You probably can. You just didn't know it, or how attainable it really could be.
Retirement is just the point where your non-work income is sufficient to support your lifestyle. Non-work income would be living off your savings and investments. Is that possible?
It really boils down to spending control. Spending control so you have rapidly build enough savings to live off, and then spending control so that you can live off what you've saved.
Now "possible" is not the same as "easy." Living super-frugally isn't for everyone, and I'm not sure I could do it myself. But let's walk through a hypothetical life to see how it may work.
Let's say you go finish college at age 22 and get a job making $60k/yr. Let's assume you also get married to your college sweetheart and end up with a combined household gross income of $100,000. Let's assume that over time, your income will rise at about 4% per year between cost of living raises and promotions.
You set the goal of living very frugally. You find an apartment for $800/mo. You eschew car payments and decide that a different $3k jalopy every other year will have to do. You ride your bike most places, you don't go out to eat very much at all, and you entertain yourself mostly be reading and playing board games or knitting. You have the cheapest internet package, no TV at all, and an old cell phone with T9Word for texting as your only phone, so you spend only $80 a month for all your home communications services.
You live off $1000 a month for groceries, toiletries, clothing, and utilities and such. You shop at Aldi and try to go cheap whenever you can. You get your clothes from TJ Maxx or another steep discounter. You be sure not to waste energy. You get a black belt in the couponing arts.
You scrape every penny you know how to scrape, and put all the rest into savings. You make that after-tax income of about $75k go as far as you can.
The first year, you save just over $53,000 and put it in an investment account, which on average returns a reasonable 8% per year.
What happens is that after 10 years of this "extreme" frugality, you've got $925k in your investment account.
You Retire at age 32. Your $925k can be withdrawn at 4% per year and basically you will never run out of money.
You now have an annual investment income of $40,000. This is income that comes in when you don't work a lick. You get paid to do absolutely nothing.
$40k goes a LONG way when you have no debt at all. Best of all, your investment are still slowly growing-- you're not taking out as much money as your investments are making.
You decide you'd like a modest house. You take out $150k and pay cash for a nice little house. Now your investment income drops to only $34k, but you aren't paying any rent or mortgage, either. Since this investment income is taxed as a capital gain, you only pay a $15% tax rate.
You end up with a paid-for home, about $1 million in the bank, and an after-tax income of about $30k.
Now, you'd think you can't make it on $30k a year. But can you?
This is almost $2500 a month of purely disposable income. No mortage or rent. No payments of any kind whatsoever.
You can defintely make it on that amount of money. You and your spouse both quit working and live another 30-50 years or so with no need to work.
Your mileage will vary, but guess what? There's someone who has done this very thing, and he has a blog about retiring in his 30s.