Podcast: Unconventional Path to Becoming a Millionaire

Recently, I responded to several questions posed by Flexo and Tom from Consumerism Commentary. They created a 21 minute podcast of our conversation. Here is a sampling of the content:

  • how I used apprenticeship programs as an alternative to formal schooling, to land a job, and then to hire my own employees
  • my motivation for becoming financially independent
  • how we purchased our first home
  • my decision to delay parenting
  • the somewhat “unconventional” financial steps I took that lead my husband and I across the millionaire threshold
  • why after 17 years of homeownership, we decided to become renters
  • a few of the ways I am raising our daughter using important life lessons I’ve learned

I think Flexo and Tom do a great job with their podcasts — so much so that I am considering hiring Tom to edit and polish some podcast material for my blog. As part of my book’s research, I am interviewing other first generation, self-made millionaires who are under the age of 55. I am recording these conversations. My intention is to include a variety of these financial success case studies and profiles to illustrate various principles in my book. Before I commit to the expense of creating podcasts, I want to know: Do you listen to and enjoy podcasts or do you prefer that I share these stories in written blog post format?

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Please take a second to respond to the poll above, then head on over to Consumerism Commentary to listen to the podcast. I’d appreciate your feedback about this podcast — and your experience with podcasts in general — in the comments section. (Note: Email subscribers and RSS feed readers, you will need to click through to my blog to do so.) Thanks!

Learn From Successful Entrepreneurs Who Have BTDT (been there, done that)

Brian was tired of making other people wealthy. He no longer felt in control of his earnings as an employee. One day not too long ago, Brian Schwartz told his wife that he wanted to quit his 9 to 5 job and become his own boss.

Brian, the primary bread winner for his family, had never been an entrepreneur before. His astute wife put him to a test — she told him he could quit his job, after he interviewed 50 entrepreneurs.

The vast majority of small businesses fail. Why? And what does it take for an entrepreneur to succeed? Brian discovered the answers to these questions and more by asking those who have BTDT (been there, done that). Armed with a list of 13 pertinent questions, Brian met with over 50 entrepreneurs. I was one of them. Brian’s end result? An army of role models and mentors, a 245 page biographical encyclopedia, his wife’s blessings, and a new business that he is already turning into a franchise.

Recently, I turned the tables and interviewed Brian. Our ten minute discussion comes in two video parts:

In Part One, I ask Brian:

  • What was your motivation behind launching 50 Interviews?
  • Did you quit your job after publishing the book?
  • From everything you learned through your interview process, what was your most surprising finding?
  • Do you think successful entrepreneurs are born or made?

(Email subscribers, you’ll need to click here to view the video on my blog page.)

In Part Two, Brian responds to these questions:

  • Among the 50+ entrepreneurs you interviewed, what characteristics do they share in common?
  • What do you see as the biggest barriers confronting a wanna-be entrepreneur?
  • Upon publishing 50 Interviews, you quit your own job to become an entrepreneur yourself. Have you encountered challenges that you didn’t expect?

(Email subscribers, you’ll need to click here to view the video on my blog page.)

Brian’s book, 50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs, provides a short background about each business owner, then provides each entrepreneur’s answers — in their own words — to the following questions:

1. What was your initial start-up cost and source?
2. How long was it until you reached a positive cash flow?
3. Did you use a business plan?
4. What was the genesis of your business idea?
5. What is the vision of your company & the community you serve?
6. What is the passion that it fills for you personally?
7. Where do you see yourself and your company in ten years?
8. What were your biggest challenges? Looking back now, is there anything you wish you had done differently? What do you know now that you wish you’d known sooner?
9. What aspects of ownership are the most rewarding? Any unexpected rewards?
10. What do you attribute your success to? Luck, timing, someone who helped you?
11. How do you attract and retain the best employees? What is the most important attribute you look for?
12. Can you recommended any training or resources such as books, classes or websites? Do you recommend an MBA?
13. What slogan do you live by? What might your tombstone say?

The collective — yet very diverse — wisdom contained between the covers of the book 50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs is a godsend for any aspiring new business owner. If you are thinking about ditching the 9-5 grind for a business to call your own, spare yourself a few time-consuming and expensive hard knocks.

Financial Illiteracy: An Epidemic With A Simple Cure

How do we learn about money? 80% of parents surveyed believe that schools provide classes for their children on money management and budgeting.

Sorry to break the bad news, Mom and Dad — your kiddos probably aren’t learning personal finance in school. Our school system requires English, math and science, but not a practical life-skills class like financial literacy. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I am all in favor of a well-rounded education, but what good is it if students learn where Shakespeare was born, but not what a tax-deferred retirement plan is? Or that n2x, but not that if you use Payday loans, you could pay an outrageous 1560% in annual interest!

Once we graduate from high school, the vast majority of us are responsible for earning an income, establishing and maintaining a respectable credit score, balancing our bank account, and saving for our future. We deal with money decisions almost daily — yet we are taught nothing about personal finance in school.

Braun Mincher (Braun Media, LLC) is currently producing a feature-length documentary film which exposes the financial illiteracy epidemic in order to bring awareness to this important topic. Braun’s goal is to show viewers why taking personal responsibility for their own financial wellbeing is so important. He wants to expose how little parents and the school system are doing to prepare the next generation for this growingly complex and relevant topic.

Braun conducted over 100 interviews with a wide variety of people: students, parents, educators, consumers, government officials, celebrities and personal finance experts. I was honored to be one of his interviewees. Here’s a short video teaser clip of my own money-life story and response to his million dollar question: “If financial literacy education is so important, then why are we not requiring schools to teach the subject, especially considering the current economic situation?”

(Email subscribers, click here to view the video posted on my blog.)

Incidentally, I think it’s supposed to look like I’m sitting at my desk but the office I was interviewed in is not mine — naturally, my office is wallpapered with family photos, colorful Treasure Maps (aka vision boards) and cute puppies!

I’ve served as a volunteer Junior Achievement instructor and have taught students basic economic, personal finance and small business management concepts. The kids and their teacher loved the program. So did the parents — in fact, several of the student’s parents had their kids ask me pressing, personal finance questions for them. Yet the only administrators in my area interested in offering the course were those managing private schools. There is a pathetic 2.3% percent national market penetration at the high school level — and Junior Achievement classes are offered for free!

What about you: Did your parents pass along their financial literacy skills to you? Were you taught personal finance in school? Do you think schools should be required to teach money management skills? And finally, if the cure for financial illiteracy is so simple, then why aren’t we doing it?

Read my tips on how parents can teach kid’s about money management.

Simple Prosperity: Finding the Sweet Spot

David Wann author speaker filmmakerDavid Wann is a writer, filmmaker, and speaker on the topic of sustainable lifestyles. He’s coauthor of the book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, a best seller that’s now in nine languages. Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle is Wann’s vision of a lifestyle that’s immune to Affluenza, and his book in progress, Beyond Simple Choices, evaluates 100 high-yield decisions at both the personal and public scale.

Twice, I’ve had the great pleasure of hearing Dave speak.  His message resonates with me, deep down in my soul.  Generously, Dave offered to share his thoughts with my readers here, about how to find the sweet spot with REAL wealth. His message is timely: As both our physical and economic climates reach crisis levels, Dave offers us a chance to reflect, plenty of hope, and specific pathways for healthy, joyful change. Thank you, Dave!

1) Dave, how do you define “simple prosperity”?

I think of simple prosperity as a social movement, a non-violent revolution similar to the civil rights movement, to replace our excessive lifestyle with a more moderate, sensible, grounded way of life. It’s not about guilt, shame, judgment, or sacrifice, but a strategic, mutually agreeable reduction in our level of consumption and a corresponding increase in our level of contentment. My message in Simple Prosperity is two-fold: it’s not ecologically, geologically, or socially possible to pump so much stuff, so quickly, through the global economy; however, a mindful lifestyle rich in experience, information, efficiency, connection, culture, and human energy can significantly reduce much of our hyperactive production and consumption. We can have twice the satisfaction for half the resources – a bargain!

When we directly meet basic needs like security; connection with nature and with people we respect, self-expression and creativity; meaningful leisure activities, it becomes clear that money and possessions are really an indirect way of meeting needs. For example, how can a money-distracted culture create trust, authenticity, loyalty, inspiration, calmness, tradition, and passion? Frankly, the evidence indicates that the quest for “more” at both the personal and commercial scale often strips these essential qualities away, leaving us borrowing, buying and selling rather than being.

Simple prosperity re-values the ecstasy of time spent in a garden or having a stimulating conversation; the relief and renewal of ideas put to practical use, as when we work to improve our neighborhoods and communities. To “save the planet” as well as ourselves, we’ll need to change far more than light bulbs and grocery sacks; we’ll need to change our value system, creating policies and technologies based on long-term success rather than just short-term gratification. If the cultural direction – the everyday ethic – changes, individuals will follow, en masse.

2) How is simple prosperity different than a lifestyle of frugal deprivation?

Simple prosperity is not about what we give up, but what we get back when we let all the junk go: the distraction, dysfunction, depression, corruption, pollution, doubt, debt, shame, stress, guilt, cruelty, and all the rest. If we actively re-prioritize our personal lives and also participate in getting our culture back on track, we’ll re-locate what I call the “sweet spot” of enough. Enough is perfect, too much results in diminishing returns. For example, when we drink a cup or two of coffee, we have useful energy. But ten cups is way beyond “enough,” and we pay for it in craziness, just as we are paying dearly for “too much” in this year’s economic train wreck.

The lifestyle presented in Simple Prosperity could easily avoid the need to earn and spend half a million dollars over a lifetime, including reduced medical bills, utility bills, legal fees, interest payments, counseling, lawn care, day care, appliance maintenance, and other forms of hired “care” that we can provide ourselves if we make time, and liberate ourselves from a consumer script that’s driving us nuts.

3) What does simple prosperity look like on a day-to-day basis?

In our current way of life, the typical American will spend six months of his life sitting at red lights, eight months opening junk mail, one year searching for misplaced items, two years trying to return calls to people who aren’t there, four years cleaning house, and five years waiting in line – all activities that relate at least in part to our lives as consumers.


When we choose real wealth, we change the way we spend both time and money. We begin choosing things like healthy, great-tasting food; work that challenges and stimulates us; and spiritual connection with a universe that’s infinitely larger than our stock portfolio. Instead of more stuff in our already-stuffed lives, we can have fewer things but better things of higher quality; fewer visits to the doctor and more visits to museums and friends’ houses. More joyful intimacy, more restful sleep, and more brilliantly sunny mornings in campsites on the beach – bacon & eggs sizzling in the skillet and coffee brewing in the pot. Greater use of our hands and minds in creative activities like building a table, knitting a sweater, or harvesting the season’s first juicy, heirloom tomato. These are the things that matter, and we can choose them, if we spend less time, money, and energy being such obedient consumers.

A great example of the social and personal benefits of a new lifestyle already occurred in Michigan from 1930 to 1985, when the Kellogg Company operated with a six-hour day. With two hours more discretionary time, Kellogg employees transformed the lifestyle of Kalamazoo, where many of them lived. Families and neighborhoods benefited from the extra time; schools included curricula about the “arts of living” and parental involvement in schools – such as “room mothers” in the classrooms – increased. Parks, community centers, skating rinks, churches, libraries, and YMCAs became centers of activity. Kellogg workers recall that the balance of their lives shifted from working to living. What to do with their time became more important than what to buy with their money.

4) How can adopting a lifestyle of simple prosperity help us individually and collectively?

We are an extremely socially oriented species, which accounts for our stunning success. Our ever-expanding brains enabled speech and language, and the complex social relationships that made cooperation and group decisions possible. Because of our genetic make-up, it’s hard for individuals to change unless the whole group’s ethic changes. I propose that a joyfully moderate lifestyle become, by consensus, the new norm for “the good life,” as it already has in moderate countries like Holland, Denmark, Costa Rica, and New Zealand.

Historian Arnold Toynbee observed that among thirty or more empire- civilizations, those that survived and thrived followed a Law of Progressive Simplification. The Roman Empire became Italy, where the Renaissance was born. The British Empire is now the far more moderate and exemplary United Kingdom, a world leader in dealing with global warming. The American Empire, too, will mature, in effect, outgrowing the gospel of growth.

I like the analogy of a backpacker when I think about the emerging American lifestyle. The backpacker doesn’t want a lot of junk in her backpack. She wants only items that are ingeniously designed, like a Whisper Lite cookstove, a warm fleece sweater, a good pair of boots that can go the extra miles, and food that’s full of slow-release energy. The backpacker brings along skills she has learned, the stories she can tell, a well-designed tent, maybe a flute or a great book. On her journey, the world is a splash of light and shadow, with mountain peaks in the distance and bighorn sheep standing guard. If we’re smart, the awakening American lifestyle will deliver clarity, a sense of wonder, and great health, as if life itself was an energizing, mind-opening backpacking trip.

5) I’ve heard you encourage your audiences to become “historical super-heroes.” As I recall, you suggested that we curb our consumption so that our grandkids will read about our generation in their history books with reverence. Can you elaborate?

In recent experiments with MRI technology, altruism, generosity, and cooperation register as strongly in the brain’s “pleasure center” as gambling, drugs, shopping, chocolate, or attractive faces. It would feel great to act unselfishly, in the best interests of our grandkids, but our society is focused elsewhere, distracted by situation comedies and constantly morphing car styles.

If we score high in the history books and become super-heroes, it will be because we finally let go of all the junk images, junk food, and junk information, and went after the real wealth. It’s so important that we each do our part to nudge our lifestyle in a more meaningful direction. We need fulfillment rather than just “fun,” engagement with passions rather than just passing the time. We should each ask ourselves this question: If it’s true that our whole life flashes before us when we die, will it hold our interest?

6) Despite the pain this financial crisis has caused, I can’t help but think that it serves as the wake-up call many seemed to need. My hope is that we become a nation of savers and conservationists, not spenders and takers; that we learn to value relationships over material possessions. What are your thoughts about the effect this crisis might have on society?

A culture shift like the one I propose – from an emphasis on material wealth to an abundance of time, relationships, and experiences – has already occurred in cultures such as Japan in the 18th century. Land was in short supply, forest resources were being depleted, and minerals such as gold, silver, and copper were suddenly scarce as well. Japan went from being resource-rich to resource-poor, but its culture adapted by developing a national ethic that centered on moderation and efficiency. An attachment to the material things in life was seen as demeaning, while the advancement of crafts and human knowledge were seen as lofty goals.

In this “culture of contraction,” an emphasis on quality became ingrained in a culture that eventually produced world-class solar cells and Toyota Priuses. Japanese shoguns established strict policies for reforesting. Training and education in aesthetics and ritualistic arts fluorished, resulting in disciplines like fencing, martial arts, the tea ceremony, flower arranging, literature, art, and skillful use of the abacus. The three largest cities in Japan had 1500 bookstores among them, and most people had access to basic education, health care, and the necessities of life, further enriching a culture that required very few resources per unit of happiness.

One of the main purposes of culture is to moderate and restrain individual excess, but our collective identity in 2009 is itself excessive. We’re like a family whose parents do not set clear, healthy guidelines for their children. Anything goes – drugs, unprotected sex, weapons, junk food by the barrel. Our global family desperately needs to set sensible guidelines. For example, we need to retrieve traditional diets that prevent illness and generate wellness. When the basic food groups and recipes of a particular culture are lost in the shuffle, we can’t figure out what we should be eating, with disastrous and financially costly results.

7) How would you describe a sensible economy?

A sweeping culture shift is happening right now, right in our generation. We’re at the tail end of the Industrial Era, moving into an age of restoration, biospirituality, and preservation. The entire industrial civilization is ramping down, just in time to prevent ecological catastrophe. If we’re lucky, we’ll find authentic abundance we can count on, rather than manufactured, prefabricated wealth that literally counts on us.

It’s not the Joneses we strive to keep up with; it’s an all-encompassing system of production and consumption – a way of life that takes away our ability to feed ourselves, entertain ourselves, or even have original thoughts. We’re looking for value in the wrong places. Is it really large houses we crave, or large lives, rich in discretionary time and generosity that we can share with those we love? Is it really expensive, programmed vacations we want, or simply the respect and admiration of our peers, and a sense that life is exciting? When our daily lives are energized with creativity and playfulness, we discover that life is an adventure no matter where we are.

It’s time for a cultural revolution – for consumer disobedience that demands quality over quantity; localization rather than globalization; time affluence rather than the poverty of constant, stressful deadlines; less aggression, more empathy; more respect for public places, including the environment, and less obsession with individual accumulation.

A sensible economy does not take more than it gives. On our watch, the world’s solar income and renewable yield is being consumed at a faster pace every year. This year, ecologists calculate that we’ll consume nature’s “interest” (from fisheries, forests, and farmland, etc.) by the middle of September, then, we’ll continue to draw down nature’s principle, in the process undermining the ecosystems that support us.

8 ) If we continue to reduce our levels of consumption, what do you think will happen to our economy?

We will simply create a different kind of economy, as the Japanese did centuries ago, including a rebirth of craft, amateur art and self-expression, and basic skills of self-reliance. Let’s face it, right now, we are at the mercy of a lifestyle support system that commands our obedience because we don’t even know how to re-light the pilot on our furnaces or spend a solitary hour in the park without being entertained.

Our economy’s primary measurement of “progress” is the Gross Domestic Product, which is very much a toxic loaf of bread. All economic activities are folded into it, whether beneficial or destructive. Crime, family breakdown, loss of leisure time, oil spills, hurricane damage, car accidents, loss of wetlands, legal fees for corruption – all are included in the GDP, and even though the bread is toxic, the superficial fact that it rises is good enough for mainstream economists. We need a new economic yardstick that tells us how we’re really doing, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator developed by the non-profit Redefining Progress, which subtracts the “bads.”

The U.S. GDP might possibly be smaller in the future, but that’s okay, because it could contain greater real wealth overall if all the negatives decrease while positive values like social relationships, renewable energy, bike trails, small farms, preventive health care, and compact communities with town centers increase.

Here are a few more shifts in the way we meet needs that will make our lifestyle more affordable:

* If our collective demand for products falls, so will prices, as we’ve seen recently with gasoline. With cooperation and synergies among social and technical systems, we’ll make better use of finite resources.

* When we design communities to fit human needs rather than corporate or automobile needs, our lifestyle becomes more affordable. Public transit will be far less expensive per capita than America’s current fleet of 250 million cars.

* Getting rid of packaging, glossy green lawns, and food waste also takes a huge chunk out of the collective cost of our lifestyle. We currently spend $900 per capita on advertising, which of course is embedded in the cost of products and services. Less consumption means less advertising as well as less debt. And less debt of course means less interest on the debt.

* Reasonable reductions in meat consumption, air travel, and energy-intensive materials like cement, aluminum, paper, and synthetic chemicals make it seem like we’re all making more money. War must finally be seen as the epitome of waste. Green chemistry, which shortens the steps and softens the environmental cost of making chemicals, in turn lowers the cost of everything manufactured.

* Preventive health approaches and more empathetic, service-oriented doctors and nurses lower the cost of maintaining our health, and better industrial design generates much less costly pollution.

* Eliminating subsidies that result in the destruction of ecosystems would save the world about $700 billion annually, about a third of that in the U.S. Rather than drawing down aquifers, letting soil erode, clear-cutting forests, and over-fishing the world’s fish species, we would learn how to be efficient, and how to harvest only a sustainable yield.

* In the new economy, recycling becomes a religion so less costly extraction is required; In a world with different values and priorities, there is less need for crime control, lawsuits, and security systems, because with a higher ratio of social input as well as greater equality, we nurture a population that is less fearful and has less “status anxiety,” a direct stimulant of crime.

These savings arise not because we are “doing without,” but because we’re tuning up our value system, getting rid of waste, and creating a more sustainable way of being in the world. Rather than requiring a hundred thousand hours of work per lifetime, this lifestyle enables each citizen to work less, avoiding the need for half a million dollars of earnings per capita — yielding a better quality of life in which nature is on the rebound, and trust is, too.

The future is waiting. I believe it’s time for us to stop seeing the world as it is, and begin to see it as it should be.

simple-prosperity-bookDavid Wann is a writer, filmmaker, and speaker on the topic of sustainable lifestyles. He’s coauthor of the book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, a best seller that’s now in nine languages. Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle is Wann’s vision of a lifestyle that’s immune to Affluenza, and his book in progress, Beyond Simple Choices, evaluates 100 high-yield decisions at both the personal and public scale.

Retire Early Lifestyle

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!

After visiting Billy and Akaisha’s site and the interview I did for them, please visit the Carnival of Money Stories. I’ll be back soon with the rest of my story, Part Five: My Early Forties, soon!

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