In today’s CNNMoney “Ask the Expert” column, a 33-year-old reader wants to know if he can can count on an early retirement.

I’m 33 years old and have $75,000 saved in my 401(k). I make $70,000 a year and contribute 10 percent of my salary to my 401(k). My company then matches the first 6 percent. Am I on track to retire at 55, or should I open a Roth IRA to supplement my 401(k)?

As you might expect, Walter Updegrave, CNNMoney’s “expert”, notes that early retirement presents two distinct problems:

…by shooting for an early retirement, you’ve upped the bar considerably. You’ll have less time to accumulate the savings you’ll need in retirement, and you’ll be drawing on those savings for a longer time. That sort of double-whammy is what makes early retirement more difficult, although by no means impossible, to achieve.

Updegrave uses a series of financial calculators — including Simply Effective’s Where Am I Heading? calculator — to answer the question and to explore alternative scenarios. What happens if the young man who asked the question invests more each year? What if he works until sixty? What about Social Security?

These are questions we each need to ask on our path toward financial independence.

(If you have even more money saved for retirement — several hundred thousand dollars, for example — you may find Updegrave’s advice on investing for income useful.)

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