With stories of people achieving financial independence in their 30s and 40s saturating the Internet, the prospect of early retirement can begin to seem like an achievable goal. And for many, it can be — but only if you prepare early.
If you start saving in your 20s with the goal of retiring by 40, you'll need to aim to save and invest at least 50 percent of each paycheck to reach your goal. You should also put at least part of any bonuses or stock options toward your growing retirement fund.
But even if you're a diligent saver, if you're starting the process after you've already established a life and a career, you're probably already a step behind, Kimmie Greene, money expert at Intuit and spokeswoman for Mint.com, tells CNBC Make It.