In 1991, Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. During the last 18 years, they have made it through bear markets and bull markets, lived in the States and overseas, and have traveled in an RV for over two years. They’ve owned homes and rented, and have found a different approach to health care. Today, at age 56, Billy and Akaisha already have more years of retirement experience than most people will have over an entire lifetime. They share their experience, wisdom and travel escapades in their book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, 3rd Edition, available for download from their web site, Retire Early Lifestyle.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of exchanging interviews with them.
Billy and Akaisha, you’ve been enjoying life while young enough to take full advantage of financial freedom. What inspired you to retire so early?
We left the working world in 1991 at a very young age. We were at the peak of our careers and had a home near the beach in central California. On the outside it looked like we had it all, but on the inside we felt that we were missing out on what we really wanted to do and that was to travel, experience more of the world first hand, pursue passions, hobbies and to volunteer.
There were few role models and many of our friends and family thought we were crazy to be giving up such a comfortable lifestyle for something so uncharted. But we took two years to plan and to track our expenses. Billy ran the numbers and they worked for us, so we sold everything and began traveling the world. We are now into our 19th year of this adventurous and fulfilling lifestyle and we still love it.
Is early retirement everything you expected it to be? What has surprised you the most so far?
It’s everything we imagined and more. There have been so many opportunities for us to grow, to give, and to learn. And we have made friends all over the world. What surprises us is that more people don’t retire early. When considering the cost of the lifestyles many lead, they would surely have the money to do this.
I suppose that fear is a major factor in preventing people from making this change. What we have found in our experience though, is that the people who have actually made the leap don’t know why it took them so long to do so.
Where are you living now? As early retirees, what does your typical day look like?
When we were working we had typical days. Now each day is an adventure. We are currently living in Chapala, Mexico. Last year we lived for a year in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We figure that in our over 18 years of retirement, we have lived about 70% of the time overseas.
Depending on the country in which we are living at the time, we may pursue a volunteer activity like putting up lights on the tennis courts of Chapala. When we were in Thailand last year, I had a private tutor instruct me in the art of Thai massage. Billy was most encouraging in this, as he benefits from my skills!
We take advantage of travel opportunities wherever we are as well. Bangkok is a convenient hub to visit all of the countries in the Pacific Rim and we just finished a month touring the southern towns and beaches of Mexico.
We’re involved in the tennis community wherever we live which gives us great exercise and social connection. I also spend a good deal of volunteer time corresponding with people who visit our website answering their many questions about retirement, living overseas, how to reduce housing costs, relocate or how to find part time work in retirement.
It’s a very full life and we have never been bored!
How have the two of you learned to deal with doubts, unexpected issues and fear along the way?
We rely on each other. We’ve learned to support each other in ways that emphasize our individual strengths. We allow our past good financial behavior and personal habits to reinforce us when we might feel particularly challenged.
We’re survivors. We’ve come through years of demanding careers, were responsible for meeting the financial obligations of a thriving business, dealt with both bull and bear markets, and in our early years worked ourselves to the bone. We’ve developed a sense of self-reliance and confidence in our abilities as human beings and we see opportunities every day, everywhere. It’s up to us to take our lives in the direction we want.
If we get caught up in fear, we realize that we are looking in the wrong direction. It’s time to regroup and refocus. Sometimes a delay or side trip on the road of Life brings us some hidden treasure that we wouldn’t have if we had pushed relentlessly forward.
Generally, we look at the future as thrilling, not threatening. We have great faith in the future, feeling that the best is always yet to come.
You wrote: “We rely on each other. We’ve learned to support each other in ways that emphasize our individual strengths”. Can you give an example?
A good example would be the current financial problems that are happening around the world. This is a huge challenge for many people who have had their portfolios reduced and the uncertainty of the future can bring about a deep feeling of fear.
This is a time when we look to each other for support. It’s easy to fall into a sense of dread or anxiety, but we know that being in that frame of mind doesn’t allow us to see clearly and most of all it doesn’t allow us to see our options, or feel the freedom to take them.
Billy is very good at investments, at number crunching and at analyzing markets. I’m good at research and finding alternative ways to live our lives and still maintain comfort, and a sense of ease and joy.
We are both resourceful, flexible, creative and persistent. Together we have always been able to find an answer that suits the both of us, and our lives have become richer in countless ways because of it.
Why have you chosen to live in other countries?
Both of us have been travelers ever since we were teenagers. It was one of the appealing characteristics we found in each other before we were married. Our decision to live in other countries just developed from our traveling style. Wherever we go, we enjoy ‘getting local’ right away – whether it’s in Salmon, Idaho, Chiang Mai, Thailand or Chapala, Mexico.
We decided to increase our international traveling while we were still young enough to be flexible both mentally and physically, and before our comfort requirements chose our destinations for us. In traveling the world we found that we loved learning about the regional food, languages, customs and the people themselves. We picked up the languages whenever we could, joined in the community activities with volunteer work, and tried cooking the local fare. We found that not only was this challenging, invigorating and rewarding, it was really very affordable entertainment!
Our perspectives widened, the cobwebs of our minds were cleared away, and we found true joy and personal expression in this lifestyle.
How do you handle medical insurance and health care?
We keep a catastrophic medical insurance plan (basically) for when we visit or live in the States. Otherwise, we take advantage of the medical care in the country where we are living at the time.
Just to be clearer about this, for the most part we choose Thailand’s excellent care or Mexico for our medical needs. We speak more about this in our book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, and on our website’s Preferred Links Pages we have many links to Medical Options sites and other medical and insurance information for self-education. Not only is the medical care in Thailand clean, professional and internationally accredited, it is far more affordable than the care offered in the States currently. We have also had very good care in both Chapala, and Guadalajara, Mexico.
What were your careers before you retired?
Our first serious career was owning a restaurant near the ocean in Santa Cruz, California. Billy was trained as a French Chef, working in several Michelin star restaurants in Cincinnati, Ohio, and after we traveled through Europe for 6 months, we bought our own place.
We were quite successful at this business venture, and five years later Billy was recruited by the then-financial house, Dean Witter Reynolds, to become a stock broker. He trained to be a broker and became a very successful one at that, and then he was recruited to be a manager of his own office. Meanwhile, I continued to run the restaurant until we sold it five years later.
How do you create income now to provide for your early retirement?
All of our income is generated from our stock investments. We dollar cost average out as expenses dictate.
Fifteen years into our retirement we wrote our book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, to answer the repeated questions we received on our website. This has been a bonus, but nothing we needed to figure into our financial retirement plans.
Has the current financial crisis affected your long-term plans?
Not at this time. We reassessed our personal goals a few months ago, and found that our lifestyle – traveling the world, living locally, pursuing friendships and new skills, spending time with family and friends – is what we wanted to continue doing. Since we have no mortgage, car payments or credit card debt, we spend our money on living, not on maintaining things. We also derive great pleasure from our volunteer activities.
We believe there are always opportunities, and so if something appeals to us along the way, we will take advantage of it, but we aren’t actively looking for employment!
What personal characteristics do you contribute most to your financial success?
Perseverance, follow through, self-discipline and self-reliance, creativity for problem solving, optimism in the face of obstacles, commitment to each other and to a goal. We are also not afraid to step away from the crowd to be original. Neither of us are big consumers, preferring to emphasize experiences over owning things.
What is your #1 piece of advice for others who would like to retire early, too?
Don’t let anyone steal your dreams. Know what you want and don’t be afraid to go for it. If you know the ‘Why’ and commit to it, you will find out the ’How.’
Thank you, Billy and Akaisha!
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