Work Less, Live More
Author and lecturer
Bob Clyatt is the managing
director of Rye Venture Advisors, which specializes in advising education
companies on mergers, acquisitions and raising private equity capital. He lives
in early semi-retirement with his wife and two sons in Rye, New York.
In his new book titled
Work Less, Live More: The New Way to Retire Early, Bob interviewed
us and other Early Retirees. In a sample chapter below, read what he had to say.
A Look at Some Typical Early Retirees
It may help you to know that certain models of early semi-retirement have
emerged that work for different types of people. They are described here not to
limit your thinking, but to give you an idea of the diversity of people and
1. MBA Moms Pulling Back
Vast numbers of women have been practicing early semi-retirement for years,
dialing up and down their involvement in the workplace to accommodate career
development, kids, a need for extra income, eldercare obligations, or more time
for personal growth. Those with more family income have, as a group, opted for
EXAMPLE: An Artist Freed From the Law
Wendy was one of those kids who always wanted to be a lawyer. Ever since she
came to the United States from Asia as a girl, she pushed herself to succeed in
school even harder than her anxious parents pushed her. Graduating from law
school and clerking for a judge set the stage for building a private practice
helping scientists and other professionals immigrate to America. But after 15
years, the constant drains of dealing with government bureaucracy and
stressed-out clients were taking a toll.
Wendy and her husband Ron had been planning early retirement for years, and they
decided that it made sense for Wendy to start first. She helped her staff find
new jobs and gradually shut down her practice, finishing off old cases and
refusing new ones.
The transition out of full-time work was a breeze for Wendy. With two sons in
elementary school, she began at once to improve her network of nonworking
friends and moms and discovered a whole new world of activities were now
available: book clubs, lunches, play groups, events, as well as the informal
information network of what was really going on around town. And she finally had
time to commit to caring for her aging parents.
During that first year, Wendy also rediscovered her love of costume jewelry, and
began designing and creating pieces for sale. She hosted trunk shows in her home
and set up displays at art fairs and charity benefits, taking great pleasure in
seeing her creations worn and appreciated by other women.
Wendy is now active in a number of community organizations, including having
been appointed to the local Human Rights Commission, joining a yacht club,
becoming a member of the Garden Club, and actively volunteering at church and a
local nature center.
"None of this ever had a chance to come out when I was working fulltime," muses
Wendy, describing this creative side that has flowered since she left law.
Lifelong stomach problems have disappeared, sleep is complete and restful, and
she looks vibrant. "The boys have really benefited, too," she adds. "The extra
time we've been able to spend with them has turned around a few potentially
messy developmental issues."
2. Geeks on Permanent Vacation
Early semi-retirees fitting this profile tend to be highly intelligent and
independent engineering or scientist types who love nothing more than working
absorbedly in their shops or labs. These innovators long ago decided that most
bosses cramped their styles and so they used their skills to earn enough money
to leave more traditional workplaces.
With plenty of free time to follow their passions, they continue to invent or
innovate, do consulting or project work for money, and keep their skills fresh
while crafting lives with plenty of time for families and hobbies alongside
EXAMPLE: Working Hard -- and Hardly Working
As a young graduate facing the job market about 25 years ago with a fresh
mechanical engineering degree, Chet had a few early career positions designing
nuclear submarine and HVAC systems. But the coat and tie chafed at him, and he
longed to get back out into the field and get his hands on some tools.
At night and on weekends, he and his wife Valerie worked on a handful of
apartments or homes they bought, and slowly transformed those dilapidated San
Francisco properties back into things of beauty. They had started in the mid
1980s, while still in their 20s, and rode a wave of appreciation in California
But a decade later, feeling the city wasn't the best place to raise their kids,
Chet and Valerie did the math and realized they could almost live off the rents
from their homes. They piled their two young daughters in a station wagon and
began driving around the Western states, seeking a new rural home with a good
quality of life. Settling on a small town in Northern California, they began
building a house, home schooled their daughters, and got actively involved in
Chet built a big workshop and began fabricating electromechanical pumping and
filtration systems for a small company in the California wine industry. He works
when he feels like it, only taking jobs that he knows will be interesting and
lucrative. His schedule runs the gamut from an occasional intense workweek to
time off for an extensive camping trip around the Western states. The income
from the real estate covers the family's main living expenses, while any outside
income goes toward travel or other hobbies. If outside income is curtailed for
any reason, they know they can cut back on the luxuries without any worries.
Recently, Chet converted a VW Bug to run on battery power -- and now tools
around town in an odd vehicle that looks like some kind of pickup truck, with
the batteries lined up under the truck bed. In his spare time around home, he
tinkers with alternative energy inventions or helps coach his daughters'
baseball and soccer teams. He has finagled life to give him exactly what he
wants: plenty of free time to work on all his projects and enough money so he
never has to worry about finances.
3. Perpetual Travelers
Living out of a backpack and exploring the world may not be everybody's idea of
a perfect life, but it has a strong pedigree in early retirement circles.
Settling down for a month or a year in places such as Argentina or Thailand,
house sitting in a luxury home in Hawaii, working as a resort manager or
bartender during the season in Costa Rica, then moving back to a no-maintenance
home base in the U.S. to reconnect with family and culture -- this is the
Perpetual Traveler's life.
Not only do such folks see the world and meet incredible people while they are
young and energized, they are able to do it on a budget that makes even rural
American early retirees look profligate.
EXAMPLE: Wildflowers Don't Care Where They Grow
For 14 years, Billy and Akaisha have moved between home bases in Arizona, Chiang
Mai, Thailand, and Mexico to points throughout South America, Southeast Asia,
They are passionate about their travels and about volunteering or helping people
along the way -- teaching English, visiting western prisoners, or cleaning
gravesites of locals and Americans buried overseas. The local American Legion
keeps them apprised of volunteer opportunities and needs. During the '90s, they
lived for a number of years in Chapala, Mexico, where they helped local
photographers develop a postcard business, and got a basketball scoreboard
donated, from the U.S., for the local high school gym. (Billy was coaching the
basketball team and despaired at the way scores and times were mangled under the
antiquated flip charts and stopwatch methods in use when he arrived.) His pride
and joy was volunteering to raise funds to build five municipal tennis courts
for the town, then overseeing their construction.
By renting homes and moving slowly, Billy and Akaisha make lots of new friends
as they get to know locals and other travelers, becoming part of the community.
When a situation feels right, they'll take on jobs along the way -- usually
resort restaurant or bar management for free room and board types of roles, but
sometimes they house sit. Akaisha had a thriving cards business in Mexico which
gave jobs to local women artisans and brought in several thousand dollars a year
at its peak. These work gigs help cover their already-low expenses and fit into
their philosophy that they are living a lifestyle, not a vacation.
As a practical matter, they keep U.S. catastrophic health insurance, but pay
locally for health care; it is cheap and high quality. They return home roughly
once a year, to a low-maintenance co-op style house in which they store
Akaisha's art supplies, the cooking equipment needed for their foodie habit, and
other personal effects. Email lets them keep up with family and friends, and
receive reports from neighbors about anything needing attention at their home in
the states. On their Web page at
Retire Early Lifestyle, they report about
their travels and opine about the early retirement lifestyle.
Early semi-retirement has been perfect for Billy and Akaisha, affording them
flexibility, for example, to provide end-of-life care for parents and to be with
family for extended periods. Convinced that more people could early retire as
perpetual travelers and enjoy life a lot more, Billy quips, "Half of California
could sell the house and do what we do."
4. The Millionaires Down the Road
These early retirees take advantage of the low cost of living and lack of
pretension in rural areas to retire comfortably, on their own terms, without a
huge financial strain. Sometimes referred to as The Millionaires Next Door, a
term coined by author Thomas Stanley who catalogued their behavior, these
unassuming people often invest in real estate, start and sell businesses, or
just save diligently. Although they typically have at least a million and a half
dollars in combined savings and real estate, they live frugally, and make that
Living for them means not working for someone else and having lots of time for
family and toys and fun -- fishing, motorcycles, or wind-generating power
plants. Their 14-year-old pickup truck not only helps hold down expenses, but
allows them to keep a low profile despite their business and financial
sophistication. And to compensate for geographic remoteness, they use the Web
and national media to stay abreast of trends and information that interest them.
Typically, their kids are grown and have moved away from home.
EXAMPLE: The Good Life in the Heartland
Bob epitomizes the values and behavior of The Millionaire Next Door -- living
frugally but comfortably in a small Iowa town, driving used cars, and feeding a
family of four on just $400 a month. He and his wife Julia actually got a
relatively late start financially; it wasn't until Bob was 38 that they really
started saving. In just 14 years, though, he and Julia amassed enough for him to
leave his job and retire. For them, saving became almost a family hobby, as they
socked away more than 50% of their gross pay.
Not only do Bob and Julia live below their means, but they live in a place in
which means are themselves well below the national average: plenty of nice homes
in the area are priced in the $50,000 to $80,000 range. Bob has been working on
creative ways to save for years, even speaking to his daughter's college
president to appeal for a better financial aid package. In the end, the
president wouldn't overturn his financial aid officer's decision, but did offer
Bob's daughter a job in his office -- an opportunity that opened many career
doors for her, and incidentally, kept the contribution toward their daughter's
state college education to just $7,000 for the full four years.
All told, Bob, Julia, and their family live very comfortably on about $42,000 a
year, including health insurance, taxes, car amortization, and fund management
Now in early retirement, Bob and Julia are contemplating a move to a college
town in northwest Iowa where Bob's parents live, as he expects to be providing
more care for them in the coming years. Julia expects to continue to work ten or
12 hours a week, something she very much enjoys, and the new locale will provide
opportunities for concerts, lectures, ethnic restaurants, and a whiff of
excitement. Bob may pick up a writing project in the future, but for now he is
just enjoying having plenty of free time.
Bob believes that a low tolerance for BS at work is often the trigger that gets
the early retiree to start planning an exit, but the ones who actually make it
tend to be creative, self-sufficient, intelligent -- and completely committed to
5. The Half-Millionaires in the Next Apartment
These early retirees have taken frugality to the farthest comfortable limits.
They live, perhaps singly or as a couple, on about $25,000 a year, usually with
no kids. Renting an apartment can help keep more money free to invest.
Their budget secrets: Drive an old car, eat simply, keep the heat turned down.
But never compromise on high-speed Internet connectivity. That's the lifeline to
their world, including consulting or freelance work that helps pay the bills.
They camp or stay with friends when they travel; hotels are for somebody else.
EXAMPLE: Walden on the Bay
Phil lives simply in the San Francisco studio apartment he owns, spending just
$1,000 a month. He never liked having a job, so the financial sacrifices he
makes to be early semi-retired seem well worth it, and are, in any event,
consistent with his deeply green, conservation-oriented beliefs.
Even though he is able to eat organic food and eat often at Thai restaurants, he
makes sacrifices in other areas, using electricity for little more than his
small refrigerator, a computer, and a reading light. Candles look better anyway,
and he saves money by using the Internet at the library.
Phil carries a high-deductible health insurance policy, but walks or bikes
everywhere as he chooses not to own a car. Expenses are further curtailed by the
fact that he has not had to pay income taxes for years.
Phil spends his days volunteering in environmental projects and activities,
including some that have taken him to the Amazon or Europe; a major
environmental organization provides him free travel, willingly paying to get his
specialized skills. On Saturdays, you can often find him at a nearby national
park giving free tours to visitors. Volunteering as an usher at a local movie
theater gets him plenty of free tickets to art house movies.
He loves his life, feeling liberated by its simplicity, and feels no sense of
deprivation. In fact, Phil considers himself a bit of a spendthrift compared to
other folks following the simple-living lifestyle.
6. Bankers With Off Switches
These overachievers got stock options or bonuses for enough years so that
accumulating savings was never a problem. But with corporate mergers and the
inexorable narrowing of the pyramid, they found themselves in their 40s
increasingly turned off by the high stress and competitiveness of their careers.
Realizing they don't need to overwork, they do the math on their municipal bond
portfolio alone and take the exit package.
Once their noncompetes expire, some start a little hedge fund, some join a few
boards and make some angel investments, and others start actively trading a
large personal stock portfolio a few hours a day. Women on this track may switch
to full-time motherhood, perhaps as a spouse or partner continues to work.
These early retirees tend to stay in the same homes and communities they lived
in while they were working, and if they have children, they keep them in the
same schools, perhaps planning to move when the kids are off to college
EXAMPLE: Type A From the Bottom Up
Following a rapid and stellar career in finance, Duncan, at the age of 44, was
weary of the unrelenting pressure on Wall Street. His financial needs had long
since been met, so he resigned as the CEO of a major investment firm to take
some time off and regroup.
It was a difficult adjustment. Duncan's career focus had left him with few
outside interests and it was taking time to grow them again. His consulting and
unpaid work on nonprofit boards and in local government was fulfilling, but as
someone who had once managed 750 people and a billion dollars of revenue, he
kept hearing about friends getting big jobs with big salaries and began to fear
that early semi-retirement had been a huge mistake.
After a year, he agreed to a friend's request to interview for a senior position
at one of Wall Street's most prestigious investment banks. But if he had any
doubts about early retirement before, he put them to rest that day. Not one of
the managing directors at the firm seemed to want to talk about his experience
solving a major financial crisis or hear how he had worked to unravel the fraud
at a major bank. Instead, they wanted to talk about early retirement. Every
single managing director looked wistfully at Duncan, and in a lowered voice,
asked what his days were like, whether he was able to live off his savings, how
much time he got to spend with his kids. Duncan realized then that these titans
of Wall Street envied him; they felt trapped and they wanted out. That was
enough to convince him that early semi-retirement was his path, and he has never
In the last several years, Duncan has blended involvement in financial startups
and investments in local real estate partnerships with an active community life,
helping the local YMCA raise several million dollars for a new building and
being elected to the local city council. Duncan is involved with several
nonprofit boards and keeps healthy with regular yoga and running. His interest
in health and wellness has led him to take classes in homeopathy, which may
someday even lead to a new avocation.
Duncan's recap after four years of early semi-retirement: "Type A people need to
feel they are changing the world, and in business you are used to doing that
from the top down. Now my activities have impact from the bottom up, one person
at a time, but the impact is just as meaningful and even more satisfying for
7. Exotic Transplants
These early semi-retirees do the math on how much it costs to live in the United
States and take off for distant parts. They tend to congregate in a handful of
expat-friendly countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, and Thailand -- though a
new generation is finding that Panama, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and
Ecuador are less discovered and offer better value. Typically they do not have
children or their children are grown, and they find the lower cost of living
outside the United States helps make early retirement possible years before it
would be at home.
They may start a small hotel or business, catering to foreign tourists or
importing and exporting products. Quality of life can be quite high. Costs of
living can range between $1,000 per month on the low end to $3,000 per month for
multiple full-time domestic staff and all they can eat or spend. They pay
locally for medical care, and as American citizens, must pay U.S. taxes on
investment income, but avoid U.S. property and state income taxes. And when the
time comes, they know that Social Security checks will follow them overseas.
EXAMPLE: Where the Grass Truly Is Greener
Beginning in the 1970s, Willem and Ruth worked hard, extensively remodeling
their penthouse apartment a few blocks from New York's World Trade Center, and
traveling the world with their two kids. As layoffs and mergers went on around
him, Wil continued to defy the odds, staying employed for more than 20 years
through much tumult at his large global information firm.
In the late '90s though, with the writing on the wall, Wil and Ruth began
looking for a place to early retire. They had always loved Central America, and
began scouting properties and locations there for the next chapter in their
lives. Antigua, Guatemala, offered a perfect setting -- its Spanish colonial
architecture beautifully preserved since the early 1800s when a rumbling nearby
volcano convinced the town fathers to move the nation's capital from Antigua to
Guatemala City. They bought a property in the center of town and began making
A few years ago, Wil and Ruth sold their penthouse apartment -- creating the
bulk of their early retirement portfolio -- loaded up a tractor trailer with all
their personal goods and another truck full of plumbing fixtures, which they
sold quite profitably, and drove to their new home. They spent the next three
years doing what they do best -- renovating a charming old property -- and now
own a home, several spacious apartments, and a few shops on the main street in
Antigua. They rent shops and the apartments to Americans; many international aid
organizations have staff locally, and American families regularly need to stay
for a few months while adopting Guatemalan children.
As they have always done, Ruth and Wil jumped into civic life in Antigua,
creating a beautification committee that raises funds and has now built over 100
minigardens in public spaces all over the city. Wil raves about the great
Internet connectivity, dirt cheap cell phone service, and their four full-time
staff -- a housekeeper, cook, handyman, and gardener -- who together cost just
$700 per month. Wil built and maintains a website for Antigua, whose advertising
revenues support a local hospital for severely handicapped children. With annual
expenses of less than $30,000, and income from their new guesthouses, Ruth and
Wil are living comfortably on their portfolio, donating generously to local
causes, and living the life of their dreams in a beautiful location.
8. Government Employees
These early retirees, from among the one in seven U.S. employees in the public
sector, find the challenge and security of government jobs, along with the
attractions of a government retirement package, are ample compensation for
forgoing the higher salary they might have earned in the private sector. Then
they find the right spot -- not all government pensions are created equal -- max
out their 403(b) and other savings plans and count the years until early
retirement becomes available, typically after 20 to 30 years of service.
Their generous health care benefits, full inflation-adjusted pensions, and the
power of governments to tax to ensure the benefits remain intact signal the gold
standard for secure retirement packages. Still, because of their low salaries
while on the job, the only assets these retirees may have are their pensions, so
it is crucial for them to save along the way to provide for extras.
EXAMPLE: The Slow Lane to Success
"Fifty and out!" chuckles Marty as he describes the plan he and Carlos, his
partner of 32 years, had been working on for more than 20 years. Marty credits
this vision to seeing his father retire early and thinks that role model was
crucial to his retirement planning. From the start, in the 1970s, Marty chose to
work for the State of California, vesting in a safe pension, and laying the
groundwork for his early exit from the workforce.
Since Marty retired at age 50 in 1997, he and Carlos have been living
comfortably but modestly on the gains they realized from their real estate
holdings and pensions, including Carlos's long-term disability from his job as a
building inspector in San Francisco. Although Marty only receives about 30% of
his former salary, the proceeds from the couple's real estate sales are easily
keeping them solvent until they can begin tapping their IRAs or Marty's savings
Once financial matters were in place, the two quickly moved on to the things
that inspired them in life. "I really like to restore things, create things,"
says Carlos. He and Marty had profitably bought and remodeled two houses in San
Francisco during their years there, and on moving to Portland, Oregon, soon
after retiring, they plunged into their third real estate project: restoring a
three-story 1910 Craftsman-style home. Marty volunteered in his neighborhood
association and was soon elected its president. He admits that it "turned out to
be more than a full-time job," but learned a lot from the experience.
Feeling the need to step back from their overly ambitious commitments, and
relishing their freedom to change course, they sold their Portland home and
moved to New York City. For the past several years, they have been exploring all
that New York has to offer. Carlos continues to find "treasures" in thrift shops
that he lovingly restores, and Marty is able to sit on the board of the YMCA
Camp he attended as a youth. Marty's French lessons give a clue to their next
goal: regularly spending a few months at a time in Europe.
In the meantime, they have plenty of time to visit Carlos's family in Ecuador
and Marty's family and friends. They have developed a laundry list of strategies
for living modestly in the Big Apple, including buying into a beautiful, though
far uptown, neighborhood, and cashing in on Carlos's uncanny ability to land
inexpensive last-minute tickets to Broadway shows. "You've got to be flexible,"
he advises, then waxes philosophical: "Figure out what's important in life. Too
many Americans are driving themselves crazy buying things." Marty adds: "Once
you leave full-time work, you've got to develop pillars to give your life some
sense of structure."
About the Authors
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are
recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of
finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their
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.
information about financial independence and travel, visit our
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