if you want to retire early.
1. Airline pilot, navigators, or air traffic controller
When you take into account their salary range, average 401(k) savings plans, and employer contributions to 401(k) plans, those who work as airline pilots, air traffic controllers, or navigators have the best shot at a comfortable early retirement. Data shows that only 25% of people with jobs in this field actually plan to work past age 65.
The highest-paying career on this list, the average salary for a physician is $218,850, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As Ladders previously reported, the healthcare field is actually ripe with lucrative opportunities if early retirement is on your radar. Despite the long hours, high burnout rates, and the potential of high student loan debt, those with a medical degree especially can achieve early retirement with the proper planning.
Though they’re all considered dentists, there are actually 12 dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association including oral surgery, orthodontics, and periodontics. The average annual salary for dentists was $195,930 in 2020, according to the BLS, but specialists and those in private practice often earn well above this rate.
4. Financial manager
The estimated 401K savings for financial managers sits just shy of the $1 million mark at $901,562. With an average annual wage of $143,530, setting aside enough money to live comfortably post-retirement isn’t a stretch for workers with this occupation.
5. Electrician, electric power installer or repairer
Though there are obvious on-the-job hazards to consider before becoming an electrician, it’s worth noting that only 19.1% of those in this line of work plan to continue working past age 65. Generally, employers in the industry also have a higher than average 401(k) contribution rate at $6.52 per hour.
6. Police officer or detective
One of the few occupations on this list with the potential for a pension plan, police officers and detectives also have a relatively high average employer 401(k) contribution at $5.83 per hour. This is tied with a career in firefighting or inspection, which is another career choice that can yield plenty of benefits should you aim to retire early.
The average salary for a pharmacist in the U.S. was $128,710 in 2020, according to the BLS. As GOBankingRates reported, “pharmacists have the second-highest level of confidence in being financially able to retire,” with physicians topping the list.
8. Aircraft Mechanic
Despite an average annual wage of just $62,540, a career as an aircraft mechanic can actually set you up for a nice early retirement thanks to an above-average rate of employer 401(k) contributions. Less than one quarter of people in this specialized occupation plan to work past age 65.
9. Attorney or judge
Despite the potential for working extremely long hours, a career as a lawyer can really pay off if you want to retire early. The average annual salary for lawyers and judges is $137,660 with an estimated 401(k) savings of $864,690.
10. Education management
Managers in education typically earn an average salary just below $100,000, but are estimated to save more than half a million dollars prior to retirement. Included in this field are post-secondary administrators, training and development managers, program directors, and other education-adjacent careers that typically require at least a master’s level education.