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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.

Interview Update with Kevin and Erin Knox

We met Kevin and Erin Knox in Chapala, Mexico and have known them for several years. We interviewed them previously and met up with them again in Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Since retirement life is not static, we asked if they would do a follow up Q&A for our Readers. It's fun to see how people adapt to challenges and create the lifestyle of their choice.

Take a look!

All of us at Ven Aca Restaurant, Jaibalito, Guatemala

RetireEarlyLifestyle: How long has it been since you left the conventional working world?

Erin: I left full-time employment to train as a massage therapist in 2000.

Kevin: I left my job as vice president and coffee buyer for Allegro Coffee in 2002, and have done occasional consulting work since.

REL: Do you consider yourself retired or semi-retired?

K&E: Well, we hope we’re just semi-retired! Erin has had massage clients everywhere we’ve lived. I’ve done a bit of coffee consulting and have hopes of partnering with a really nice local guy in a coffee roasting business, but it’ll be very part-time.

REL: You have moved quite a bit during the last several years. Where do you consider home to be?

K&E: Without a doubt we’ve moved way too much! There are a number of reasons for this, but a lot of it is that the places we are drawn to tend to be culturally rich, beautiful and popular (and thus expensive!) small college towns such as Boulder, Colorado or Ashland, Oregon which are well outside our means.

We’ve lived in Colorado longer than anyplace else in our married lives, so it probably feels the most like home to us, but we’ve moved enough to know that anyplace we live where we have a few close friends and an opportunity to contribute can feel like home very quickly.

Summer (!) in Anacortes, WA

REL: Do you recommend living overseas to other people looking for retirement destinations or do you believe that one can find a frugal and satisfying lifestyle in the States?

K&E: It seems to us that full-time expat life is always going to appeal to only a small number of retirees. Ties to friends and family are strong for most folks, and of course as screwed up as the U.S. health care system is, it does start to provide a safety net of sorts once Medicare kicks in.

 

That said, there’s a lot to recommend either full-time or “snow bird” expat life, especially in established expat enclaves in such places as Mexico, Ecuador or Panama. One can live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in these places on social security only or the equivalent income, while in the U.S. one would have to choose a very low-cost area, most likely live in a mobile home or shared housing situation, and would always (as we are ourselves) have to be watching the U.S. health care cost situation.

Costs aside, there’s so much to be said for experiencing other cultures while one is relatively able-bodied and adventurous.

REL: Have you changed your portfolio much over the years? What is your strategy? What is your belief about the future of the markets?

K&E: We’ve read at least 40 books on investing, talked to numerous financial advisors and spent thousands of hours researching online, and the learning process continues every day. We are both savers by nature (investing, let alone speculating, doesn’t really come naturally) and have long been searching for the frugal early retiree’s “holy grail” of a portfolio that returns 6-10% a year with few if any years with negative total returns.

We moved from a plain vanilla 60%/40% stock and bond index fund allocation in our early years to a much more complex small cap and value tilted slice-and-dice approach of what backtesting told us were “uncorrelated” asset classes - all of which tanked in unison (~23% paper losses) during the 2008 financial crisis.

Chez Mobile living room, Canon City, Colorado

That was a wake-up call to do further research, and we’ve been allocated to a variation of Harry Browne’s “Permanent Portfolio” ever since. It’s a great approach, but there are any number of simple portfolios that seem to us to make nearly equal sense, from owning 100% Vanguard Wellesley fund to a 50:50 Total Stock Market and 5 Year U.S. Treasury approach. And of course we wish we had the nerves of steel that you two and other savvy stock market investors have, but we’ve learned through seeing what we actually do (and think about doing) during market crises that we’re pretty conservative investors by nature. As our time horizon gets shorter, the old Will Rogers saying comes to mind more and more often: “I’m more concerned with the return of my principal than the return on it.”

As for the future of the markets,  the fourth of Harry Browne’s essential 16 Rules for Financial Safety comes to mind: “no one can predict the future.” We try to invest accordingly!

REL: What do you do about healthcare? Do you find satisfying healthcare outside the U.S.?

K&E: Dealing with health care and insurance has certainly been one of the biggest unexpected challenges of early retirement, and paying out-of-pocket for health insurance in particular had been one of the biggest drivers of our decision to live full-time in Mexico for several years, where one can easily afford to self-insure and pay for routine care out-of-pocket.

Currently we’re paying just over $100 a month total for an excellent Silver plan under the Affordable Care Act here in Colorado. Our low taxable income gets us subsidies of over $800 a month, which is great for us, but in our view the fact that the cost of health insurance for a relatively young (51 and 58) couple taking no prescription meds is $100 per month says a lot about just how broken the U.S. system is. Given that fact and the huge disagreements in Congress about health care we keep our footprint here in the U.S. light and our options open. We feel that we have to be prepared to return to Mexico or another affordable locale in a matter of weeks at anytime given how up in the air and complex U.S. health care and insurance is.

The Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado

We’ve had a fair amount of experience getting routine as well as some emergency health care in Mexico as well as lesser amounts in Thailand, India and elsewhere and across the board much prefer it to the best we’ve experienced in the U.S. - including when we both had deluxe company-sponsored insurance and long-term family doctors. In these other countries you simply call the doctor (including specialists) you want to see and see them within a day or two - no paperwork, no nurses and no being rushed like cattle through a 10 minute appointment. Instead the doctor spends whatever time is required, giving you their full attention, and then gives you their home and cell phones for follow-up!

The problem, as you well know, is that regular access to that kind of care really spoils you. For our part we will certainly make the minimum use of U.S. health care even with insurance and will look forward to seeing our dentist during winter visits to Mexico.

REL: What has been your greatest challenge in retirement?

Kevin: building friendships of equivalent depth to those I had in my years in specialty coffee, a business I was (and am) very passionate about.

Erin:  Although I love to travel, we have lived too many places trying to find “the right fit.”  With time we have both come to realize that each place has its plusses and minuses, and each place has wonderful people.

REL: Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

K&E: Lots of things! We both would certainly have stuck it out in the corporate world and saved a lot more had we anticipated health care costs remaining out of control. We’d also have gotten much savvier about investing and expense tracking before “pulling the plug” on full-time work.

REL: Do you have any regrets about leaving the conventional working world?

Kevin: Yes. I hadn’t planned on my last corporate job being my last job in coffee, but changes in the business landscape combined with the ’07- 08 financial crisis and my failure to save enough to open a place of my own have limited me to consulting work, which really isn’t my forte.

REL: Do you own or rent a home these days?

K&E: We own a modest but comfortable late-model mobile home in Cañon City, Colorado. We have less than 20K invested in it and pay $245 a month in space rent, so it’s very affordable living in a quiet place that we can also “lock and leave” anytime for travel without worry.

 

REL: Do you own a car?

K&E: We own a used Scion XA, one of famed finance blogger Mr. Money Mustache’s Top Ten Cars for Smart People. It’s inexpensive, gets great gas mileage, is cheap to insure, and it sits in the carport a lot since we both have bicycles and live less than 2 miles from the things we do everyday. We fill the 10 gallon tank once or twice a month.

Near Silver City, New Mexico

REL: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Kevin: The little town of Nyons in Southern France from May through September and Santa Barbara the rest of the year.

Erin: Nyons and where I am right now, with frequent visits to the Pacific Northwest to see friends and family.  Okay, having a little cabin on one of the San Juan Islands would be nice too!

REL: Do you still consider travel to be part of your retirement lifestyle? Where do you plan on going next?

K&E: We do love to travel but have learned through trial and error that we aren’t cut out to be perpetual travelers. We’d still like to do at least one more lengthy (3-5 month) stint in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, and it’s also on our long-term wish list to return to Italy and France, probably our two favorite countries, when and if the dollar and euro are close to parity and we feel like we can justify the airfare.

Otherwise our travel these days is either to see Erin’s family in the Pacific Northwest or for meditation retreats. We also do plan on spending 2- 4 months each winter living inexpensively in Mexico.

REL: Do you have a valuable travel tip to share?

K&E: Well, this is going to sound like shameless shilling, but seriously: spend a lot of time on Retire Early Lifetsyle, buy the ebooks there and learn from the best! But we really have learned more about how to travel and how to live frugally from you two than anyone else, and we’ve read a ton!

Aside from that, buying one-way tickets so you have flexibility (the change fees on international flights these days are often 50-75% of a return fare!), booking only 2- 3 nights of hotel in advance and then looking locally for value-priced accommodation that won’t be advertised on the internet and always looking for local expat web forums (and of course real live local expats) to learn from are a few tips.

REL: What piece of advice would you give to those who are looking to retire?

K&E: Learn all you can about investing and joyous frugal living from sites such as yours, Mr. Money Mustache and Darrow Kirkpatrick’s “Can I Retire Yet” site. If you have a spouse or partner, make sure you are both on the same page about priorities and that you both have strong friendships outside of work that nurture you.

Retire Early Lifestyle would like to thank Kevin and Erin for their time in answering all these many questions, and for their willingness to share their lives with our Readers. Thanks Kevin and Erin!!

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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