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

Update with Bill Clevenger

Several years ago we did an interview with an intrepid traveler named Bill Clevenger whom we met in Thailand. He shared his wisdom, insight and travel tips with our Readers at that time. We caught up with him again in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and thought we would give you an update.

Bill on a launch crossing Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Retire Early Lifestyle: We consider you a resident expert on living in Thailand. What sort of advice would you give to someone considering a move to Thailand?

Bill Clevenger: Resident expert? You are confusing me with some one else, right?

First don't do any thing in Thailand - or any where for that matter- that you wouldn't do at home. Thailand can be very seductive, but I would counsel new arrivals to take it slow. Many people want to immediately buy a home but I advise renting for at least two years and then evaluate if you and your new host country are a good fit for each other. Have a good cash reserve so if the exchange rates are not as favorable as when you first arrived, you can still maintain the lifestyle you desire.

REL: After so many years of living in Thailand, why did you leave?

BC: Actually I never intended to stay so long, the time passed so quickly. My epiphany was when my motorcycle was stolen - and the police laughed at me when I reported the theft. I then realized that Thailand is great - until you have a problem.

Having said that, when I contacted several expat owned English language news papers about the theft, they wouldn't touch it, they were afraid of "blow back" to put it diplomatically. A Thai news paper came to my aid and published the article along with photos of the thieves. I really appreciated that but I knew it was time to move on and I have no regrets.

REL: How did you choose Central America as a destination?

BC: I blame Retire Early Lifestyle for that move. Ha! Seriously, I love to explore new cultures and both of you had many positive comments about Guatemala, so here I am. Learning Spanish is an added bonus!

Staying overnight in Bo Kluea, Thailand

REL: We understand that you are quite savvy playing the airlines credit card mileage game. Can you tell us about that and how have you benefited?

BC: Anyone with good credit can enjoy basically free flights, often in Business or First Class. I scour the Internet for generous signup bonuses, often 50,000 miles, then look for ways to pay all of my expenses with that credit card until I have met the required minimum spend amount, usually one to three thousand dollars. I rarely use my credit card abroad, but I have prepaid my taxes a few times so it is still doable.  

 

REL: How do you handle finances while on the road? And how do you deal with paying your taxes?

BC: I manage my accounts the same way I do in the U.S., online! The Internet is REALLY your friend when it comes to finance management and you can easily do this abroad. About taxes, I am domiciled in a state with no Income Tax, so that eliminates one task. I pay my Federal Taxes directly to the government at Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.

Because it is a U.S. government site, no fees are charged and you can schedule quarterly tax payments online, no postage and no worries about the lag time for payments made by mail.

REL: You have been retired over twelve years now. Have you made any changes in your portfolio over this time? What is your asset allocation today?

BC: I'm about 80% equities and 20% bonds and cash and I have pretty much maintained that allocation during retirement. I have never been 100% in equities because I have a personal phobia about selling shares at a loss to cover living expenses. On the other hand, cash is a drag on performance, so I pay for my conservatism with opportunity costs.

REL: Akaisha and I are about the same age as you and we chose to take Social Security early. You decided to wait until your full retirement date. Can you explain your strategy to wait?

BC: According to my annual Social Security Statement, I will receive about 74% more if I delay benefits until age 70 - so I am rolling the dice! Seriously though, firstly, I can cover my living expenses from dividends and capital gains, so why not wait? Secondly, I view SS more as income insurance, so if I make it to a ripe old age I won't have to worry about out living one cash stream. Thirdly, I view the Net Present Value of SS as a cash reserve, so I am more inclined to have a more aggressive equity weighted asset allocation. At the end of the day, most of us don't know the exact date that we will pass on to our "Great Reward" so it's a bit of an individual hunch. Do what makes you happy!  

Bill at Lake Atitlan, three volcanoes in the distance

REL: What do you do about health care? Are you covered outside the U.S.?

BC: When I am in the U.S., I use the Veteran's Administration for health care. When I am abroad I self-insure.

REL: You have been living outside the States for quite a while; do you ever consider returning to live?

BC: Absolutely. I will at some point return to live in the USA, I like it there too!

REL: What do you have to say to someone who is afraid to take that first step out of an ordinary life and live a life of early retirement and travel?

BC: Just do it! What is the best possible outcome? You discover that you very much enjoy adventure and life abroad! On the other hand, if you feel that you can't wait to get back home, that is OK too. Just hop on the first available airplane. If you think you can, or you think you can't, either way youíre right!

REL: The last decade or more of your life has been filled with travel. What would you say to someone who has children, loves owning pets and likes to garden?

BC: Personally, I can't think of a better gift to give your children than to experience other cultures. Kids adapt and usually more quickly than adults.

I like dogs, but Harley (Yeah, I had a dog named Harley!) would have bailed from Thailand in a heart beat - way too hot for a Corgi I've met expats who have brought their dog with them, so that is not an absolute bar to life abroad. I would look at the decision objectively and make a decision based on what is good for both parties. (Harley had a long and happy life in the USA.) With respect to gardens, they have those abroad too. Just introduce yourself and lend the locals a hand.

Bill riding a chicken bus to Solola

REL: With all your travels, how do you build a sense of community for yourself?

BC: Easy. Smile, be approachable and approach others. 

REL: What is your biggest personal success, not financially related?

BC: Discovering that I could adapt - and thrive - in a culture that was not my own.

REL: When did you realize that you were innately a traveler? 

BC: From my earliest memories I was always interested in other countries and different cultures. As a kid, I would ride my bicycle to the library, grab an atlas and National Geographic and immerse myself. I was fascinated! The librarians would kick me out at closing time, and a few days later, I'd be back again.

REL: What are the most significant ways that traveling has enriched your life? 

BC: Tough question! I suppose that I've learned to appreciate other points of view. I may not always agree, but I can (eventually) come to understand how the other party came to their opinion.

 

REL: Do you budget or track your spending and if so, about what do you spend per day? Per year? About what do you budget annually for your retirement?

BC: Yes I track my spending daily. At the end of every year I update my "Withdrawl" spread sheet. My total expenses divided by the number of days that I have been retired equals $39.13 per day.

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

BC: Live abroad, it's cheaper! I don't feel deprived at all; however, I really don't spend much money. I insist on value for money and to me, no physical possession is worth my freedom. Travel can automatically keep possessions to a minimum, because after you buy it you have to haul it!

REL: We caught up with you in Guatemala. Could you recommend it as a retirement destination? How do you find the cost of living? The ease of travel? The people?

BC: Guatemala is great! The cost of living is similar to Chiang Mai, Thailand (cheap!) and the people are warm and friendly. About travel, I have yet to travel extensively in-country, but I can tell you the "Chicken Buses" are a hoot!

REL: Many of our Readers are solo travelers and they write to us concerned about having a social life on the road. Any advice? How do you meet people?

BC: I meet people abroad the same way I met them back home - at the coffee shop, restaurant, market and, yes, online too. Be polite, positive, outgoing and usually people respond in the same manner.

We at Retire Early Lifestyle would like to thank Bill for taking the time to answer all of our questions and for sharing his life and lifestyle with our Readers. Thanks Bill!

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About the Authors
 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Billy and Akaisha continue to journal and photograph their world travels.

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