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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 with Jeremy and Winnie

Several years ago Jeremy purchased our book and then we met him in Chiangmai, Thailand. Since then, he and his wife, Winnie have retired from the work force and are now traveling the world. Take a moment and read this fun and informative interview!

Retire Early Lifestyle: Jeremy and Winnie, for those who do not know who you are and what you do, could you tell us a little about yourselves?

Jeremy and Winnie: Thank you Akaisha and Billy for giving us this chance to share our story. We became financially independent and retired in our 30’s and now we travel the world full-time, getting in adventures, meeting interesting people, and sharing our stories, photos, and detailed expenses with others. 

Everything we are doing is repeatable. We didn’t win the lottery, inherit a windfall, or even do that well in the stock market.  We just saved a high percentage of our income. You might say that we are living based on your example.

Jeremy and Winnie hiking along the Oregon coast

REL: Great for you guys! When did you know you were ready to retire and what motivated you?

J&W: The main motivation to retire early was the ability to choose what we do with our time. Work and commuting take up so much of our lives, and leave us exhausted during our “free time.” It is difficult to even get away for more than a week or two at a time. Now we have the ultimate luxury item: Time.

Winnie:  Since I was a child, I always wanted to explore the world. But in Taiwan, we had even less vacation days than Americans. One or two weeks a year is completely inadequate to truly experience a new place or culture. Plus I guess you could say I’m lazy ;-)

Jeremy: I’ve had a tenuous relationship with the working world for as long as I can remember. I’m still a little upset with the guy that decided I should no longer get summer vacation, long breaks at Christmas and Easter, and numerous long weekends once I graduated from college and started working. I guess you could say that I am lazy too!

 

REL: Can you share with us anything about how your portfolio is structured? Did the market declines of 2008 affect your retirement nest egg or make you question your retirement plans?

J&W: We roughly have a 70/15/15 split of a Total Stock Market Index, Bonds, and REITs. We own a few individual dividend stocks that help smooth out cash flow. We also have a private bond from selling a small rental property with owner financing. We are working our portfolio towards 100% stock.

The portfolio took a major hit in 2008, a decline of about 40%.  We had a large cash position in early 2008, and when the market dropped we put in half of our cash. When the market fell further, we put in the rest. Then when it dropped substantially in the fall of 2008, we said, “Damn, I wish we had more cash!”

The drop probably accelerated our retirement plans, because we had the opportunity from 2009 to 2012 to buy shares at lower prices, a period when we were saving 80%+ of our income.

A boat ride through Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas, Mexico

REL: How do you manage your finances while on the road?

J&W: All money management, whether in the US or abroad, happens on the Internet. We have a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees and pays 1.5% cash back, and we use that whenever possible. Often cash is the only option, and we just get that from an ATM since our bank reimburses for ATM fees and offers competitive exchange rates.

All of our books lead to adventure. Don't miss out on yours!

REL: What do you budget annually for your retirement?

J&W: We use the “4% Rule” as a guideline, but we don’t really have a budget. To date, we have been spending a little less than $3k a month with no effort whatsoever to limit or control expenses. We will probably spend twice that when we tour Western Europe, Japan, and Australia and could spend half that while still living large in parts of Central America. 

We do share every penny of our spending in great detail on our website, gocurrycracker.com to help others plan their own travel, and perhaps even help people retire sooner.

Hanging out in San Jose, California

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

Winnie:  I recently answered a similar question by half-jokingly saying, “Find a frugal wife.” Having a spouse or partner with similar money values and an intrinsic sense of self-worth rather than one that comes from what you own is invaluable. Beyond finding a good partner, developing skills that reduce or eliminate recurring expenses has a great return. I love to cook, and it is a skill I’ve developed in the last 5 years or so with a focus on reducing our food expenses. We eat very well for a lot less than the cost of dining out, and it is always more healthful. Friends love to join us for dinner parties too, so it is great for socializing.

Jeremy:  The best way to save money is to design a lifestyle in which television is completely absent and where you can walk or bike everywhere. 

Advertisers hire the best psychologists money can buy, and they will part you with your money, for things you don’t really want or need. They accomplish this either by bombarding you with negative messages about your looks or your value to the opposite sex, or by setting up unrealistic role models. The characters of Seinfeld, Friends, or Sex and the City can’t afford the lifestyles portrayed in their shows, but they make you think you should be able to. The greatest weapon we have in this battle is to opt out of all advertising, TV, magazines, etc... Throw the TV out the window of a tall building if you have to, but get rid of it.

The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement, 3rd Edition
A Common Sense Approach

The next best money saving secret is to find a home or apartment in a walk-able neighborhood with bicycle and bus access to where you work. Ideally you would live near a grocery store, a park, and a library, allowing you to eliminate or significantly reduce transportation expenses. This is exactly how we lived before we hit the road.

Releasing baby turtles in Puerto Escondido, Mexico

REL: Do you have a home base or own a home?

J&W: No, we are homeless vagabonds. By not having a home base, we are able to eliminate the costs of owning and maintaining a home, as well as the mental energy required to manage it. 

Jeremy:  My mother always told me that if I didn’t study I would end up homeless. It turns out the opposite was true :-)

REL: What has been your greatest challenge on your road to Early Retirement? Your biggest lesson? What were your fears and obstacles before making the leap?

J&W: The concept of early retirement is simple enough: spend little, save a lot, invest, and retire. Learning how to invest was a minor roadblock. There is so much misinformation out there and the financial advisor community tends to make it more complex than it needs to be. As in most things, simple is better, so we went with a portfolio of low cost index funds.

Fear of the unknown was something we both had to overcome. What about health care? What about safety? Did we save enough? Should we work one more year? (This was a big one for us.) You can never have all the answers, and there is no such thing as 100% security.  The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement was very helpful, since you (Billy and Akaisha) make a great example.

REL: We are very happy that you found our book to be useful! Did you receive resistance from family members and friends, or did they encourage you in your creative lifestyle choice?

Sunrise over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Winnie:  I quit working 3 years before Jeremy, when we got married. All of my friends thought we were crazy. It is just so different from what they consider normal. But they were also encouraging about travel, and love to see our photos.  My mother thinks we should still be working. It is hard for her to understand the concept of early retirement, but she is happy that we are happy. She does occasionally ask when she is going to have some grandkids though.

Jeremy:  When I quit, a lot of coworkers wanted to go out for beer and ask questions about how they could do it too.  There is no way we could drink that much beer.

On the family side, the strongest resistance was from my Mom. I called her and told her that I was now unemployed and we were going to go travel, and she said, “Will you be OK? Do you have an emergency fund?” “Yes”, I told her.  “We will be OK. We have a 60 year emergency fund.” “OK, you kids have fun!”

REL: Have you left much of your possessions in storage? Or did you chuck it all?

J&W: We stored all of our stuff on Craigslist. Nice people came to our house and took everything away, and they are going to use it while we don’t need it. They agreed to take over responsibility for care and maintenance and will even deal with depreciation for us.  Shockingly, in return for allowing them to watch our stuff, they even gave us a bunch of money. Someday if we need one of those things again, we will look on Craigslist, and equivalent or better items will be waiting for us.

Things like tax documents, medical records, and old photos, we scanned all of them and have them stored online, so we have access to them anywhere in the world. Between Craigslist and the Internet, there is really no reason to store anything.

REL: What do you do about transportation? Do you own a car?

J&W: We use planes, trains, automobiles, tuk-tuks, boats, bicycles, and our feet, whatever is the most efficient at the time, but we don’t own a car. Sometimes we got “free” flights from credit card promotions.

Winnie:  I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, with great public transit. I never needed a driver’s license, and have never even learned how to drive. One time Jeremy tried to teach me in an icy parking lot in a rental car. I felt like I was a Formula One driver, but I think Jeremy almost had a heart attack.

Jeremy:  I think cars are dirty, nasty, inefficient things. Why does it take a 4,000 lb machine to move a person? Driving from place to place is usually a miserable experience too. You have to deal with traffic, incompetent drivers (which may be yourself), getting gas, finding parking, as well as the cost and time required for insurance, fuel, licensing, and maintenance.

When I was working, I either took a bus to work or rode my bike. I remember fondly one day taking the long way home around the lake, 23 miles in total, and making it home before a driving coworker. There were few places we couldn’t get to faster and easier on our bicycles. It also provides great health benefits

Swimming at Semuc Champey, Guatemala

REL: What do you do about healthcare? Are you open to medical tourism?

J&W: Up until a month ago, we had a high deductible health insurance policy for only one purpose, in case we developed an expensive disease. I thought of it as paying protection money, like how you might pay the mafia to not bust up your home. But now that the Affordable Care Act has eliminated exclusion practices for pre-existing conditions, we have decided to self-insure. If we ever return to the United States for an extended period, we will purchase health insurance on our state’s health insurance exchange.

The Adventurer's Guide to Guatemala

We recently visited a dentist in Mexico for our annual cleaning, and Jeremy went to the doctor when he needed some antibiotics. Both experiences were better than the equivalent in the United States. No wait, friendly and polite staff, and we knew the cost of service before starting any procedure. The whole process is more transparent.  If we have a choice in the matter, we will only pursue medical care outside the U.S. going forward. You could say we are big fans of medical tourism.

Winnie making a human sacrifice at pyramid top, Teotihuacan, Mexico

REL: What are your greatest passions in life?

Winnie:  Travel, definitely, although I think my true love in life is food, creating it and sharing it. I also love photography, reading, and making jewelry. Now that I have so much more time, I keep finding new things that attract my creative interests.

Jeremy:  More than anything I enjoy learning, developing new skills, and sharing the things I’ve learned. Currently we are both actively studying and practicing Spanish, and I’ve been able to play more guitar in the last year than in the last 5 working years. I’ve also recently discovered that I truly enjoy writing.

REL: Tell us about your greatest personal success, not necessarily finance related.

Jeremy:  Once upon a time, I convinced my best friend to quit her job and travel around the world with me.

Winnie:  Hey! You stole my line!

 

REL: How do you contribute to the world?

J&W: On a daily basis, we treat people with respect and kindness. A genuine smile is always welcome and brightens people’s days. For anybody that has read YouTube comments or tried shopping on Black Friday, it is clear that the world could use more kindness.

We also share how we have been able to retire fairly young and experience life in a different way. A lot of people feel trapped, and by showing that there is another way perhaps a few more people will be able to find their freedom and pursue their dreams. We’ve received a lot of emails from people saying that our blog has helped them get closer to their own early retirement or rethink their lifestyle choices.

When we ultimately kick the bucket, we plan to create an endowment to fund charitable hospitals.

Monarch migration, Morelia, Mexico

REL: What is your most treasured possession?

Jeremy:  There is nothing that we own that I would be upset about if it was lost. I do enjoy having a computer and Internet access, and my guitar is always nearby.

Winnie: I love my high-end kitchen knives. Having the right tool for the job makes cooking so much more enjoyable.  And if a relationship can be considered a possession, I am also very happy to have a strong loving relationship. (But really the kitchen knives).

REL: Have you had a brush with fame, the proverbial '15 minutes'? Tell us about it. 

Winnie:  Several times while walking down the street in Guatemala, guys jumped in front of me and sang, “Heeyyyyy, Sexy Lady” and started dancing Gangnam Style, the popular song by Psy. Of course I danced along. Being mistaken for a Korean idol might be the closest I’ve come to fame. I guess I’m really famous in Guatemala.

Jeremy:  I’ve rubbed shoulders with several titans of the technology industry, and been in meetings with the richest guy in the world. The mainstream press at a charity event at the Playboy Mansion also interviewed me, when they thought I was the lead singer of a famous punk band. They were a little disappointed when I clued them into their mistake.

Jeremy swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

REL: What’s the worst thing you deal with in your chosen lifestyle? Your biggest challenge?

Winnie:  We meet a lot of great people with interesting stories and plans, but because we are all on the move it is difficult to develop deep and long lasting friendships. A lot of people we have met, we see each other’s photos on Facebook, but odds are we will never see each other again. It would be nice if friends or family could meet up with us from time to time, but they are so caught up in their own lives that it is difficult to get together. 

Jeremy:  I tried thinking of a negative aspect of our lifestyle, and I honestly can’t think of one. I feel that we are living the dream.

REL: What is exhilarating beyond words? Something you would never trade about your lifestyle to obtain “security?”

Winnie:  Most of my life, I did what I was supposed to, even studying things I wasn’t interested in and working in a field because it paid well even though it wasn’t my dream. Now I am able to pursue all of my creative interests that I didn’t have time to explore while working, like photography and jewelry making.

Jeremy:  My relationship with time has been completely transformed. I never truly grasped the whole Eastern philosophy concept of living in the present until I no longer had time pressure. While working, there is always a past event that continues to consume mental energy, and of course we focus on future work items and deadlines. Seldom are we able to truly be in the now.

Now, we wake up when our body has finished resting, we eat when we are hungry, and we create when we feel inspired. I often have no idea what time it is or what day of the week it is. Energy levels and creativity have exploded, and I imagine the health benefits have as well.  

REL: What would you say to someone who is considering tossing the conventional lifestyle and living one of travel? What advice would you give?

J&W: You can never have all the answers, and if you feel called to travel and explore then what you are currently doing isn’t where you should be. A favorite Paulo Coelho quote comes to mind, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.” Take the leap. The landing is beautiful.

REL: What is a secret fact about you?

J&W: We met when we were both on business trips in Beijing, China.  We spent an afternoon together walking through the markets, and neither one of us wanted to buy anything except food. That was when we learned we were soul mates.

We'd like to thank Winnie and Jeremy for taking the time to answer our questions about their retirement and for sharing their lives with us!

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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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