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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Interview with Early Retiree, Chris Mamula

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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We at RetireEarlyLifestyle enjoy offering our Readers inspirational stories of people who choose a lifestyle of their own making. We have often said that becoming Financially Independent is the best thing you can do for yourself, and for the world.

You will enjoy Chris Mamula's uplifting and practical story of Financial Independence below.

Kim and Chris hiking Bryce Canyon

Kim and Chris hiking Bryce Canyon

Retire Early Lifestyle: Could you tell us a little about yourself, and how old you are?

Chris Mamula - Iím 41 years old. I was a physical therapist and retired this past December. My wife Kim is my best friend and partner in all of my lifeís adventures (traveling, outdoor hobbies, etc). Our biggest adventure at this point is raising our 5 year old daughter.

REL: What got you started investing?

CM: My mom was always great at saving. She was frugal by necessity because my parents didnít have a lot of disposable income. She invested in mutual funds and also encouraged my grandparents to buy me savings bonds when I was a kid rather than more toys for occasions like Christmas and birthdays. She then involved me in figuring out a plan to pay for college using these assets she accumulated for me.

I was familiar with investing while in high school and college. My momís efforts paid off and I witnessed the importance of good money management when I graduated with bachelorís and masterís degrees with no debt, while my friends were coming out of school $50k-100k in the hole. This motivated me to start investing as soon as I was able once I started my career.

 

 

 

 

REL: What does it mean to you to be Financially Independent?

CM: I donít think there is one answer to this question. Instead I view financial independence as something that happens in stages. I think this is hard for people to see in the early stages, but something as simple as getting free of debt can give a degree of financial independence. 

Then as you can save high amounts of your income you can benefit greatly from smart tax planning which allows you to save even more money. As you accumulate money, you can start to witness how your money can work for you, even while you still are working for money. Having some level of wealth also gives you leverage to negotiate better working conditions, even while you are still dependent on a paycheck.

We are currently at a level of financial independence where we do not need to earn any income for a long time, possibly ever, to maintain our current lifestyle. I think there is still another level of FI, where you can live with abundance and never worry about money. I currently struggle with how much effort to apply to gaining more wealth vs. focusing on learning to be content with what I already have.

Chris and Kim on the summit of Chimborazo, Ecuador

Chris and Kim on the summit of Chimborazo, Ecuador

REL: When did you know you were ready to retire and what motivated you?

CM: I started to ponder early retirement a few years after starting my career as a physical therapist. After investing 7 years of my life and thousands of dollars to get a degree, I quickly started to burn out on that career. Simultaneously I got interested in outdoor activities (hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and mountaineering) and realized the things that I like to do donít cost a lot of money. This got the wheels spinning, and I came up with the concept of being a "dirtbag millionaire."

While I had the idea to retire early for a while, I didnít hate my job and wasnít dissatisfied enough to get serious about planning my early retirement. That didnít happen until 5 years ago when my daughter was born. Then, I knew that I needed to make changes to create more time and space in my life for the things most important to me; relationships with the ones I love and getting out in nature.

REL: What do you do for income generation?

CM: We have multiple streams of income. We both plan to continue doing some work. My wife continues to work in a work from home, location independent job and makes enough to support us. I am working on the blog Can I Retire Yet?. I am also writing a book which I hope will generate some future income.

We have a traditional paper income portfolio that is designed for a total return approach that was approximately 25x our annual spending at the time I retired in December.

In addition, we bought our retirement house in Ogden, Utah with a mother-in-law suite. We chose that house primarily to be able to host our family and friends. However, living close to two major ski resorts, we also will likely use the extra space as an Airbnb rental to generate some additional income, particularly in ski season when demand is high and we can charge a premium.

Kim riding her bike toward Uluru in the Australian outback

Kim riding her bike toward Uluru in the Australian outback

REL: What do you plan to budget annually for your retirement?

CM: Our current expenses are around $50k/year. However, we do not really budget and never have. We tried to design a non-traditional retirement with the option to make additional income doing things we love, are passionate about, and fit into our lifestyle. This will allow us to avoid living within the constraints of a budget as expenses go up and down in different seasons of life.

REL: Can you share with us anything about how your portfolio is structured?

CM: Sure. We have a portfolio of diversified index funds. Our asset allocation is 80% stocks (split 50% domestic / 30% international), 15% bonds, 5% cash. We feel comfortable with this allocation because we have a good bit of flexibility with both earning and spending. If we planned to live solely off our portfolio and had no margin in our spending, we would have saved more and likely chosen a less volatile allocation. Also, we do not consider our residence as part of our investments, though we may use it to produce some income. We also have saved separately for our daughterís education and consider that separate from our portfolio.

 

 

 

 

REL: You are one of the new generation of Early Retirees who are well versed in a digital lifestyle.  How have you used this technology to enhance your retirement?

CM: Just having the internet to connect with others like you is invaluable to see that this lifestyle is a real possibility. Iíve also learned from a variety of other blogs and forums to develop my own early retirement plan and strategy.

We are DIY investors. This was always possible, but it is so much easier and cheaper than before to find information and manage investments with the internet and technology.

Technology also allows us to enter early retirement with confidence because we can design some work as part of our retirement (my blogging, my wifeís location independent job). It also allows us to do creative things like buying a house where we can host friends and family part of the time and use it for income as an Airbnb at others.

Chris with his daughter on the eastern shore of the US

Chris with his daughter on the eastern shore of the US

REL: What has been your greatest challenge on your road to Early Retirement? Your biggest lesson?

CM: My biggest challenge has been in overcoming limiting beliefs and being stuck in conventional ways of thinking. When you learn to think for yourself and see the world differently, possibilities become apparent everywhere.

REL: What advice would you give to someone considering Early Retirement?

CM: Start by getting clarity about what you really want. I donít think retirement is the ultimate goal. If you are just getting started and hate your job, donít slave away just to retire in the future. Look for a new job or entire new career path if it makes sense so you can enjoy the journey. If you are stuck in the "one more year" syndrome, then figure out what is holding you back and address those issues so you can use the wealth youíve built to start living better now. Money is only valuable if you use it as a tool to improve your life.

REL: What would you say to someone who is considering tossing the conventional lifestyle and living one outside the accepted norm? What advice would you give?

 

CM: This is something that Iíve had to work to overcome. It is very scary to do something different than the norm.

Iíve found that connecting with others on a similar path is invaluable. For me, this has included following blogs and podcasts and reading books of others on a similar journey. More recently, Iíve made personal connections by finding mentors and joining small mastermind groups.

I also have chosen to redefine retirement, rather than being trapped by the ideas of what traditional retirement should look like.

REL: What do you do about healthcare? Are you open to medical tourism?

CM: We buy our health insurance through my wifeís employer. It is a high deductible health plan that we use with a Health Savings Account. I have outlined on the blog, Can I Retire Yet?

I think health care is by far the biggest challenge that an American planning early retirement faces and I continue to research all options including health share ministries and medical tourism.

 The Mamulas on a Family Ski Day

 The Mamulas on a Family Ski Day

REL: How do you contribute to the world?

CM: Honestly, not as much as I would like to this point. This was a driving factor for me to pursue FIRE. When working, we regularly donated money and occasionally time, but I constantly felt too busy to do the things that were most important.

Now that Iíve left my job, I am using my blogging/writing platforms to educate and help others to become more financially literate and help them to see the world differently. Since we donít need more income due to our investments and my wifeís ongoing income, weíve decided to give away half of anything I make in these endeavors.

I also want to get more involved in my local community. While I did not like being a physical therapist in the traditional medical system, there were certain aspects of the job that I loved. I would like to apply my physical therapy skills and knowledge combined with my love of the outdoors working with adaptive sports or youth programs once we are settled into our new home.

REL: Do you speak other languages?

CM: Not well! We are currently learning Spanish with Duolingo alongside our 5 year old daughter. They say weíre 50% fluent. It feels more like 10%.

REL: Share with us your best money-saving secret.

CM: I have two that have been equally key.

1.)   Get clear on what you value, then spend accordingly. I personally could not have saved if I viewed it as a constant struggle. We saved on average 50% of our incomes over our careers because we eliminated things that we did not value (biggest house we could afford, new cars, cable TV, newest technology, fancy clothes/shoes/jewelry, etc,). At the same time, we spent freely on things that we did value (traveling the world, outdoor activities and gear, experiences, good food and drink, giving to important causes).

2.)  Track your spending. It is difficult to improve your spending if you donít know where your money is actually going.

REL: What is your biggest splurge?

CM: Traditionally, travel. Weíve been all around the states, and to 5 of the 7 continents (no Asia or Antarctica). Most of that was at retail prices before discovering "travel hacking" in the past couple of years.

Currently, our biggest splurge is getting our daughter involved in our outdoor activities. We buy her the warmest gear for skiing to make sure she is comfortable in the cold. Her gear is better and more expensive than my own. We bought her climbing shoes and her own chalk bag for Christmas this year (totally unnecessary for a 5 year old) just to get her excited about going to the climbing gym with us. We view this as an investment to have things we can do as a family for the next 10 -15 years at least, so itís totally worth it in our minds.

REL: What are your greatest passions in life?

CM: Family, faith, health, helping others, and getting into the outdoors.

REL: Do you have a home base or own a home?

CM: We currently live in Pennsylvania. We bought our retirement house in Utah this past summer. We have long term renters there until June. We will be selling our current residence and moving to Utah this summer.

REL: Tell us about your greatest personal success, not necessarily finance related.

CM: See most proud question below.

REL: What is a secret fact about you?

CM: I think people reading my story of retiring at 41 and loving skiing, rock climbing, and mountaineering means that I am a fearless guy or that I am comfortable taking big risks. I am actually very conservative, risk averse, and often fearful. It takes a lot of effort for me to overcome my fears and I work hard at risk mitigation strategies.

 

 

 

 

REL: What are you most proud of so far in life?

CM: Over the past 5 years I got serious about retirement planning. In the process, I realized that our society, and particularly those of us that pursue FIRE, places tremendous importance on retirement. There is an underlying assumption that it is normal to hate work and retirement is the time you can enjoy life. It took me a while, but I now totally reject this idea. Instead, I started focusing on building a life I never want to retire from.

This process has made me look at many other things that I have always believed, without questioning. It sent me on a soul-searching journey. In the process Iíve changed my perspectives on the importance of faith, my approach to different aspects of health (diet, exercise, and sleep), and Iíve directly addressed other limiting beliefs. This has not been an easy process, but I am very proud that I have chosen to take a path that few are willing to travel.

REL: What do you do for fun or entertainment?

CM: Anything I can with my wife and daughter (ski, hike, climb, swim, board/card games, puzzles, art projects, dance parties, playgrounds, etc). Reading good books. Writing. Cooking and eating good food.

REL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

CM: I would love to be spending a couple of days each week in the mountains with my family and friends. My daughter would be ten years old then and learning to become an independent thinker, prepared to enter her challenging teenage years. My wife and I would have reconnected on a deeper level than we were able in the years where our life revolved around work and constant busyness. I would have managed to build a strong social network in our new home in Utah while still maintaining a close bond and spending considerable time with my family. Finally, my writing and educational efforts will be having massive impact on others to show that there are better ways of living than following the conventional narrative.

Wow, retirement sounds like a busy time. I better get after it. Thanks for having me!

Retire Early Lifestyle would like to thank Chris for his time and the effort it took to formulate these thoughtful answers to our questions. We believe his story is inspirational to those who are also younger, and who want to live a life of their own making. He proves it can be done! Benefit from Chris' wisdom through his articles on the website, Can I Retire Yet?

Thank you, Chris and the best to you and your family!

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 Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person Ė the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesnít want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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