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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

20 Questions We Are Frequently Asked

Media Interviews with Billy and Akaisha

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

January, 1991:  At the age of 38, Billy and Akaisha packed it up, sold everything, left the conventional working world, and moved to Nevis, a 36 sq. mile island in the Caribbean.  From there they started traveling and haven't looked back.

"Life is an adventure, follow your dreams."

People have always asked us why we left our beautiful home and our successful careers for a lifestyle of travel. But the questions over the 30+ years of our Financial independence have changed.

In the early years people wanted to know if they could retire if they had children, and barely believed us when we said “YES!” But, of course, with today’s emphasis on FIRE, there are many stories of young retirees with children leaving the conventional work force. So that path has been blown wide open.

Today, the questions to us are different.

Take a look below.

Updated March, 2024

Billy and Akaisha at Mar de Jade, Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha at Mar de Jade, Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico

How do you define retirement?

When we “retired” in 1991, there was no word for Financial Independence. We don’t really use the word “retired” any longer, but rather describe ourselves as Financially independent – which means we can do what we want, when we want, where we want.

We spend a good deal of our time doing volunteer work, and our website is one of our volunteer projects. We want more people to become free of being wage slaves. We use our free time to travel, learn languages and new skills.

Who taught or influenced you about money when you were growing up? What was the impact?

When we grew up, both of us had hard working fathers who supported the traditional family. Neither of our fathers understood investing, nor was the concept of “wealth” or “working smart” ever discussed. It was the philosophy of work hard, save for the future, find value in what you purchase, buy Certificates of Deposit, have a savings account, buy life insurance.

Billy thought a little more outside the box and began as a teenager to read the Wall Street Journal stock tables. He intuitively understood having his money work for him, and initially wanted to purchase enough of a local utility dividend stock to pay his monthly utility bill. We didn’t begin serious investing until we hit a business snag with our restaurant when we were in our thirties. Using this obstacle as an opportunity to invest changed our lives.

Do you discuss money or financial matters with friends and family? Why, or why not?

We have conversations with some of our family members and some of our friends, but mostly not. One would think that, since we hit Financial Independence 30+ years ago, that our family and friends would be flocking to us for advice and guidance, but such is not the case.

Everyone in our family and all of our previous friends (not the new ones we have met through our website and travel) worked until retirement age, collect a pension or inherited family money through the death of their parent. Maybe FIRE just isn’t for everyone!

We don’t understand the “secret” everyone wants to keep about money, or the fear many hold surrounding it. There is nothing mysterious about money and the numbers work the same for everyone.

How did you ultimately find the courage to FIRE? (How did you avoid "one more year syndrome"?)

Billy was working days and having weekends off, and Akaisha was working nights, weekends and holidays at the restaurant. We were like ships passing in the night. Our relationship suffered greatly, and we could choose to end our marriage or jump forward  into living our dream of traveling the world.

By this time, we had managed several large business problems and had matured early in life. So, we knew we could figure out any problems we might face on this new road of adventure. We didn’t hesitate.

We retired in January of 1991… and then the Gulf War broke out that same month with US travel warnings everywhere. We pressed on. There is never a perfect time to retire.

Were ETFs even around back then? How did you invest?

A catastrophic event in our city shut our restaurant down for a week, and it was at that time we decided that we needed another source of income. This is when we began to invest in the stock market.

We bought Exxon stock every chance we could. Mutual funds were around but no ETF’s. Eventually we sold the stock to purchase our home and looking back this was a bad financial move.

If we knew then what we know now, we would never have sold that stock to purchase our house.

 

 

 

 

Has your investment strategy changed in the past 30 years?

Yes, as we have aged we started moving into some dividend ETF’s like DVY, (iShares Select Dividend ETF) to increase our cash flow. Today, including our Social Security, we are roughly 50/50 growth to income and between dividends and Social Security covering our expenses, we can let our portfolio grow.

Do you believe sacrifice is necessary in order to achieve FI? Why, or Why not?

We would prefer to call it discipline, and yes, discipline is needed to achieve FIRE.

It will not be given to you, unless you inherit tons of money. And then - because you might not know the value of what you just received - you could squander away that money and no longer be FIRE’d. We’ve seen this happen.

Tracking one's spending, learning the language of Finance, preparing for the future of your own best life transforms you. We don’t think you can get there without that transformation. Being uncomfortable can be a good thing. It causes one to grow.

Your expenses were $20,000 USD/year for the 2 of you back in 1991. Now, according to your blog, it's $30,000 USD/year. That means your yearly inflation rate was less than the prescribed 2%/year. How did you manage to beat inflation?

Basically, we live a very happy minimalist lifestyle.

The cost of living in Arizona where our manufactured home is located is one of the cheapest places we have ever lived. In fact, recently this location was just named the #1 place for retirees to live. Much of what we need (restaurants, groceries, entertainment) is within walking distance.

We don’t have high property taxes or expensive house insurance. We “went naked” of health insurance decades ago and we haven't owned a car for nearing 20 years now. We walk, bike, take local transport or utilize one of the ride sharing options.

Since we do so much travel, our needs are nominal – if you want it, you carry it – so our wardrobe is functional, not always the latest fashion.

We utilized Geo-Arbitrage almost from the very beginning (before that word was coined) and our exercise and sports requirements are very affordable (hiking, biking, tennis, yoga, reading, taking digital photos, writing on our blog, studying indigenous cultures and food, cooking our own meals, enjoying each other’s company, etc.).

When one’s needs are minimal – without sacrifice – inflation isn’t much of a problem.

These days we are looking to spend more as we could run out of time before we run out of money.

How did you handle deciding on and paying for healthcare?

Because we had been self-employed for so long, we were already used to paying for our own health insurance.

For the first several years of our lives without a job we had a US-based, high deductible emergency health care plan. But since we were traveling the globe, we would find ourselves taking care of our medical needs in whatever country we might be – whether it was dental, being sick, having an emergency, getting special tests, eye glasses and so on. We were participating in Medical Tourism before there was such a word. So eventually we just dropped our US health insurance and went “Naked” as they say in the community. Now we qualify for Medicare but we get our medical needs taken care of here in Mexico.

Was there any emotional impact from leaving the workforce?

Other than de-stressing, there was no emotional impact from leaving the workforce. We have always been productive people so we didn’t identify with our jobs per se. Our careers were just the framework within which we were creative and dynamic. When we left our professions we simply found other pathways to be valuable and to contribute.

Billy and Akaisha, Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha on the beach!

Can you give us some insights into your post-retirement spending and income? How much do you spend annually and on what? And where does the income to pay for your spending come from?

You can see our annual spending update here.

We typically spend around $30,000USD annually for all living expenses including travel, health care, dining, entertainment, food, rent -- the usual. We do not budget separately for travel, as it is our lifestyle.

We live off our investments as we always have from the beginning. We now receive Social Security which we didn’t qualify for initially, and we have dividends. All of this income is far more than what we spend, so we re-invest in the market, and keep several years of spending in cash in case of market downturns.

We don’t budget at all. We track our spending daily, spending a fraction of our net worth, and we travel as a lifestyle, not a vacation. If we want something or need something we purchase it. We know right away in real time what percentage of our net worth we are spending.

As we mentioned previously, these days we are choosing to spend more annually, having more comfort in our travels.

Did you return to paid work? Why or why not?

There was only one time we even considered returning to paid work and that was in the down market of 2008-2009. But then we realized that by the time we purchased a car (with the costs of maintenance, insurance, parking, and fuel) and re-supplied our work wardrobe (and lunches out, commuting time and expense) and moved to a location where employment was abundant, that we weren’t willing to make those adjustments.

We made some changes in our portfolio, tracked our spending, utilized geo-arbitrage to reduce spending and continued living our lifestyle. In fact, we made about 6 or 7 trips to Thailand during that time period and just after.

Did you find it hard going from being a saver to a spender?

As we have aged, it did feel odd to spend more.

We don’t have children, so besides the charities and special causes we will leave money to, there is no point in bringing this money with us to the grave.

What is your social life like?

Our social life is wide and varied.

We host friends from around the world who come and visit, some from the Philippines, Panama, Thailand, Guatemala and the States. There are private and public music concerts and theater and lots of activities like tennis, pickleball, going to the natural hot springs, hiking, and walking around town. Sometimes we'll go to the beach or to a thriving international Colonial City in Mexico, or visit another country. Last year we made two trips to Europe, Italy, Malta, Paris and the Caribbean. This year we will go to Japan, Thailand Vietnam and the Caribbean once again.

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

We might do two things differently.

Had we known better, we would not have sold our Exxon stock to purchase our home in the 1980s. The Exxon stock performed far better than our coastal home in California and was more liquid.

The second thing we would have done differently, is that we would have been more prepared for the emotional factor of leaving “conventional society.” We hadn’t expected the pushback and thought friends and family would be happy for us and supportive of our choice. We learned a lot, but that was sometimes difficult, confusing and unexpected to go through.

What did your friends and family think of your unconventional plans?

In 1991, our leaving the working world challenged the belief system of Everyone. We. Knew.

Remember, this was before personal computers were commonplace, before financial forums, Skype, blogs, Amazon, Facebook, email, WhatsApp and the internet as we know it today. We were walking on a "high wire" with no net, but we had a lot of confidence in ourselves. It was an adventure we wanted to take, as we were following our dreams.

How do you manage your finances and mail while traveling so much?

We have very little "snail mail" coming to us now, and 99% of our communication and bill paying is done electronically. It wasn't this way when we started over three decades ago, but the internet has made dealing with these obligations much easier. Today we utilize Traveling Mailbox where we can view our mail online from anywhere in the world. They will deposit a check for us or forward our mail to any address where we might be traveling.

We also utilize a personal assistant who handles private matters and various things that need to be done if we are on the road.

We explain this topic in more detail in our very popular books, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement, 5th Edition, A New Perspective and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible

Akaisha in a coffee shop, Oaxaca, Mexico

Akaisha in a coffee shop, Oaxaca, Mexico

Do you have long-term care insurance? Now that you are getting older, what do you plan to do about assisted living in the future?

We do not have long-term care insurance.

Over our decades of living around the world, we have seen different options for personalized care for the elderly or infirm.

If one is still able to manage on their own but would like some personalized daily attention like cleaning the home, cooking or shopping, this service is very affordable. Countries in Asia, Mexico and Central America where we have lived, wages are less so house keepers, gardeners, and dog walkers are readily available and economical. Private drivers on retainer to take you to doctors appointments, to meet friends for lunch or go to social events are also very inexpensive.

The option of having a live-in caregiver is easily managed. Some people have a small apartment or casita on their property where a nurse or caregiver may stay as part of their wages. Or if one lives in an apartment complex, then paying for a caregiver's apartment next to yours is also an option. Doctors commonly make house calls.

If you would rather live in an Assisted Living facility, here in the town of Chapala, Mexico for instance, there are a variety that are full service. Laundry, meals, nurse and doctor visits, a driver, activities, swimming pools, a gym, and more are included in the monthly price. Sometimes there are restaurants, beauty shops, and scheduled shopping trips available. Medical "packages" can also be purchased. These monthly rates - depending on the services one needs - currently run from $1,500 to $3,000+ a month.

With all of these feasible and convenient choices available, we figured we'd work out something that fits our situation, should we need help. There are so many options here.

How much capital is enough? How/when did you know you were ready to retire?

 

 

 

 

When our days filled up with more "have to's" than "want to's," we realized we were going in the wrong direction with our lives. The amount of capital is a personal decision, and one that needs to be thought about carefully. Financial experts say one needs 25 times your annual spending invested in liquid assets and apply a Safe Withdrawal Rate of 4%  or less and you should not run out of money.

As far as when to retire, do not let Fear make that decision for you. Risk has a price, and so does security.

With your investments in the stock market, were you hurt in any of the bear markets over your retirement time period? Did it affect your lifestyle?

Did we get hurt? Sure we got hurt, but did it alter our lifestyle? Not much if any. 

We continue to travel and expand our lives through what we learn and share. We survived the second worst bear market in history and the Great Recession, lived well to tell about it, and have a higher net worth now, after expenses and inflation, than when we began in '91.

Retirement is not static. There are always changes in Life and one must be prepared for the ups and downs that happen.

Why don’t you run out of money? How can you have more money now than when you left your careers in 1991?

Today we have a higher net worth after spending and inflation due to the fact that we created a money machine. What this means is that our investments create enough cash flow to cover living expenses and higher costs of living and as long as we keep our spending in a safe withdrawal range our assets should continue to grow. After 30+ years of using this system we can say that it works.

Do you own a car? What do you do about transportation? 

We became car free two decades ago.

The adjustment to this carless lifestyle was easier than we ever expected. Now we don't worry about maintenance, licensing, parking fees, fuel costs or insurance for a vehicle. In the States we hire a driver to take us places if we cannot walk to them and share rides with friends. Generally, we prefer walking to and from stores if at all possible.

These days there are Uber, Lyft, Didi and other transport services besides taxis, and there is always the idea of ride sharing or sharing a vehicle.

Transportation is easy in foreign countries. Mass transit, tuk tuks, taxis, boats and a variety of other sorts are plentiful and is available for a low expense. We often hire a private driver to take us places, including to major cities for doctor's appointments. They drive us there, wait for us, and then drive us back. Easy peasy!

Billy in a Chicken bus in Panajachel, Guatemala

Billy in a Chicken bus in Panajachel, Guatemala

Do you have children?

We do not have children. However, that does not mean that those who do cannot become financially independent. We know people who have adult children and plenty of money, but feel they cannot afford to retire or step away from a paycheck. It's not the kids. It's the mental fear surrounding this issue.

We have interviewed several couples with children who have successfully broken away from conventional lifestyles. And of course, this way of living isn't for everyone.

Will you ever settle down, buy a house and quit traveling?

We'll probably continue to travel until we are no longer able to do so. While we never want to say never, at our ages, purchasing a home with all that it requires in attention, maintenance, taxes and insurance, might not be the best use of our assets.

What have you learned by being retired for 30+ years?

1.) It’s a lifestyle, not a vacation

2.) The stress doesn’t stop, it just changes form. 

3.) We utilize the K.I.S.S. system (Keep It Simple, Stupid);  Keeping it simple pays dividends in time and enjoyment. 

4.) Retirement is a work in progress, and we're in charge. 

5.) Don't take life so seriously, have fun with it! It's later than you think! 

I admire what you are doing, but it sounds risky. Aren't you being naive?

When we were in our late 30's preparing to leave the conventional workplace, people certainly did think we were being naive and expected us to fail at this endeavor. After all these years we have walked the talk and have proven that early retirement can not only work out, but bring major life benefits as well.

We say that Life is a risk. There are no guarantees for anything; health, marriage, bear markets, the unexpected, weather, tragedy. Since we have been retired, we have "survived" SARS, the Asian Bird Flu, H1N1, the Ebola breakouts, the bear market of 2000, The Great Recession, the first Gulf War, coups in foreign countries, COVID, the deaths of close friends and some funny traveling debacles just to name a few.   

We like what Helen Keller says: "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."

What would you say to someone considering leaving the conventional working world and becoming financially independent?

Know your motivation. Are you wanting to quit a job you “hate”? Or are you pulled by your dreams to do something different? What will you do with your time after you no longer have a job? Do you know what your annual spending is?

Be flexible, there is no one way to do this, have your plan and be willing to adapt to changes. Adaptability is an asset. There are many ways to live a life, so find out what works for you. Never give up your dreams.

Where are you going next?

We continue to watch for airfare deals, countries that interest us and where the currency exchange rate is favorable and visa stays are friendly. The world is a big place! This year we plan to visit several countries in Asia and to go to Colombia and the Caribbean once again.

What's Your Number? - How much money do you need to retire?

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About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

 

contact Billy and Akaisha at theguide@retireearlylifestyle.com

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