The first step on the checklist is to get an overview of your personal economy: How much you earn and how much you spend. I would recommend to consider the whole family, but you can start with yourself.

Income

This should be easy: Every money that goes into your account. For most people, the largest chunk will be the monthly salary after taxes. Depending on where you live, there could be other items like parental leave compensation, sick leave compensation, or child benefit.

Pro tip: To determine your accurate income, you should include your yearly tax return. Count it towards the year that it applies to, most often the previous year.

Expenses

If you live in Sweden, you are likely to pay all your expenses by credit card. That way, all the information you need is in your bank statement. Some banks offer an automatic classification of expenses. That way, you can keep track of how much you spend in different areas.

The most important areas for my family are:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Vacation
  • Transportation
  • Other

If the “other” expenses are too many, you should try to break down your expenses more or differently.

It is a good idea to keep track of how expenses change over the years. A yearly inflation of around 2% is expected. If an area of expenses increases more than that, it is good to be aware of that.

Saving

Hopefully, the difference between your income (let us say I) and your expenses (let us say E) is positive:

S = I – E > 0

That S is what you can save. You might also be interested in your savings ratio: S divided by I.

For example: If you earn 4000 EUR a month and spend a total of 3000 EUR, your savings ratio is 1000 EUR / 4000 EUR = 25%.

A 25% savings ratio would be a great personal economy. The OECD has really interesting data here, where you can see the savings ratio over time for different countries. People in most developed countries save 5% to 10% of their income on average. Swizz and Swedes save a bit more, around 15%. The country that really sticks out is China, with a savings ratio of around 35%.

So then: How much should you save to retire early? There is no simple answer. It depends very much on your exact plans. We will look into the details in the next step of our checklist.

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