Suze Orman just threw cold water on early retirement dreams. In a recent podcast, Orman said you need at least $5 million — and “really” more like $10 million, saved up in order to make an early exit from the workforce.
It should come as no surprise that experts think the amount you need to retire is eye-popping: To retire at the traditional age of 65, experts typically recommend having saved ten times your salary. Other general rules of thumb maintain that you need to save up at least 25 times your annual expenses in order to follow the old 4% withdrawal rule when spending down your assets. Steadily rising health care costs, combined with massive amounts of student loan, credit card, and other debt, have made retirement more difficult than ever.
Despite the daunting task, many millennials are hoping to kiss their jobs good-bye well before their parents did. A recent TD Ameritrade survey found that millennials, on average, expect to retire by age 56 — seven years below the national average of 63, according to census figures. Many FIRE followers want to retire even earlier, by 40. The FIRE movement — short for “financial independence, retire early” — has been spreading across the Internet, with almost 450,000 subscribers on its Reddit page. Members aim to maximize savings rates by spending less in order to retire as fast as possible, according the group’s description. The community is mostly made up of millennials, who are increasingly disenchanted with the traditional ideas surrounding careers and retirement.
Orman thinks they may be underestimating future costs: she actually argues that 70 is the new retirement age to aim for. A recent analysis by Fidelity shows that the average couple who retire in 2018 will need $280,000 for medical expenses, and that’s if they retire at 65. Retiring early is unrealistic, Orman says, citing rising health care costs in retirement, which most people don’t effectively plan for. “As you get older, things happen,” she told the podcast. And if you need to raise funds for a big, unanticipated medical or other expense, it’s hard to re-enter the workforce if your skills and contacts are out of date.
Another aspect that early retirees underestimate is losing the power of compound returns. “One of the greatest investments young people can make in themselves is to start putting money away in their 20s,” notes JJ Kinahan, chief strategist for TD Ameritrade, in a press release. When you leave the workforce in your prime and shift from saving to spending, you miss out on the compound interest of all the money you would have saved, a powerful multiplier.
In fact, Orman denounced the entire FIRE movement, saying “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.” She adds, “I personally think it is the biggest mistake, financially speaking, you will ever, ever make in your lifetime.” Her comments met with mixed feelings from many FIRE devotees: While some appreciated hearing a different perspective on early retirement, many others pointed to Orman’s lavish lifestyle and called her “out of touch with reality.”