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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
pensions, not big name hotels, and you can afford two week vacations not
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
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.
To read more
interviews with Expats, Early Retirees and Interesting Characters,
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
Retire Early Lifestyle Blog
About Billy & Akaisha