An older woman with her arms around her husband enjoying a sunset by the seashore

By starting early and planning carefully, you can retire at 55 and begin a new chapter in life.

Many active adult communities require homeowners to be above 55, giving way to the assumption that the majority of homeowners in such communities are retired. Many people would like to retire by 55 and have more time to travel, learn new things, and spend time with friends and family; however, according to MSN, the average retirement age is 64.

Today, a 55-year old American will not technically reach full retirement age (where they can collect their full Social Security Benefits) until they're 67 years old. But this doesn’t mean that retiring at 55 is an unreachable dream. Here’s how you can do it.

Start Planning Early

Many people who decide they want to retire early start thinking about that when they turn 50, which is generally too late to make it a reality. According to CNBC, most Americans don’t even have enough money in their retirement accounts at age 50 to retire comfortably at age 67, much less at age 55.

To retire at 55, you need enough money saved to last you many more years of your life, which means planning how to save that money and how to spend it wisely.

Determine How Much Money You Need

Two big questions for those who want to retire are: "how much money will I need in retirement?" and "where will that income come from?" The honest answers to those questions are unique to each individual, where they live, and what type of lifestyle they want to have in retirement.

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is about 79 years. However, life expectancy is also dependent upon each individual. Financial planners would suggest that with retirement planning, people should go beyond the average expected and include money for higher health care costs as we age. So, retiring at 55 could mean saving enough for 35 more years of income.

Business Insider estimates that if someone wants an income of $100,000 a year in retirement, they would need $3.45 million in a taxable investment account. A $65,000 a year income shrinks that account to $2.2 million. CNN Money recommends a simpler formula of 30 to 35 times a normal annual income. Regardless of someone’s income at retirement, other important factors to consider include housing costs, the costs of travel and other fun things planned for retirement, and health care costs.

Learn How Policies Will Impact Your Retirement

One big consideration for those who want to retire early is not where their income will come from, but where their health care will come from. In the United States, health care is traditionally tied to employment. Americans can't get on Medicare until age 65, which would leave a 55-year-old retiree ten years without coverage.

Today, options include buying health care on the health care exchanges set up under the Affordable Healthcare Act or paying for COBRA (Continuation of Health Coverage). However, these options can be an unexpected cost. AARP found that adults aged 50 to 74 who buy their own health insurance can spend over $8,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses in addition to premiums.

Another policy that may impact income is when a retirement account will allow you to withdraw funds. Many Americans have retirement accounts in the form of 401(k)s or IRAs, which stipulate that withdrawing money before the account holder is 59-and-a-half years old will incur a penalty. Those who want to retire at 55 will have to have about five years of income that doesn’t come from retirement accounts or Social Security.

Diversify Your Investments

One way to cover that five-year gap is by diversifying investments. While retirement accounts may stipulate the age when someone can withdraw money, other types of investments do not.

For example, a simple savings account can always be accessed. Retirement accounts are made up of stocks, but additional stock and bond purchases can benefit a diverse portfolio and be sold at any time for income. Other experts recommend annuities, which provide a consistent income stream over a period of time.

Find Other Income Streams

While working a nine-to-five job is usually the most common form of income, retiring from that job can offer the opportunity for other types of income. For some, this could mean downsizing to a home that's smaller, less expensive, or in a place with a lower cost of living. Retiring at 55 can also give people the opportunity to invest in real estate and gain income through rentals. Finally, retiring can provide an opportunity to work part-time at a more enjoyable job, such as a museum tour guide, a freelance writer, or something else equally fun.