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
Several years ago we
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
How do you handle finances while on the road? And how do you deal with paying
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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
BC: Just do it! What is the best possible outcome? You discover
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!
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
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
With all your travels, how do you build a sense of community for yourself?
BC: Easy. Smile, be approachable and approach others.
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.
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.
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.
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
spread sheet. My total expenses divided by the number of days that I have been
retired equals $39.13 per day.
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!
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
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?
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!
About the Authors