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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.

A Family On Track

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Rick and Darlene Swanson purchased the 3rd Edition of our book, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement in 2007. We have kept in contact through emails ever since, learning that the Swanson's are raising a family of three children and travel the world on family vacations while still maintaining a goal of retirement at age 50. They have been most kind to answer our questions of how they do this skillfully and having family fun at the same time. We know that those of you with families will benefit from their practical wisdom and experience!

Rick and Darlene, many people write to us to say they cannot retire because they have children to raise, and the high costs of their education puts a heavy financial burden on them. What makes you different as a family? Or do you see yourselves as different at all?

There is no doubt about it, raising kids is expensive. But we really don’t consider ourselves all that different from other families. We live in the suburbs with our 2.3 children (OK so it’s actually 3 children) and a dog. Our kids attend public schools, they play on school sports teams, we don’t eat out too much, and we spend a lot of “family time” together. The only thing dramatically different from our friends and neighbors is our addiction to travel. Over the last 8 years we have made 5 trips to Europe, most lasting two weeks or longer and several cruises to the Caribbean. Affording that much travel forces us to consider our priorities very carefully. To do that, we drive older cars (sometime a little too old), we don’t buy fancy clothes or shop at fancy stores, we don’t belong to country clubs, don’t have maid or lawn service (the kids say – we beg to differ on that one)… in short, we live well within our means and the rest takes care of itself.

Family Picnic at the Eiffel Tower in France

How far along are you in your plan for retirement?

Retirement has been a moving target for years now. We were college sweethearts and married the week after graduation. At that time our parents were still working and we thought 65 was the normal age and a very long way off. Promotions, pay increases, diligent saving, and careful investing whittled away at our retirement age.  Our objective went from our mid-sixties to early-sixties to late-fifties pretty quickly. At this point it looks like we should have the ability to retire right around age 50, just as our youngest enters college.

What did you do to include your children in with your retirement dream?

A big part of our retirement plan is to travel. We hope that some portion of that travel will continue to be family style. Our oldest is 19 now and could decide that family vacations just aren’t cool any more… but so far everyone still wants to participate and has a great time. We hope that continues well into adulthood. We even talk about continuing things into the next generation.

Annual Family Pesto-making Day

How do you manage finances with your children as you plan to retire? Do you involve your them?

The children are involved in family finances only to the extent that they understand our financial limits and why we have them. They know we don’t buy cars for children and that they will attend a state university rather than a private college. Our value shopping philosophy also seems to have rubbed off on each of them. They carefully consider what they buy and what the real value is.

Pastry break with French friend, Colleen, in Arras, France

Are your children independent now? How do you manage their financial requests and needs?

We have three children, one in middle school, one in high school and our oldest is a freshman at a state university. Some of them certainly think they are independent, but no, they are still financially dependent on us. Amazingly enough they don’t make that many financial requests. When they do, the requests generally come with pretty good rationale. “I plan on going to the movies with my friends and did a lot of extra work this week, mowing the lawn and weeding the gardens. Could I have a little allowance to help pay for it?” That kind of sales pitch is tough to say no to.

During a slate mine tour in Wales

Can you give us an example of your children's view on getting value for the money they spend?

 

Mom and Dad are thrilled that they have raised bargain shoppers. Our oldest daughter, who has the looks of a model, prides herself on her shopping savvy. She is not “into” designer or label brands…in fact, her favorite thing is browsing the thrift stores. She bought herself an older used car and buys her coffee at 7-11, not Starbucks. Actually, each child values money and carefully searches out bargains and sale items.

A few weeks ago we were driving our 13 year old back from volleyball practice and she told us about some of the groups at school. One group of girls was apparently impressed with the countries she had visited and told her how lucky she was. One of the girls liked the shirt she was wearing and asked where she bought it. When she told them it was from Target there were stares of disbelief. She was informed that all of the cool girls got their clothes from fancy store X, Y, or Z and they left. Our daughter turned and said “I can’t believe they would rather pay $50 for a $10 shirt just to be cool. If they didn't, they could probably go on neat vacations too. Picking friends by the clothes they wear is just stupid”. Comments like that make you feel like the best teacher in the world.

Recently relaxing in Rome

In raising your children did you give them an allowance? Encourage them to become employed? Direct them with their savings and investments? How do you encourage their fiscal responsibility?

Each child earns their own spending money and is expected to save about half of it for college or big purchases (car). The oldest 2 coach swimming and also give private swim lessons to area children … it’s amazingly lucrative. All 3 of them baby-sit for local families. The kids have many household chores that they are expected to do (e.g. loading and unloading the dishwasher, folding laundry, taking out the trash, etc.) and we try to give them some allowance for work above and beyond. Unfortunately we aren’t always timely payers, so we usually make up for it on our family trips, handing out $5 euro or so a day, to spend as they wish. The girls like to save up for clothing or jewelry at the local farmer’s markets, and our son enjoys eating his way through Europe, enjoying crepes or pastries or sampling gelato or pizza.

Family fun in the Swiss Alps

Each of our kids is an honor roll or straight “A” student, but we do not “pay” for grades. Too many parents pay out a large incentive for good grades…we know families that pay out $20 for each “A” on the report card. We believe that good grades and conduct are to be expected, not bribed and paid for, as the reward will be getting into a good university. Following along with the same thinking, you continue to get good grades and have good behavior in college; we will take the pressure off and pay for the financial costs of college, so they can focus on getting a college education for a good career.

Yowza! Erica saves up and buys her own car!

No doubt they think we are the toughest parents around but we think it’s made them into confident, self-reliant, independent young adults. Can you tell how proud we are? They aren’t perfect by any means and make plenty of mistakes. Let’s face it, compared to most of the world we are incredibly well off. While we want our kids to enjoy some of that good fortune, we also don’t want them to grow up thinking they are entitled to it.

 

Can you explain your approach to paying for higher education for your children?

We set two expectations very early in life. First – they are going to college. It’s just the way things are, not really a discussion. It is the natural next step after high school. Second – While we value a good education, we really don’t believe an Ivy League school is required to get one. We have a 529 plan for each child that will pay for 4 years at a state university.

Backpack proudly displays travel pins and patches

If they want an Ivy League education, a graduate degree, an out of state or private college, they pay the difference. When our oldest child won a partial academic scholarship we decided on an interesting incentive plan. She gets to keep every dollar of scholarship money … in the form of a long term investment. We’re in the process of opening up a Roth IRA for her right now…and we are encouraging our son, who is a junior in high school to actively search for scholarship opportunities too.

What would you say your biggest challenge has been in maintaining your retirement goals while raising a family?

Keeping our priorities in mind and managing the “I wants”. There are plenty of opportunities to spend money every day, and in truth we could probably afford most of them. It’s not easy avoiding temptation for a goal that is years or decades in the future. You may never live long enough to enjoy it. That’s part of why we travel as a family, it provides us with near term goals that we all agree with. We sacrifice now and reap some of the benefits now – before the kids grow up too much.

What is your #1 tip for others who are raising a family and want to retire early?

Focus on family fun, not designer labels and fashion. Buy used cars, not new, and you can afford vacations. Travel by staying in Bed and Breakfasts or small pensions, not big name hotels, and you can afford two week vacations not one.

Where are you planning to go next? How do you work your travel plans in order to make the most of your travel dollar?

The fall of the Dollar has made Western Europe pretty expensive. You can still have a great time but you have to be more careful than ever. Next summer we are visiting places that promise to be a little cheaper; Greece, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. We’re also looking at a South American trip next Christmas. The holidays fall just right so that the kids have 2 weeks off – an opportunity too good to pass up. Now our shameless plug – go to www.family-travels.com  for tips on affordable family adventures.

In one sentence, what is your philosophy on life, or your motto?

Rick - Time is your most precious asset, balance your life to make the most of it.
Darlene - Life is too short, not to have fun.

We are so impressed with this family who is on track with their life and financial goals. We would like to thank both Rick and Darlene for taking the time to share their lives and their wisdom with our Readers, and for sharing their family travel photos.

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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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