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59 1/2 is the age at which one can retire early and start to receive retirement plan distributions without penalty, you can get full access to your money in a company plan such as a 401(k) if you "retire young" at 55. The hitch is, you have to stop working entirely. If you plan early retirement at a younger age, you'll owe a penalty for spending the money early unless you follow a very specific set of rules for withdrawing it. Some company plans allow this, others don't. Check with your financial advisor or your company's 401(k) representative to find out what your options are.