Billy and Akaisha Kaderli from RetireEarlyLifestyle.com joined me for an episode of the Financial Independence Podcast to talk about their 20+ years of travel and early retirement.
In 1991, Billy and Akaisha quit their jobs, moved to an island in the Caribbean, and have been traveling the world ever since.
Their initial retirement savings of $500,000 has survived the dot-com bust, the 2008 financial crisis, and over two decades of early retirement.
Discover how they did it, find out their recommendations for the best places in the world to retire, and hear what it’s like to be perpetual travelers!
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- Retire Early Lifestyle
- Retire Early Lifestyle Blog
- E-book Store
- The Adventurer’s Guide to Destination Choices
- World Nomads Language Guides
- Email the Kaderlis
I came across Retire Early Lifestyle through recommendation by a Mad Fientist reader actually. A commoner named Probate left a message on my Shortest Path to Financial Independence article and said that I should try to get in touch with Billy and Akaisha and have them on the podcast because they seemed to be doing exactly what my wife and I are planning to do once we achieve financial independence.
After taking a look at their website, realizing that they’ve been traveling around the world, slow traveling, living in amazing places, learning languages and living like locals, I definitely was very excited to get them on the program just to talk to them about how it’s been traveling for 20+ years and how a savings of half a million dollars between them has lasted for that long considering all of the financial crisis, the dot-com bust and everything else that’s happened over the past two decades.
I’m really excited to talk to them. Billy and Akaisha, thanks a lot for being here.
Akaisha Kaderli: We love it! Thank you.
Billy Kaderli: Thank you for inviting us.
Mad Fientist: Hey, no problem. I’m really excited to chat with you. Before we dive in to what your 20+ years of early retirement had been like, could you first just tell a little bit about yourself and RetireEarlyLifestyle.com for those that may not be familiar with your story?
Akaisha: Well, we retired in 1991 at the age of 38. None of our friends had this in mind at all. It wasn’t even on the radar at all. Our families first thought that we were trying to scam away or get over on someone. When I had to explain that we’re paying for it ourselves, the whole idea was just out of the box.
We traveled until 2005 I think. We were writing letters. This was far before email was so common. We would use phones and it was a lot more expensive.
Long story short, we decided to start a website and we wrote all of our updates on the website. And then, people would share those updates. Before too long, our website would crash. So that’s how Retire Early Lifestyle came about.
We wrote our first book in 2005 after all those years of retirement. So it wasn’t like we decided to fund our retirement initially by writing books on how to do it. It sort of organically involved into that.
And now, we have an ebook store. We answer questions for everybody who writes to us and we have a newsletter. We answer all those sorts of questions.
Mad Fientist: Excellent! Yeah, actually, just recently (in the last month or so), I picked up your Adventurer’s Guide to Destination Choices. It’s been great reading through that.
Billy: Thank you.
Mad Fientist: I’ll obviously link to that in the show notes so people can check out all the other books you have.
But yeah, you mentioned that none of your friends were doing it. That’s really the thing that’s so impressive to me. These days, there are lots of great resources like your website and others out there that are talking about how people have done this. But I’m imagining back at 1991, that wasn’t the case.
Billy: No, Brandon. You have to imagine back in the 80s before we retired in ’91, it was the boy with the most toys won. People were just into acquiring stuff. We’ve never been big consumers. Just the wow effect wore off us pretty quick. We just put two and two together. We decided we didn’t want to chase the neighbors trying to buy the latest and best and newest thing.
Akaisha: Peer pressure was pretty heavy. We were living on the coast of California and it’s beautiful there. The people are beautiful, the weather is beautiful, the homes are beautiful, the cars are beautiful and you have beautiful things. One can really get caught up with that. We sort of did. We’ve never been big consumers like Billy mentioned, but that peer pressure was certainly there.
Mad Fientist: Right! And I still find it so impressive that you didn’t have anyone really to look up to. And even though you’re probably running the numbers yourself and saying, “Well, this looks possible,” but it’s like, “Why doesn’t anybody else do it. This seems like a much better way to live.” There was some self-doubt.
Billy: Oh, there definitely was self-doubt. In fact, we got to the point where we watched a movie called Joe and the Volcano and this couple (I can’t remember who the stars are), at the end of the movie, they take a leap in the volcano not knowing what their future is.
Mad Fientist: Right!
Billy: That’s what it was for us. We always figured that, “Look, if it doesn’t work, we can always come out of it some way.”
Mad Fientist: Exactly.
Billy: But it’s worked. It’s worked out well for us.
Akaisha: We also did hit on those mental paradigms of, “No one else is doing it. Why do we think we can? This is so out of the box. Our friends, they’re not on the same page at all.” We didn’t share it with anyone.
And I have to say, let’s see, we started realizing we could do this when we were about 36. And so, we took two years to program our expenses and start to actually track them to see if it was financially feasible for us to do.
Billy: A lot of backend work was done during that period. I mean, we were trying to poke holes through it constantly and come up with the math. We’d look at the numbers and we’d go, “What if… what if… what if…” We kept trying to poke holes through it, but all the numbers kept adding up.
Akaisha: The numbers added up. But for me (and I don’t know for whomever else), it was the emotional challenges. “Yes, but I want a home. Yes, but I love my garden. Yes, I want to be close to my family. Yes, but we live in the most beautiful town. What about all my friends?”
Those things were more of a challenge for me than the numbers. Billy kept assuring me the numbers worked and I just trusted him because he is so good at math and he’s in the finance industry, so I believed him that it was the emotional challenges that were big for me.
Mad Fientist: Right! Yeah, that’s quite some more with my wife actually. Just visualizing the future and seeing exactly what we would do helped her come around to the idea and realized that, “Yeah, we’ll have to give up some stuff, but there’s so much exciting stuff out there that’s to come.”
Billy: Once you become financially independent, it becomes a lifestyle and not a vacation.
Mad Fientist: And that’s something we’re looking forward to most, actually living like locals in a local neighborhood in an apartment rather than only having, whatever, two weeks, a year to go and see somewhere and you’re surrounded by American and European tourists and things like that.
Mad Fientist: Yeah. So that’s what we’re very excited about. So Billy, you said you worked in the financial industry. Can you just talk a little bit about that, your last job prior to your earlier retirement?
Billy: Yeah, that was my last job. I was recruited by Dean Witter Reynolds at the time in the west coast and it worked out well for me. Because we owned a restaurant prior to this, I had a lot of business background. And so, the whole New York stock exchange lifestyle appealed to me.
I was successful quickly. I worked hard and I worked like nobody else would. I was working seven days a week. You asked, “How can you work seven days a week when the stock market is only open five?” Well, I work on the weekends. I mean, I cold call until my fingers were bleeding. That’s just what I did.
Akaisha was running the restaurant at the time. So our schedules were 180°. I had nothing else to do anyway. So, I compiled a large list, a large book, as we call it, in the brokerage business for clients. And after three years, they gave me an office of my own where I became the branch manager of the [inaudible 00:08:39] office.
Mad Fientist: Oh, great. And so, Akaisha was still working in the restaurant. So, this is around when you were 36 when you decided that maybe this is possible. You both were working at the brokerage firm and Akaisha was running the restaurant, is that right?
Billy: That’s correct. We weren’t seeing a whole lot of each other. In fact, our lives started to split a bit because we had such different lifestyles and such different times that we were working and we were forming different groups of friends. At one point, we just decided that we need to focus more in ourselves than on anything else.
Mad Fientist: So, at 36, you decided. “Is it possible?” Are you going to do it? So, do you start attempting to sell the restaurant, I assume and you’re just accumulating as much savings as you can. Is that how it went?
Billy: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. We successfully sold the restaurant and we successfully got paid back for it.
One of the things that triggered this whole thing is that we sold the restaurant when we were about 36 and we started receiving payments from it. And when it came time, it went back up to second.
This restaurant, we put our blood, sweat and tears in it. The restaurant is a hard industry to be successful in. We were successful. We were one of the finest restaurants at Sta. Cruz at that time. We put a lot of sweat equity into this thing.
And once we started receiving payments and then tax time came around, all of the money that we were receiving the payments was going to pay taxes. It was like, “Wait a minute! This isn’t the way I planned this out.” It got to where we were paying over 50% of our income in taxes between the federal and the state of California.
I told Akaisha, “Look, I’m in partnership with her. I’m not in partnership with the federal government, the federal and state governments.”
So it really de-incentivized myself to work any harder because I realized half of my day was being spent paying the government every day.
Akaisha: At that point, Billy had said, “We’d be better off if we stayed home and didn’t work at all.” That didn’t appeal to me because I’m an ambitious, I like to accomplish things, I was used to moving up the ladder in one form or another. And so I took another job.
And when we looked at our finances and realized that basically, all of the income we’re making on the restaurant was going to pay the taxes, that’s when it hit us that we wanted to do something else.
That’s when we started tracking our expenses, backing off of maid services and gardener services, dry cleaning services, things that we just took for granted and started seeing that we could live without all of the stuff.
Billy: We went back and we tracked how much money we were spending in a year if we took out all of our work-related expenses.
Mad Fientist: Yeah. I actually just read one of your previous articles where you mentioned ‘cost of working’, which is a great, little phrase. It’s amazing how much that actually is when you take that out. You really realize you don’t actually live on that much if you took out the cost of working.
Billy: Exactly! And as long as you don’t have any debt, between no cost of working and no debt, you don’t spend that much money to be honest with you. We don’t anyway.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, I’m excited to dive into that just to see what a typical year’s expenses are when you’re living abroad. But before we get to that, what investment strategies did you use?
Billy: At that time, it was pretty much the Vanguard Standard & Poor’s Index 500 Fund.
Mad Fientist: Perfect! That brings up another story I remember hearing about. I think you mentioned when you discovered index fund, you were a stock broker. And then you sort of felt guilty bringing people into whatever product your company was selling rather than just going with the index funds. Is that true?
Billy: That is very true. I started having doubts in my mind with what I was doing. That was just the seed that was planted in my mind that I needed to get out of this place.
Mad Fientist: It’s always great to hear that though. A lot of people I know think, “Oh, yeah. Index funds, that’s the easy way out if you don’t want to make a lot of money and if you don’t want to spend time doing it.”
But really, much of the studies show that it is the optimal strategy just due to the low cost and the diversification, the tax efficiency and all of that. So it’s great to hear someone who is actually in the business coming to that realization as well even though I’m sure you had many resources at your fingertips to potentially try to beat the market averages.
Billy: Sure. But that’s the thing, the market averages. This is what the money managers try to beat every year and they struggle to beat it. So why not just own it?
Mad Fientist: Exactly! Yup, absolutely! So that’s your 36 or 37. So then, 38 rolls around. I assume all of your numbers start looking good and you actually take the plunge. So what was that like?
Akaisha: Well, we were supposedly prepared for this. We had estate sales for two or three weekends in a row. And that, we sold everything – the bed out from under us, our inlaid dining room furniture, our grass mirrors, our China cabinet, the obsidian glass, pecan wood, bedrooms, the whole thing. And each piece going out – again, I’m just going, “Oh, my God!”
And so, after the estate sales, Billy went to the flea market. Then after that, we went to goodwill and women centers and all that sort of thing. And then, after that, things went into storage. We actually had stuff later that I thought, “Well, if this doesn’t work out, I’ll use these business clothes. I can’t get rid of my books. What about all the letters from my grandpa and my father?” These kinds of things. There was a lot still left, just a kernel of things that we still didn’t want to get rid of.
Billy was offered a job, a transition job as a French chef down in the Caribbean islands. That was our first destination, that I was going to meet him on these Caribbean islands and he’s going to be the chef and I was going to be doing probably the manager, managing the reservations or some such at this Caribbean island resort. That was in January of 1991.
Well the Gulf War began and nobody was flying. Everybody is telling me, “Do not even think about it, airplanes and going to a foreign country.” I said, “I have no place to live. I have no furniture.”
So actually, the transition was a little funkier than people need to go through.
Mad Fientist: Did you end up going to the Caribbean islands?
Akaisha: Oh, absolutely, yeah.
Billy: Oh, yeah. We lived on the island for six months. My friend was the executive chef at the Four Seasons Resort. This was a new business venture for the Four Seasons company. They needed help. They were down there trying to train these island people on how to have five star service and cook five star food. They had date set when they were opening, but they were behind schedule.
So he contacted me once he knew I was free and asked me if I’d give him a hand down there. It was a great entry for us to get out of the States and go to the Caribbean, which we loved and just to try something completely different.
But it was just a temporary situation until we got the Four Seasons up and running.
Mad Fientist: Had you always planned on becoming perpetual travelers or was that something that, at the end of your time in the Caribbean, you just go, “Hey! Let’s go somewhere else new” and it just has continued like that for 20 years?
Billy: Yeah, it’s just taken a life of its own. We went from the Caribbean, we caught a sales boat. We sailed down south to Grenada and through to Venezuela. We hung out in Venezuela for a while. And then we came back to the States, used one-time pick-up and a 28-foot 5th wheel trailer. We traveled to the western states for a number of years.
Mad Fientist: And now, you have a base in Arizona. Is that correct?
Billy: We have one base in Arizona, that’s correct.
Mad Fientist: And also, you’re down in Chipola, Mexico as well?
Billy: That’s where we’re currently at, yes.
Akaisha: I was just going to say we have a couple of bases. We like Guatemala quite a bit in Central America. So we rent a place when we’re there in Panajachel, Guatemala.
And we love Asia. We generally hang out in Chiang Mai where we went as well. And then we can fly through the whole Pacific rim nations.
So we are perpetual travelers, but we tend to have a base which is familiar, from which we travel to these other locations.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, that appeals to me so much. Whenever we live abroad for a long period of time, like when we were in China for three months, we would see backpackers whenever we’d visit places like Hongkong or something like that. Just seeing them just makes me feel so tired. I’m like, “I don’t know how you do it.”
We felt like home was in China at that point. And then, whenever we’re just going out and spending a weekend or a week something traveling somewhere in the region, then it feels like we do come home, but it’s just home in China. That just makes it feel so nice and you don’t get tired, I don’t think.
Mad Fientist: We would run into people and they’re just trying to pack so much in and they’re just seeing in so much. We were in Belize recently and we ran into people that were traveling just non-stop for over a year. They’re like, “Yeah, we just went and saw some more ruins.” They weren’t impressed by it at all. They just had to do it. It was like a job.
Akaisha: I know! Exactly! It’s like a job. It’s not that awful to live with the people and hang out and be in the markets. We don’t take our backpacks to the market. We don’t bring all that stuff.
It’s so much more fun. You can see the early morning fishermen and see the festivals when they happen and all that kind of stuff. You get to know your neighbors and the restaurant owners and whatever. It’s so much more fun.
Mad Fientist: It sounds amazing. Actually, Chiang Mai is on probably the top of our list as far as where we’re going first. We’ve never been to southeast Asia and that’s one of the places that I’ve wanted to go the most. It’s just great that it happens to be also one of the cheapest places to live.
Akaisha: It’s gorgeous there.
Mad Fientist: Chiang Mai seems like it’s much more our style than maybe Bangkok or somewhere else in Thailand.
Billy: It’s much more manageable.
Mad Fientist: Good, that’s good to hear. That’s where we’re heading first. I’m really excited just to explore that whole area and live the Thai life for a little while.
So you’ve been traveling – well, you’re slow traveling for the past 20+ years. Now, during that time, were you invested still in index funds. Is that the primary thing that you are invested in?
Billy: Yes. And even today, we still have quite a bit in index funds.
Mad Fientist: So you survived the dot-com crash, the 2008 financial crisis, all of these things. What was it like to go through those periods?
Billy: We survived Black Monday in 1987 when you were just coming up.
Mad Fientist: That’s right. Yeah, that’s weird.
Akaisha: You’ve been barely born.
Billy: Well, you know what? We were fine. We were able to weather all of those crisis out including the 2008 financial meltdown. But at that time, after three in a row in a short period of time, I decided to get more proactive in our investment approach.
And so, that’s what I did. I put my broker’s hat back on. I’m not a day trader. Just to give you an example, so far this year, we’ve done one trade. So we’re still quite a bit buy and hold.
But I’m trying to hedge ourselves in order to avoid these 30% or 40% downdrafts that can just wipe out huge chunks of your portfolio.
Mad Fientist: So you’ve been withdrawing around 3% a year. Is that correct? Is that what you’ve been targeting throughout your early retirement?
Billy: We don’t really target it, we just spend it. And then that’s the after effect. But when I went into this, I used the 4% rule before that was even invented. I just figured out that if we spent this much money and add some inflation to it, even if I could make just a little bit more than that, it would be okay. And that’s how all these got started. And then, later, I learned about the 4% rule, I said, “Oh, okay. Well, that makes sense.”
But we don’t budget it. The 4% rule is pretty strict if you’re a diehard about it. Just take your portfolio’s value, multiply it by 4%, then add inflation and that’s what you’re able to spend. Well, we don’t do it that way. We just spend and then we figure.
We track it every day. I can tell you what percentage we’re spending on that up to today. We have set up a spreadsheet program that does this for us.
Mad Fientist: That’s available on your website, isn’t it?
Billy: Yeah, it’s available through our books.
And I think that’s really important for people to get. Whether you use our spreadsheets or create your own, I think it’s really important because the tools are here today to do this very, very easily. You should be able to know where you’re at every day financially.
I tell people that if you’re going to drive from California to New York and you’re lost somewhere in Texas, how are you going to get to New York? You need to know where you’re at in order to get to where you want to go.
Mad Fientist: Absolutely! And especially with tools like Mint out there. Just tap into everything. Even if you don’t want to spend any time doing it, some software can actually do it for you these days.
Billy: Exactly! I’m old-fashion and I just develop my own spreadsheets for my own particular use.
Mad Fientist: I’m the same actually. You can do them exactly what you want them to do rather than…
Billy: Exactly! I know what information is important to me and I know the warning signals that I have to look for, so I’ve got them built in.
Mad Fientist: So you track all your spending. I think I remember reading that you don’t budget. You just track where you’re at, but you don’t necessarily have a budget to govern where you’re going. Is that correct?
Billy: That’s correct. We don’t say, “We’re going to spend x amount of food every month and x amount on lodging.” We just do it and figure it out.
Akaisha: The other day, we were looking at our spending here in Chipola. We’ve been eating out because we haven’t seen these people for a while. We’ve been going to restaurant and bars and so on and so forth. I just finished refreshing my wardrobe in California because I can try the clothes on. They’re my size and my style and so on. We bought some digital equipment and so on and so forth.
So, we’re sort of blowing money, which we don’t really do. Anyways, when we were looking at our spending, the daily average and such, we were just shocked at how much per year it was. It was so little. We both looked at each other, “How much more can we eat? How much more fun can we have? How much more clothes do we need?”
We bought new computers, we bought new hard drives, the whole thing. We spent some money. Plus our vitamins, the whole thing. And then, we were still ridiculously low.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, it doesn’t seem it will take a lot to give you a really exciting, interesting, fulfilling life.
Billy: And the Internet is probably the most deflationary thing in our lifetime because it has just created so much competition for sales of everything. The competition is so fierce out there. Computers are half the price what we used to pay for with three times the features!
Mad Fientist: Right, absolutely. So, what would you say is your average annual spending if you don’t mind me asking just over the past five, ten years?
Billy: Less than $30,000 a year.
Mad Fientist: Wow! For two people?
Billy: Right! People think they have to have millions and millions of dollars to retire. I think the brokerage business is the one who created this myth.
Mad Fientist: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I’m sure there are many industries that have created the myth just to keep people working and spending.
Billy: Exactly! And the brokerage business, they only tell you when to buy, they never tell you when to sell.
Mad Fientist: Right! Yeah, exactly.
Akaisha: I do think that, speaking of the brokerage business and a couple of million dollars in order to manage the lifestyle that you currently have…that’s what they always say to maintain the level of living that you currently have.
And yeah, some people do want a boat in the harbor and they do want a couple of cars and they do want a garden and a pet and three or four bedrooms in their homes and stuff like that. Those people will probably have to have more because they have a maintenance that they have to pay.
But not everybody wants that. There are so many different housing options and so many different types of options to live your life.
I mean, I have people that pay thousands of dollars in income every month. Ten thousand with this one guy I know every month on his retirement income and it’s still not enough for him because people tend to spend what they have. It’s coming in, they spend it. So it’s like it’s never enough is my point unless you decide that it is.
Mad Fientist: Right! Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to do something different I haven’t done before since I’ve never had multiple guests on at the same time. I’m just going to go through like a lightning round of quick questions about places for early retirement because I know that’s something I’m very interested in because like I said, my wife and I hope to spend most of our time somewhere else abroad.
So if you don’t mind, I’m just going to go through a quick list of questions. You both can answer. You don’t have to agree (or you can agree).
Billy: True or false?
Mad Fientist: No, good places. So, we’ll start it off. The best food, where in the world that you’ve lived with the best food?
Billy: Oh, man. France.
Akaisha: Mexico, Thailand.
Billy: I say France. France has got the best food in my opinion. But I’m prejudiced because I was trained in French cooking.
Mad Fientist: Right, yeah. That’s true. So France, Mexico and Thailand. Excellent! How about friendliest locals?
Akaisha: Yes, Guatemala. Everybody has been friendly everywhere. We think the Thai are fabulous, the Mexicans. But Guatemalas just take prize.
Mad Fientist: Where were you in Guatemala?
Billy: In Antigua and Panajachel.
Mad Fientist: Excellent! Which one did you prefer?
Billy: Panajachel because they’ve got this large lake, the Lake Atitlan there. It’s just a natural. It’s beautiful. It’s the Lake Tahoe in the south. It’s one of the top ten places in the world to see, so you’ve got to go there.
Mad Fientist: Excellent! Sounds perfect. How about the nicest weather?
Billy: Chipola, Panajachel, Guatemala.
Mad Fientist: Are these all high altitude places?
Billy: A mile high below the Tropic of Cancer.
Mad Fientist: Okay. So nice spring lake temperatures all year around I guess?
Billy: Yeah. You can put Antigua, Guatemala in there as well and San Miguel de Allende and Mexico. I mean, as long as you stay up on the hot elevation, it’s not going to be too hot and it’s going to be too cold.
Mad Fientist: Nice! Akaisha, is that the same for you?
Akaisha: Yes, it is. We both tend to like dry, cool, fresh weather, a lot of sun.
Mad Fientist: Excellent! How about best beaches?
Akaisha: Ah, Vietnam, Naples, Florida, Gulf Coast of Florida.
Billy: Phuket, Thailand.
Akaisha: Phuket, Thailand, all the islands on southern Thailand.
Mad Fientist: Excellent!
Akaisha: The Pacific has outrageous beaches.
Billy: Yeah, they’re different.
Akaisha: That sugar white sand is gorgeous.
Billy: If you want the beach like in the vacation promo, then you go to Phuket or Naples, Florida or the Caribbean side of Mexico. But if you want the rough and tough surfing beaches, then the Pacific coast of Mexico are some of the best in the world.
Mad Fientist: Excellent! How about biggest culture shock?
Akaisha: Oh, it’s in Asia.
Billy: For sure. As soon as you go off the plane, you realize you’re not in Kansas.
Akaisha: It’s so exotic. It’s so exotic. It’s so exciting. It’s just amazing. Of course, you’ve been there, so you know that…
Mad Fientist: Oh, it was amazing. That was the thing there I like the most.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, it was actually quite weird. We flew into Hongkong. We were living in a city called Wenzhou. We spent like four days in Hongkong before we went to Wenzhou. I was just so excited in Hongkong. But my wife, the culture shock really hit here then. She’s like, “Oh, my gosh! We’re going to be here for months and months.” But I was fine. I was just on top of the world. I was so excited to be there.
And the switch when we went to Wenzhou, I was like, “Oh, my God! We’re going to be here for three months at least.” And finally, my wife was like, “Oh, this is fine. This is good.” So it worked out because we’re able to support each other in our times of our, “What are we doing?”
Mad Fientist: But that’s what makes it exciting. That’s what you look back on and think, “Oh, yeah. It’s so amazing just to be somewhere so completely different.”
Billy: And Asia is that. It’s completely different. I tell people that it’s 180° from the western world.
Mad Fientist: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely! But that’s what makes it exciting. How about most familiar?
Akaisha: Maybe like in a different culture, the most familiar?
Mad Fientist: Yeah, like somewhere where you feel instantly settled and…?
Billy: Oh, Chipola. We spend so much time here in Chipola, Mexico that it’s just like a home to us. We’ve got a lot of friends here. Some of these people, we’ve known for 20 years.
Mad Fientist: Oh, that’s great. That must make it a lot of fun.
Mad Fientist: How about easiest to get around?
Akaisha: Asia, would you say?
Billy: Yeah, public transportation is so good.
Mad Fientist: Because you guys haven’t had cars for a while now, is that correct?
Akaisha: That’s right.
Billy: That’s right.
Mad Fientist: Oh, man! I hate cars so much. If I never have another one again, I’m just excited to get rid of the ones that we have and not…
Billy: People have no idea the expense that their car costs them.
Mad Fientist: Oh, it’s crazy. It’s by far the biggest expense even over housing. It’s insane.
Akaisha: Yes, it is.
Billy: And it’s a depreciating asset. That’s what hurts.
Mad Fientist: Yup, yup. It’s terrible. So final one in our little lightning round. If you had to chose one place – I know that was probably hard because you have so many bases and so many places you’ve been. But if you had to chose just one…?
Akaisha: Hmmm… oh, no. I guess I would choose a place in Latin America, some place, either Chapala or Guatemala just because the culture is familiar and I speak the language. I don’t speak enough Thai or Chinese to make my life comfortable. And the international airport is close to home if I need to go for a family visit for whatever reason. I would chose Latin America.
Mad Fientist: How about you, Billy?
Billy: Yeah, I think Panajachel, Guatemala would be my number one choice at this time. I stopped because Chiang Mai, Thailand is very good. It’s a very close second just because the services in Chiang Mai are so good. You’ve got top-rated hospitals and doctors there as well as tennis and Olympic swimming pools and things of this sort.
Akaisha: International airports, transportation, cost of food and living.
Mad Fientist: What would you say the cost of living is like for people that may not – I obviously know how cheap it is. Well, not firsthand, but just through lots of reading. But could you just give a rundown of a typical day maybe in Chiang Mai just to show people how little you actually would need to spend to have an incredible life over there.
Akaisha: Sure. You could probably spend $10 or so in your hotel. And that would be a nice one. All your meals for the whole day for one person (and that’s if you blow it out) would be $5. So say you want to buy something for a friend and ship at home or something, that’ll probably between $5 to $10 depending. You know what I’m saying? The quality of items over there is just fabulous.
Mad Fientist: You can live over there for about $38 a day without much hardship.
Akaisha: And that’s for the two of us.
Billy: Right! That’s for two people.
Mad Fientist: Wow! That’s incredible. Is the food as amazing as I dream it is?
Billy: Oh, yeah. Plus, it’s international. You can get everything from McDonald’s to…
Akaisha: …to pizza, barbecue ribs, cornbread. But those types of food will cost you more. If you do the…
Billy: …Thai food…
Akaisha: Yeah, you’re talking a dollar, less than a dollar.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, that’s what I’m looking forward to. I love Thai food. I’m very excited about that.
What are some of the challenges associated with your lifestyle? Obviously, to me, it seems amazing and perfect. But I’m sure there are some challenges. Are there any that you’d be willing to share?
Billy: Probably visas are the biggest challenge. Unless we decided to take up residency in some country, we’re forced to move on at some point. If you’re not decided, it knocks some cobwebs off of you to go see other places.
Mad Fientist: Oh, that’s true.
Billy: So, we’re still young enough to where we’re not ready to just settle in one place yet. There’s a yin and yang to that. But definitely, there’s always something that’s at the back of your mind that, “Okay, I’m here for so many days. And now, I’ve got to move on.”
Now, there are ways around that. In Asia, you do what’s called ‘border runs’, as well as in Latin America. You take the bus to the border, turn around and come back and get a fresh visa. In Guatemala, we actually pay somebody to do it for us so we don’t even have to leave. So, there are services set up for this.
But things changed since 9/11. Companies, countries have gotten more automated, more computerized. And so, everybody knows where you’re at.
Mad Fientist: Akaisha, you mentioned that you speak Spanish, I assume. Have you guys picked any other languages along the way?
Akaisha: Yes. We’re functional in Thai. We can order food and get a hotel and bargain at the markets. We use and speak very lightly social type of Thai. But between the amount of English they speak and the amount of Thai we speak, we can get along on a very service level. When they speak English, we can get a little deeper.
But I’ve forgotten all of my Chinese. That was just pretty basic, basic nothing. But between the Spanish and the little bit of Thai we know, that’s functional. And of course, English, that covers a lot of area.
Billy: She used to know some French, but that’s too long.
Akaisha: Yeah, I took French in school too. I’m sure I’d pick it back up. It’s dormant.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, that’s one other thing I’m really excited about. I’ve always wanted to learn a language. But without needing to learn it, it’s always one of those things that just keeps getting pushed back down the priority list.
Akaisha: You know, one of the things that’s really good is the World Nomads Free Language Guides. We have a link to that too on our site. I’ll be happy to send it to you.
Mad Fientist: Oh, perfect.
Akaisha: You just go to World Nomads Language links. They give you all the survival phrases free. You don’t have to pay for it and get it as an app. And so basically, all you have to do is get started and then you can function in that culture.
Billy: I think the best thing to do is just emerge yourself in the culture. With Spanish, we come down here into Mexico or into Guatemala, anywhere Latin America and jump in. There are language schools all over the place and they’re not expensive. Some of them, you stay with them a family, a local family. So you’re forced to speak Spanish 24/7.
Mad Fientist: Oh, wow! Yeah, that sounds great.
Alright! Well, yeah. We’re getting to the end of the interview here. I usually ask all of my guest if they had one piece of advice for someone that’s just thinking about starting their pursuit of financial independence, what would it be?
Billy: Work hard, spend a little, save a lot and invest wisely.
Mad Fientist: Akaisha?
Akaisha: Yeah, I would say the freedom you get from financial independence is worth anything you have to do to get there. I don’t care if it’s giving up that extra pair of shoes or not going out to lunch. If it means that self-reliance, that freedom means anything at all to you, you find out how to do it, do it.
Mad Fientist: Perfect! Thank you both again so much for joining me today. It’s been so good to talk to you. And if people want to get in touch, should they just head to RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they can email you there or…?
Billy: Yes. They can email [email protected] We answer all of our emails.
Mad Fientist: So that’s [email protected]?
Billy: That’s correct.
Mad Fientist: I will put a link on the show notes both to the website and to the email address. And then all your books are available on the website as well?
Billy: That’s right.
Akaisha: That’s right, yeah, a digital bookstore.
Mad Fientist: Excellent! Well, again, thank you both so much. It’s been a pleasure. Hopefully, I’ll see you down somewhere in Latin America in the next couple of years.
Billy: Thank you very much, Brandon. We’re always available.
Mad Fientist: Excellent! Thanks again.
Akaisha: Thank you.
Billy: Bye bye.
Akaisha: Bye bye.
Mad Fientist: Well, I hope my discussion with Billy and Akaisha was as exciting for you as it was for me. The fact that they were able to retire with $500,000 between then in 1991 and then go on to live such exciting and adventurous lives really gives a lot of hope to people like me who are interested in incorporating long-term travel into their early retirement plans.
It’s also great to hear that they haven’t really tired of the lifestyle either and just seemed just as excited by the possibilities as they may have been back in the early ‘90s. ‘
So yeah, it was a great interview. I really appreciate Billy and Akaisha taking the time to talk with me. Thank you, guys out there for listening.
Thanks so much for this! They are such a wealth of knowledge and a great reminder of what we are working toward. Great interview!!!
Thanks, Chase! You are absolutely right that they are both incredibly knowledgable and inspirational. Really glad to hear you enjoyed the interview!
Thanks, Chase. We figure if WE can do this, YOU can too!! Best, Akaisha and Billy.
Really a great interview. It’s so fun to hear their perspectives and experiences. Definitely sounds like an attractive lifestyle!
Thanks, Joshua. To me it sounds like the perfect lifestyle so that’s why I was so excited to speak to them!
another terrific interview, Brandon! Great guests and your interviewing skills just keep getting more impressive. I especially liked your “lighting round.”
BTW, what was the city in Guatemala Billy mentioned as a favorite? I couldn’t quite make out the name.
Personally, I really loved this one as this is the direction in which we ourselves are now moving.
What great fun having a coffee with these folks would be. Makes me wish my upcoming trip to Ecuador was routed thru Chapala.
Too bad you are not in the major media. It would be fun to read all the comments telling these folks what they’ve done for the last 20+ years isn’t possible. :)
Thanks, Jim! You didn’t hear all the mistakes I edited out so maybe it’s actually my editing skills that are getting better :)
The city in Guatemala that Billy mentioned was Panajachel on Lake Atitlán (Lake Atitlán is the lake that Jeremy’s $195 per month apartment overlooked)
Haha, even with the 20+ years of proven success, I’m sure the naysayers would figure out some way to argue why it isn’t possible.
Got it. Thanks.
But regarding Guatemala, I see they didn’t mention that They Will Kill You for Your Shoes!
Haha, that’s probably why they escaped to Mexico
Great interview! The post “They will kill you for your shoes” is particularly funny when Billy and Akaisha mentioned the locals in Guatemala are amongst the most friendly anywhere.
Lake Atitlan is incredible, and is something everybody should experience. Although it is impossible to capture the majesty of the place on film, we tried. Take a look at the photos in this post to whet your appetite
It looks amazing! I think that will likely be our first Latin American destination, when we finally make it down that way.
Great interview, and like your work. Please don’t take this as a naysayer comment, because I absolutely believe in the ability to FIRE. But I want to downplay the $500K starting amount a bit – in today’s dollars assuming 3% inflation over 22 years that would be $958,000 today, which is clearly a figure that one could FIRE on today especially of you live in foreign locales. Also, 1991 was the bottom of a major recession (always better to FIRE at the bottom than the top) and during that 22 years the stock market indexes returned over 300% (even with two major crashes) much of it fueled by debt (consumer, corporate, and government – its not coincindence that since the early 90’s when debt exploded that markets returned a substantially greater amount than prior history but with far greater volatility – pull the charts to see the explosive increase in all types of debt during that time, its shocking). And/or massively declining interest rates (the 10year US Treasury was about 8% vs 2.5% today) – I just don’t think we can rely on a similar confluence of events in the near or even far future. Damn – just having an 8% treasury rate makes the 4% rule easier to swallow.
I still think it is highly doable but they benefited from a pretty well stacked set of cards, of course they didn’t know this going in.
Hey TK, thanks for the comment. You definitely make some valid points. As you mentioned, though, they had no idea what was going to happen going in. As Prob8 stated in his comment, “Flexibility and problem solving seem to be the key” and I definitely think that’s the case. You can never know what’s actually going to happen in the future so you could either save 5x as much as you think you’ll need and work much longer to build up a big margin of safety, or, you could take the plunge when you believe the risks are low enough and then adjust and adapt as time goes on. Will the future economic landscape be more or less conducive to early retirement…who knows? All we can really do is figure out what levels of risk we’re comfortable with and then adjust plans later, if necessary. For me personally, I’d rather finish working a few years earlier and have an 80% chance of success than work longer and have a 95% chance of success because I know I could pick up work in the future if I needed to (and I may actually do some work for fun, if interesting opportunities present themselves). Others may be the opposite though and that’s fine too. That’s one of the reasons I hesitate to share my own numbers because half the people would probably say, “Why aren’t you retired yet?”, while others would say, “What makes you think you can quit so soon?”
Thanks again for the comment and I definitely encourage people with different opinions to speak up, as long as useful information is provided (like this comment). It’s the people who just say things based solely on their opinions like, “You can’t retire early because it’s impossible” who risk being labeled as naysayers!
Brandon, I really enjoyed the Kaderli interview. I’ve listened to several interviews of them and have read several,of their books, and I still learned some new things from your interview. How long did it take to arrange the interview, and how did you prepare for the interview? I can also attest that they do respond to their emails.
Brandon, don’t answer if this is tooersonal, but do you have a target net worth in kind in order to retire? And are you looking at full financial independence or to moving to part time (or part year) work? I perform mental gymnastics around post retirement needs and net worth needed and have not settled on the numbers. At this point, it depends on a number of variable factors like do we keep the house, do we pay it off, do I continue my work but arrange a part year schedule, etc. I hope to figure it all out, with the help of your blog, interviews, and the other good financial and lifestyle blogs. Anyway, congratulations again on another informative podcast!
Great, I’m really glad you learned some new things from the interview. It didn’t take long to arrange everything because, as you know, the Kaderlis are very responsive when it comes to emails so we were able to organize it pretty quickly.
Preparation for the interviews always takes quite a bit of time because I like to find out everything I can about my guests so that I can ask them relevant and interesting questions. This interview wasn’t too difficult to prepare for though because, since I envision my life after FI to be very similar to lives they’ve been living for the past 20+ years, I had so many things I wanted to personally ask them so I structured the interview around what I wanted to find out!
As far as my personal financial details, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I’m of two minds when it comes to sharing my personal numbers. I can see it could be interesting for people but it could also be distracting. I love describing the strategies and tactics I use in my pursuit of financial independence because anyone can potentially utilize and benefit from them and I can use math and examples to back everything up. Sharing my numbers could provide additional motivation for people but I don’t feel that adds as much value as providing actionable ideas. My biggest worry with sharing my own numbers would be that I’d have to spend all my time dealing with the the internet retirement police or the complainypants that MMM has to deal with, which is definitely not something I want to do. Since FI is filled with so many unknowns, figuring out when you’re ready to call it quits is very subjective so I’d rather not spend all of my time describing my reasoning when my reasons are unique to me.
I’ve thought about sharing percentages so that people have an idea of where I’m at without getting hung up on actual numbers but I’m not sure if that would add any value. I’m happy to hear suggestions though so if you have any good ideas, please let me know.
One thing I think I will likely talk more about after FI is expenses. I really think it’s possible to have an amazing life without spending much money so I can see myself describing my monthly expenses in detail after I achieve financial independence next year. Then, people can decide for themselves how much savings they’d need to feel comfortable quitting their jobs to live a similar kind of lifestyle.
You mentioned part-time work and that’s also something I’ve been thinking about recently as well. That could be a great way to transition into FI while saving a lot of money on taxes. I was actually thinking about doing a post on that in the future so I’ll let you know if I decide to do that.
Thanks, as always, for the comment!
Great interview! Given your hopes of travel in early retirement I’m glad you decided to talk to them. For me, the Kaderlis and Terhorsts ignited my passion to seek early retirement. Both truly remarkable couples.
You mentioned it in your interview but it is amazing that they decided to embark on that life without any role models. As Billy mentioned, the 4% rule didn’t even exist – at least not in any meaningful public way.
Flexibility and problem solving seem to be the key. It seems to have allowed them to deal with any problem that crosses their path including health care coverage.
Thanks for the shout-out in the opening. Totally not necessary though.
Glad you enjoyed it, Prob8!
The shout-out definitely was necessary because the interview wouldn’t have happened (at least not this soon) without your suggestion so thank you again for the leaving that comment all those months ago!
This was a very good interview. I follow the Kaederli’s website and bought one of their books but I learned even more by your interview. You asked good questions.
Thanks a lot, Linda. As I mentioned in my reply to Jeff’s comment, I just asked questions that I wanted to hear the answers to so I’m very glad you enjoyed finding out the answers to those questions as well.
I very much enjoyed his interview, thank you for giving us these podcasts!
I think one of my favorite parts of the interview was when Akaisha pointed out that the toughest part of pursuing FI was the emotional aspect. I’m finding that as my wife and I get closer to achieving FI (in about 16 months) I am spending more time worrying and thinking about things like status anxiety. That is, how will I handle the fact that I won’t have the newest and biggest toys? At an intellectual level it is very easy for me to simply dismiss those feelings, but I think it’ll be more challenging than that.
The numbers aspect of our journey is pretty straightforward and now we have it down to a simple and efficient formula (the usual LBYM coupled with wise investment decisions).
Btw, I love the lightning round! Keep up the good work.
Glad you enjoyed the interview, Spoonman!
Congratulations on being so close to FI. Hopefully as you start to taste the freedom that accompanies financial independence, your urges to get the newest and biggest toys will subside.
The emotions that surround FI are rarely talked about so I also enjoyed listening to Akaisha describe what it was like for her. So far my emotions have been mostly positive but we’ll see what happens next year when I finally reach the finish line.
Keep me posted on how things are going for you as you get closer.
Thanks for listening to the interview that the Mad Fientist did with us.
It does take a little bit of time to emotionally adjust to your new financially independent lifestyle. Give yourself that time.
There may be a “phase” where — against all logic — you will feel poor. In situations of the past where you might simply buy something, you will now, in your new life, choose not to or will think that you cannot, because you “can’t spend the money.”
This phase will pass and eventually you will find that of course, you can afford the new digital item (or whatever), but you will generally be more judicious in your spending. And that’s a good thing!
Great interview and you do ask terrific questions. I’m here to tell you that it is possible to do with even less money. I’m currently a not so early retiree living in Vietnam (Vung Tau) teaching English. While I do have access to pensions, I have not accessed them during the past 7 months that I have been living here. I teach English (went to school at the age of 62 to get the highly regarded CELTA) and find that I am able to save money and still provide a quite comfortable lifestyle without touching ANY savings, pensions, etc. It is so much easier than
I ever imagined.
Best of luck,
Thanks very much, Mary! Vietnam is one of the countries I’m most excited to visit so it’s great to hear you can live a comfortable life there for even less than you imagined. As I mentioned in the interview, Southeast Asia is the region I want to visit most so it’s amazing that it is also one of the cheapest places to live!
Fantastic interview! Have your guests ever met any families who are doing this sort of thing?
Yes, we have met many families on the road who are doing full time travel or a combination of settling and travel. It’s especially comfortable these days because one can be a digital nomad with easy access to the internet for educational materials to home school the children. Not to mention using Skype or Magic Jack to communicate with grandparents and friends.
You might want to check out the Denning Family (http://retireearlylifestyle.com/denning_interview.htm ) who seem to be experts on this topic. There are many others!
Yes..thank you. I have seen that family. The more examples the better!
I look forward to buying your book!
Interesting he mentions index funds (ETF). They were not even traded until well after he retired and certainly would have very high commissions if they were traded in the late 80’s.