Image: Jennifer Aniston
Jeffrey Mayer  /  WireImage
Actress Jennifer Aniston, 41, reportedly earned $25 million in 2008, but Hollywood roles can be few and far between for actresses over 40.
updated 5/13/2010 7:48:35 AM ET 2010-05-13T11:48:35

Are you dreaming of retiring young? Not all careers are designed to last until the golden age of 65 — some people get rich and bow out early, while others are forced to pack it in while they're under 40. Whether by choice or not, here are six careers that end young.

1. Investment banking
Government bailouts, frowned-upon employee bonuses — the financial industry doesn't exactly have the best public image, but the earnings are still substantial. The risk of failure is great, but so are the rewards if you make the right move at the right time: Investment bankers make an average of $73,000 a year — a respectable number, but remember that the earning potential has a high ceiling.

Take 31-year-old Fabrice Pierre Tourre (dubbed Fabulous Fab), who saw the housing bust coming and hedged against it. Though question marks are now being raised about the legal and moral compliance of these actions, right now he could retire at 31 off his prediction that the housing bubble was about to bust.

2. Acting
You may have heard how top-earning actress Angelina Jolie makes $27 million a year, and that Jennifer Aniston comes in at second place at $25 million — according to Forbes. These paychecks sound really great, but Hollywood is a tough employer. Those high earnings are the exception to the rule, and careers can flunk overnight.

Actresses are at particular risk of a forced early retirement, since the big screen isn't kind to wrinkles, and the industry likes its female talent under 40 and wrinkle-free. Still, if you make it big like Ms. Jolie and Ms. Aniston, you'll be able to retire comfortably in your Malibu mansion and let the younger crowd take over while you take in the California sun.

3. Military
The training is brutal, the hours long, and the deployments wrenching, but a career in the military can be a great way to ensure an early retirement. Say you joined at 18 — you can draw a (be it modest) retirement when you've served 20 years, at the age of 38.

Medical and education benefits add to the perks. Many military careerists go on to nicely paying jobs working for contractors, or continue to build their retirement payout by working as government employees. When you add job security and tax perks, those combat boots start to look pretty tempting.

4. Sports
If you've ever watched a football quarterback take a brutal hit, or watched a baseball player hit that perfect home run, you know the skill to take the heat on the field is rare. Athletes can be paid millions for their talent, like Indianapolis Colt's Peyton Manning's rumored $50 million long-term deal, once his current contract expires.

These kinds of paychecks require great commitment, however, and end when the athlete's body no longer performs at optimum — which is most certainly a few decades before the standard retirement age of 65.

5. Modeling
Their beauty is dazzling, but it also fades faster than any other job attribute. To gain success, models often start working during their teens, and are considered at the peak of their careers before they're even legally allowed to drink. Pay can be high for those in couture or with a famous supermodel image, like top-earning Gisele Bundchen, who — according to Forbes — makes $25 million a year.

To earn these types of salaries, models have to snag endorsement deals or branch out into television, like Heidi Klum, number two on the top-earning model list. Many older models go on to work in fashion or design, or find lucrative endorsement deals, like Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley.

6. Dancing
It sounds so romantic to be a ballet dancer, but to dance professionally does mean to be young. Often said to be harder than any sport, dancing requires you to be in top physical condition (and keep your weight down), practice, travel and generally be devoted to your profession beyond your average career. To be successful, dancers must start training at a young age, with first professional auditions at the age of 17.

Pay is generally low, with top-earning performers making just over $15 an hour. Dancers often stop performing by their late 30s; some go on to work as choreographers or teachers.

The end of the employment road?
Although these careers have short fuse, many who retire from their jobs go on to branch out as consultants, teachers or do contract work. Some, like famous actors, athletes or investment bankers, just strike it rich and can spend their young years spending their fortune — giving us doing the 9-to-5 something to dream about.

© Investopedia ULC


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