Can Millennials Retire Before 73?

Can Millennials retire before 73?

Last week I stumbled upon a recent study by Nerdwallet – 73 Will Be The Retirement Norm For Millennials. That doesn’t sound good at all. I can’t imagine grinding away at my old job until I’m 73 years old. The Millennial generation is facing this challenge because they carry a big student loan debt. Many of them also graduated into a tough job market over the last few years which make it even more difficult to gain traction in their careers.

Here are Nerdwallet’s suggestions for the Millennials.

  • Get employer 401(k) match. The match can increase retirement saving by quite a bit.
  • Make above average contributions to retirement accounts. Easy to say, hard to do.
  • Invest in Index Funds. The stock market is still a good investment.

These are good suggestions, but I think they are missing some crucial points.

Largest Generation

The Millennial generation is 95 millions strong and they will be very influential in the years to come. The baby boomers’ influence will wane soon and the Millennials will take over. I’m not an economist, but the sheer number must mean something. I feel the Millennials will usher in a new era of prosperity over the next few decades. Whatever financial woe they have now will be solved in time. I guess I’m just an optimist at heart.

Nontraditional Careers

Over the last few years, I have met more and more people with nontraditional careers. Professional careers aren’t the only option for college graduates anymore. Millennials have a lot more choices than the previous generations and I think that made it easier to pursue their dream jobs. If you love what you do, then putting off retirement isn’t a big deal. Anyway, why retire if you’re living the dream?


Wealth has a different meaning for the Millennials than the Baby Boomers. They value freedom and experience more than material wealth. They don’t care about fancy clothes and cars and they are willing to live a more frugal lifestyle if it is rich with experience.  Many of them don’t even want cars at all and are comfortable with public transportation.

Millennials may seem unlucky, but I don’t think that will hold for long. The economy will recover and they’ll pay off those student loans one way or another. They have a lot of opportunities that previous generations never had and they are taking advantage of them.

Are you a part of the Millennial generation? What do you think about retiring at 73?

*Note – short one today. I’m turning one of my rental and I’m finding it difficult to write. I guess my mind is on the rental and not the blog right now. It’s too bad I’m not a Millennial because I can’t multitask at all. Anyway, things will be back to normal in a week or two so forgive me for the short articles in the meantime.

Photo credit: flicker Innovaro

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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48 thoughts on “Can Millennials Retire Before 73?”

  1. This makes me relieved that I didn’t take on any student loans. I’m a millennial but I can’t see myself working until I’m 73 because I have experienced the cruelty of the corporate world. I got laid off this past December. Right before Christmas and New Year’s! I thought that was pretty cold.

    In this last job the boss was very passive aggressive, she would leave me out of important meetings and training, often I would say “hello” to her and she would ignore me. She also tried to get rid of people that she did not like. Played favorites and made excuses for her favorites when they came in late, she acted like a cold fish.

    She would send emails in all caps, often directions were not clear and then she would get mad when people didn’t do things the way she wanted to. We would often ask each other what she wanted. Then the company started a round of lay offs in marketing, customer service, and the sales departments. I was surprised I wasn’t the first person in my department to get laid off but then they came for me.

    It’s kind of sad when a female boss behaves this way not only towards the men on her team, but to the women on her team as well. Even when a job environment is not as toxic as this last place was, most jobs are boring. Anyway that’s my story. As a result, I have a plan of living frugally and retiring early.

    Living frugally isn’t going to hurt me because I think you can still live frugally and still live well.
    I also don’t care much about image and status, I just care about living a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. Your blog inspires me.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your ex boss. Some people are like that. I found that it’s even more important to find the right boss than the right job. They can make your life miserable. Good luck with the next job.

  2. Yes, I’m a millennial. No, there is no way in hell I’m working until 73. I’m becoming more and more interested in early retirement, so as soon as the debt is gone, I’m upping my savings exponentially. Until then, I’m plugging away at my debt and steadily decreasing my expenses 🙂

  3. Good luck with the rental. I am a Boomer, but I can empathize with the Millennials. Things are tough for people who have been coming out of college with debt over the past few years. I, like you, am optimistic that things will get better.

  4. Well I discovered that I’m a millennial just a few short weeks ago, just scraping in having a 1981 year of birth! I’ll be retiring before I’m 40 if all goes well so that should bring the average down a bit 🙂

    I don’t think we’ll all be working till 73 for what it’s worth but I can’t really give any solid reasons why. I guess I just think the majority of people will wise up and start saving diligently at some point. Even if you don’t do this until 45 or 50 you should still be able to retire at the the traditional age of 65 if you have a college degree, which is clearly a prerequisite for having the student debt which is one of the reasons given in the article for the late retirement in the first place.

    On the other hand, I’m not so sure that our generation is that much less obsessed with money, status, and material wealth than the last as a whole, but obviously when hang in the blog circles that we do, you get the strong impression that is the case. I hope that this is the case and the reason so many blogs are appearing with such views are because there is a growing percentage of the newer generations holding said views.

  5. Yikes, 73? That would be impossible for me to stomach…

    I love 401k and retirement plans, but the thing you have to be careful with is these plans also encourages someone to keep working for their employer until the end of time…

    If you want to break out from the pact, you must also invest into generating passive income. That’s the only way you can check out early…

  6. I am a millennial and I was lucky enough to be awarded some scholarships leaving me debt free after graduating engineering college. I am planning to retire at 50 and I read this blog daily, it’s great! My piece of advice which is nothing new, but when starting your first or new job be sure to enroll in the automatic 401k deduction (I did 15%) right away. If you do it right away, you’ll never know to miss it from your take home pay because you won’t know what it’s like to have it!

    • It’s great that you don’t have any student loans. It’s such a huge saddle on your back as you’re starting out. Great job with your 401k. Just keep at it.

    • I’m an engineer who just crossed 50 and am now mulling over when to retire. Like you I also got my college and grad school completely debt free because scholarships covered full freight. It’s a huge head start being able to stash 15% starting from your very first paycheck.

      One piece of advice I’d give is to save and invest aggressively in your early years. Engineering is a field where pay bumps happen quickly, but later in our career sometimes it’s not so rosy. My first hiring manager was a great guy and warned me about this being “like a sports career”. He sketched out a salary trajectory that proved remarkably prescient– steep rise first 10-15 years but dropping at the end.

      In other words you don’t want to be counting on raises or even necessarily holding on to your job once you hit my age. I’m lucky, I like my work and it’s secure for our older crew, but a lot of jobs in newer higher-paid areas don’t do this. Get financial independence as soon as you can, then decide later if you want to leave early. Job stress and burnout are problems for those who still need to hang onto their paychecks.

      • You had a great hiring manager with good foresight. Nobody ever told me that and I had to find out for myself. I was lucky I saved aggressively and got out pretty quickly.
        It’s great that your employer give more considerations for your older crew.

  7. I’m a millennial, and I will retire before 73, but think that ’73’ number is very plausible. The government might make it so.

    [Note: In Canada] OAS/GIS benefits are getting further away. Most retirees would be able to get this benefit based on income, but the age requirement went from age 65 to age 67 (starting in April 2023). In 30 years .. is that going to be age 70 .. 73? So I have to pay into it longer, and get less out of it.

    Those with savings to help them bridge the gap will be fine, those without will work. (True for every generation.)

  8. I have a hard time even understanding what generation I’m in, let alone understanding how the other generations operate. I was born in 1980, and have been told both that I’m in the last bit of Gen X or the first bit of Gen Y. Who knows, right?

    I like the idea of Millennials taking on alternative career paths: more entrepreneurs are needed these days.

  9. Although I’ve seen myself classified as a Millennial based on year of birth (1978), I don’t consider myself one. I’ve always been skeptical of trying to define generations because most definitions, whether based on year of birth or attitudes, tend to be fluid and don’t really describe one set group of people.

    However, I do think the opportunities presented to “Millennials” aren’t particularly unique to that generation. Even Baby Boomers can utilize the Internet and technology to build an alternative to the 9 to 5 grind, and attitudes towards wealth and material items can be the same across people of any age range.

    And I’m sure each generation can very easily compile a list of reasons why they are better off or worse off than the previous generation. The challenges that Millennials face aren’t anything that previous generations haven’t overcome. Try facing a depression, bread lines, and world wars. That can give perspective.

    • I think Millennials starts in the early 80s. I’m definitely gen X at 73.
      Sure, the boomers can do these too, but it’s much more difficult for them. The Millennials seem to be much more flexible.
      I agree. College loans are nothing compare to the WW. We are really lucky.

  10. Currently I’m working on building a non-traditional career doing work I love so I’m not really that concerned about retiring one day. I don’t know that I’d ever be happy doing nothing. I’ve been working or creating businesses since I was 12 years old so to not be doing anything but relaxing sounds incredibly boring to me. Maybe I’ll change my tune when I’m in my 70s, but I still imagine I’ll want to be running a business or at least working part time somehow.

    • That’s great! Thanks for sharing. I’m sure you would slow down a bit as you get older, but working part time can be really good too. Good luck.

  11. I’m a Gen X’er and my brothers are Millennials and I am a little more optimistic than I usually would be. Yes, there are some strong headwinds, but what I see is a greater willingness and desire to take on non-traditional careers and entrepreneurism. I believe that is going to go a long way to help stem those headwinds. If I were still in the cube farm there’s no way on earth I’d still want to be working for a corporate firm til 73, but now that we run our own business I’d be much more open to it on some scale.

  12. Joe…I love your candor. Hope your rental turns quickly.

    As for age 73. Really? The reality is that life intervenes and makes a mockery of all past and future statistics. My own example is that our nest egg annuity company went bankrupt due to the junk bond fiasco of Michael Milkin. I have talked with so many hard working people whose pensions went belly up due to company management, bankruptcy, or severe illness. Remember Eastern Airlines, Berni Madoff, MCI, and the latest housing/bank scams, etc., etc.

    What to do? One huge step is for everyone to demand their congressional representatives secure Social Security. In only a few small steps, like removing caps, and making it needs based, the problem is handled. In addition, benefits need to be increased.

    For those out there who would yell…NO. NO. NO! I can assure you this is one of the very best of all retirement benefits…along with Medicare. My wife and I receive $2200 a month (for a couple) which is equivalent to having a nest egg of approximately $650,000 earning 4% annually. (By the way, that’s how much we lost due to the failure of the our annuity company.) Social Security has literally saved us from working forever even though we did everything right all along the way. It’s a safety net for all of us. Everyone reading this could lose their savings and investments due to a variety of reasons. About half of the boomer generation would be in breadlines without this safety net. (OK. I made up this figure but it would be substantial.)

    It’s time to stop politicians from using Social Security as a political football kicking it from one generation to the next. Just demand a solution that benefits all American citizens.

  13. I’m a Millennial and not in debt and I worked it out and I won’t have to work until I’m 73 and I’m in pretty great shape financially. That’s funny; I’m one of those who does take the bus in LA and I value experiences moreso than material things, but I also keep the company of much elderly people who have influenced my financial disposition. I don’t think that it’s particularly difficult to get a job, etc, but then again it depends on a person’s perspective and I’ve always been a workaholic. The one time I did have to look for a job a few years ago, I literally had 13 offers in a week. I think that we are more aware of the ‘multiple streams of income’ concept. I think that this generation is figuring out what my father said years ago, which is that learning is a lifelong process; it’s not just enough anymore to get a piece of paper and become stagnant for the rest of your life. To me, that’s a good thing (then again, I”m an optimistic millennial).

  14. I missed the millennial cut off by a couple of years, but I’m pretty sure most industrious hard working millennials can make it to some form of retirement well before age 73. There are so many ways to make a decent living today. And so many things that millennials devour are free or very cheap compared to a generation ago (technology and online education, for example).

    They are a pretty lucky generation, and the only reason the members of that cohort don’t succeed will be a lack of ambition and creativity or a “can’t do” attitude. From what I’ve seen of the millennials, I think they will turn out okay.

  15. My nephew is graduating from a 6 year Pharmacy program $150,000 in debt. His starting salary is going to be around 130K plus benefits so I don’t think it’s a big problem IF he follows through with the things we talked about. He seems to be eager to learn about the FI world and he understands that with a salary like that and despite the debt he has an opportunity to get to FI quickly. I wrote a post about finance talks with my very own Millennial connection (nephew) and I feel like he will be just fine.

    I believe that with all the information, blogs, companies like Vanguard and the Internet in general it’s actually easier to get to FI for the Millennials than it was for the previous generations.

    • I agree, your nephew will be fine! Especially if he’s single / no dependents and do not plan on kids in the next 3-4 years. His $130K will be somewhere around $80K-$90K net a year assuming maxing out 401K and saving $5,500 for Roth IRA. He can live on a little frugally on $30K – paying his parents for rent or saving that money on a down payment, and have $50K+ left of cash flow to service the debt. It’ll be gone in 3-4 years and by that time, he will have saved $70K-$80K in retirement fund, and be debt-free.

    • Good luck to your nephew. That’s a lot of debt. He would have been able to achieve FI much faster without that $150k loan, but he wouldn’t have that pharmacist job either. I think it all even out.
      You’re right about the financial education. It’s so much easier to get some exposure to financial advice now. In previous decades, you’d have to buy a book. 🙂

      • Thanks! I think it’s better to have 150K in debt with 130K yearly income than 20K in debt with 24K yearly income – which is where I was after graduating. I lived in the same city as him but rented my own apartment while he will be living with his parents till the debt is gone – paying something, but certainly not as much as renting your own place. Once he pays off his student loans the potential to become FI quickly is much greater for him, especially with expected salary increases, since 130K is just a starting salary. We shall see!

      • It sounds silly the way you put that about having to get information in a book being much harder doesn’t it? But it’s definitely true, especially when you consider the chance of accidentally stumbling across an article that might change your life. I mean you wouldn’t accidentally buy a book then proceed to read the whole thing would you. An internet article on the other hand… Well I’m here now so why not? I think the accidental nature of discovery on the internet is a powerful phenomenon and a wonderful potential benefit our generation has over those past.

  16. I think the Millenials still have time on their side to make up for the bad economy. I also think that what the Baby Boomers and Gen X thought of as the traditional “American Dream” is changing, so we might not be able to really compare the generations. I’m also curious as to how the age of 73 was calculated. Is that based on inflation? Or lack of enough income to save?

    • That was mostly due to big student loans which take away their ability to save for retirement. I think a minority of Gen X have different view of the American dream. For Gen Y, it might be the majority of them. I guess we’ll see.

  17. I am optimistic for millennials as well, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t those that could hinder progress.

    My biggest concern, as a 30 yr old today, is that along with the innovative of us, there will be those that don’t strive/sacrifice to live a good life on less. In other words, those who don’t have a good influence around them to get them headed in the right direction.

    I’m a bleeding liberal so I’m probably more optimistic than even you but there definitely are concerns, as there always will be.

    Enjoyed this shorter to the point piece.

    The Warrior

  18. I’m a Millennial and I cannot fathom the idea of working until I’m 73. That’s working until my death! I am hoping to actually find my way to financial independence sooner rather than later. By May, I hope to have 3K to open up an account at Vanguard and put some money into a mutual fund. I’m also contributing to a Roth IRA monthly as well as my 401(K) – double the amount I need to put in for my match – and am now starting the process of paying off one of my student loans. I hope that I’m making more right moves than wrong. It’s almost embarrassing to be a part of this generation. My friends, also racked with student loans and less-then-optimal jobs, complain all the time about the boat they are in, but don’t make the effort to get a better job or to budget their money (new clothes and Starbucks every week? Really?). It’s frustrating to see how self-defeating/self-perpetuating the lifestyle is and all they want is someone to just bail them out. While I do feel like my hard work will get me somewhere, eventually, I sometimes think that it will be the same place their squeaking wheel will get the grease.

    I noticed a trend on FB to always talk abut crappy financial situations, which also adds fuel to the hopeless fires, so my boyfriend and I try to post positive updates to be better influences. We paid off a credit card! I opened a new high-interest online savings account to hold our emergency funds! His 401K hit 5 figures! Things like that, to show that it is possible with limited cash. I hope we are having an impact, a good one, on others. It’s a small step, but a step nonetheless.

    • Jamie, you don’t have to wait till you get $3,000 together to open a brokerage account with Vanguard. I just went through the same thing with my nephew (see my post below) and found a workaround. He wanted to open an account but only had $200 to start. We called Vanguard and they told us to select “fund by check” when opening an account. Then just mail a paper check with whatever you have – in his case it was $200. They got the check and manually deposited it into his account. As soon as it cleared, he was able to buy shares with that $200. They don’t publicize this, but it works if you give them a call!

    • Good luck with everything. Investing early is the right move even if the market goes down. You will learn a lot of experience and you’ll be ahead of your peer. Just keep investing over the long term and I’m sure you’ll come out ahead. Great job being optimistic AND proactive. That’s call making your own luck.

  19. Millennial here. I have high confidence that I will FIRE by 30. That is only a few years away! It amazes me how little money my wife and I need to life a rich life compared to our income. I sometimes wonder how others spend so much money.

      • Hi Amy! I don’t keep a blog, but here is a quick summary.

        Key points: dual income, no kids, college educations, STEM fields, good pay (but not amazing), we’ve never had any debt, low cost of living in a midwest city, bought foreclosed home with cash and did as many repairs ourselves as we could handle, strategically located ourselves to take advantage of public transportation for commuting, single 10+ year old car, cook our own meals, bring lunch to work, save 75%+ of income, avoid lifestyle inflation, invest at Vanguard, using tax advantaged retirement account strategically (Roth pipeline), asking “do we really need to buy this?”, having an amazing and like-minded wife

        I’ve been strongly interested in personal finance since high school with the idea of becoming financially independent. A few years ago I discovered Early Retirement Extreme and Mr Money Mustache. That’s when I realized that I could cut my expenses even lower while living a rich life and accelerate my goal of FI. It has meant rejecting the cultural norms of consuming and spending. This has been healthy for us financially as well as spiritually. As a Christian I want to focus on relationships with God and people; I don’t want possessions to have hold of me.

        When assets reach 25 times our annual living expenses (per the 4% rule), I will consider it Mission Accomplished. I may work a bit longer for fun or spending money while trying to cut hours, but I just don’t see myself doing that for long. At that point we may have kids. I see myself building things, volunteering a lot in the community and church, playing video games, and traveling to visit friends and family that have moved away. And I could always earn some extra money doing things I like as I feel like it.

        I’m buying my freedom, one paycheck at a time.

        • That’s awesome. I wish I learned about ERE when I was in high school. You have such a huge head start. That’s what I mean about having information available on the internet. It’s so much easier to get exposed to new ideas at a young age these days.

  20. Yup, I am a millenial. Yup, I’d hate it if I had to retire at 73. That’s why I will do my best to make sure it will happen sooner. Indeed, I am part of the “nontraditional careers” group since I’ve worked from home for almost my entire professional career and I hope to do it from various other countries too – and I consider that to be a huge advantage compared to the career options of a few decades ago.

    I am one of the older Millenials, born in 1984, and I am a bit worried about the new generations who seem to put less value on education and most important, self improvement. Many of the young people I know (born somewhere in the mid 90s) don’t really know where they want to head to in life, have a worse education than I do (and I wasn’t one of the bright kids) and are generally content with slacking instead of doing something and working for their future. But lets hope that your optimism is right and everything will be great.

    • Every generation thinks worse of the generation behind them… it’s a rite of passage. See here: a 1950 LIFE magazine article has 28-year old writer and comedian Bill Mauldin defending the WWII generation (which later would be called the “Greatest Generation”) against charges that the younger generation doesn’t work hard enough and lacks ambition.

    • I’m sure they will pull themselves together. It’s natural for young people to not know where they’re going. Gen X is the same way and it worked out fine. Your nontraditional career is great. That kind of option didn’t even exist a few decade ago. Well, I guess it did, but it must have been much more difficult to make a living with nontraditional careers in the old days.

  21. My girlfriend and I are both millennials. We graduated with a large amount of student loan. I landed a well paying job while she ended up in a suboptimal position. We definitely don’t plan on working till we are 73. I could see us doing the “odd jobs” or hobby job of love in “retirement.”

    We are both hustling as best we can and keeping expenses low so we will have the option of early retirement. It isn’t because we want to stop working but because we want the freedom to be in jobs we love. 40-50 seems to be the range we are aiming for at this point with me at the low end and my girlfriend at the high end.

    • Thanks for sharing. The definition of retirement is changing too. These days, we’d rather work less and do something we love. I don’t want to retire to life of leisure at all. Good luck!


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