20 Questions We Are
Media Interviews with Billy and Akaisha
Billy and Akaisha
January, 1991: At the age of 38, Billy and Akaisha packed it up, sold
everything, left the conventional working world, and moved to
Nevis, a 36 sq. mile
island in the Caribbean. From
there they started traveling and haven't looked back.
"Life is an adventure, follow your dreams."
People have always asked us
why we left our beautiful home and our successful careers for a lifestyle of
travel. But the questions over the 30+ years of our Financial independence
In the early years people
wanted to know if they could retire if they had children, and barely believed us
when we said “YES!” But, of course, with today’s emphasis on FIRE, there are
many stories of
young retirees with children leaving the conventional work
force. So that path has been blown wide open.
Today, the questions to us
Take a look below.
Updated November, 2022
Billy and Akaisha at Mar de
Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico
How do you define retirement?
“retired” in 1991, there was no word for Financial Independence.
We don’t really use the word “retired” any longer, but rather
describe ourselves as Financially independent – which means we
can do what we want, when we want, where we want.
We spend a
good deal of our time doing volunteer work, and our website is
one of our volunteer projects. We want more people to become
free of being wage slaves. We use our free time to travel, learn
languages and new skills.
or influenced you about money when you were growing up? What was
grew up, both of us had hard working fathers who supported the
traditional family. Neither of our fathers understood investing,
nor was the concept of “wealth” or “working smart” ever
discussed. It was the philosophy of work hard, save for the
future, find value in what you purchase, buy Certificates of
Deposit, have a savings account, buy life insurance.
thought a little more outside the box and began as a teenager to
read the Wall Street Journal stock tables. He intuitively
understood having his
money work for him, and initially wanted to purchase enough
of a local utility dividend stock to pay his monthly utility
bill. We didn’t begin serious investing until we hit a business
snag with our restaurant when we were in our thirties. This
changed our lives.
discuss money or financial matters with friends and family? Why,
or why not?
conversations with some of our family members and some of our
friends, but mostly not. One would think that, since we hit
Financial Independence 30+ years ago, that our family and
friends would be flocking to us for advice and guidance, but
such is not the case.
in our family and all of our previous friends (not the new ones
we have met through our website and travel) worked until
retirement age, collect a pension or inherited family money
through the death of their parent. Maybe FIRE just isn’t for
understand the “secret” everyone wants to keep about money, or
the fear many hold surrounding it.
There is nothing mysterious about money and the numbers work
the same for everyone.
you ultimately find the courage to FIRE? (How did you avoid "one
more year syndrome"?)
working days and having weekends off, and Akaisha was working
nights, weekends and holidays at the restaurant, we were like
ships passing in the night. Our relationship suffered greatly,
and we could choose to end our marriage or
jump forward into living our dream of traveling the
time, we had managed several large business problems and had
matured early in life. So, we knew we could figure out any
problems we might face on this new road of adventure. We didn’t
in January of 1991… and then the Gulf War broke out that same
month with US travel warnings everywhere. We pressed on. There
is never a perfect time to retire.
even around back then? How did you invest?
catastrophic event in our city shut our restaurant down for a
week, and it was at that time we decided that we needed another
source of income. This is when we began to invest in the stock
Exxon stock every chance we could. Mutual funds were around but
no ETF’s. Eventually we sold the stock to purchase our home and
looking back this was a bad financial move.
If we knew
then what we know now, we would never have sold that stock to
purchase our house.
investment strategy changed in the past 30 years?
Yes, as we
have aged we started moving into some dividend ETF’s like DVY to
increase our cash flow. Today, including our
Social Security, we are roughly 50/50 growth to income and
between dividends and Social Security covering our expenses, we
can let our portfolio grow.
believe sacrifice is necessary in order to achieve FI? Why, or
prefer to call it discipline, and yes, discipline is needed to
not be given to you, unless you inherit tons of money. And then
- because you might not know the value of what you just received
- you could squander away that money and no longer be FIRE’d.
We’ve seen this happen.
Tracking one's spending, learning the language of Finance,
preparing for the future of your own best life transforms you.
We don’t think you can get there without that transformation.
Being uncomfortable is a good thing. It causes one to grow.
expenses were $20,000 USD/year for the 2 of you back in 1991.
Now, according to your blog, it's $30,000 USD/year. That means
your yearly inflation rate was less than the prescribed 2%/year.
How did you manage to beat inflation?
we live a very happy minimalist lifestyle.
of living in Arizona where
our manufactured home is located is one of the cheapest
places we have ever lived. In fact, recently this location was
just named the #1 place for retirees to live. Much of what we
need (restaurants, groceries, entertainment) is within walking
have high property taxes or expensive house insurance. We “went
naked” of health insurance decades ago and we
haven't owned a car for nearing 20 years now. We walk, bike,
or take local transport.
do so much travel, our needs are nominal – if you want it, you
carry it – so our wardrobe is functional, not always the latest
utilized Geo-Arbitrage almost from the very beginning (before
that word was coined) and our exercise and sports requirements
are very affordable (hiking, biking, tennis, yoga, reading,
taking digital photos, writing on our blog, studying indigenous
cultures and food, cooking our own meals, enjoying each other’s
needs are minimal – without sacrifice – inflation isn’t
much of a problem.
you handle deciding on and paying for healthcare?
had been self-employed for so long, we were already used to
paying for our own health insurance.
first several years of our lives without a job we had a
US-based, high deductible emergency health care plan. But since
we were traveling the globe, we would find ourselves taking care
of our medical needs in whatever country we might be – whether
it was dental, being sick, having an emergency, getting special
tests, eye glasses and so on. We were participating in
Medical Tourism before there was such a word. So eventually
we just dropped our US health insurance and went “Naked”
as they say in the community. Now we qualify for Medicare but we
get our medical needs taken care of
here in Mexico.
any emotional impact from leaving the workforce?
de-stressing, there was no emotional impact from leaving the
workforce. We have always been productive people so we didn’t
identify with our jobs per se. Our careers were just the
framework within which we were creative and dynamic. When we
left our professions we simply found other pathways to be
valuable and to contribute.
Billy and Akaisha on the beach!
give us some insights into your post-retirement spending and
income? How much do you spend annually and on what? And where
does the income to pay for your spending come from?
annual spending update here.
typically spend around $30,000USD annually for all living
expenses including travel, health care, dining, entertainment,
food, rent -- the usual. We do not budget separately for travel,
as it is our lifestyle.
live off our investments as we always have from the
beginning. We now receive Social Security which we didn’t
qualify for initially, and we have dividends. All of this income
is far more than what we spend, so we re-invest in the market,
and keep several years of spending in cash in case of market
budget at all. We track our spending daily, spending a fraction
of our net worth, and we travel as a lifestyle, not a vacation.
If we want something or need something we purchase it. We know
right away in real time what percentage of our net worth we are
return to paid work? Why or why not?
only one time we even considered returning to paid work and that
was in the down market of 2008-2009. But then we realized that
by the time we purchased a car (with the costs of maintenance,
insurance, parking, and fuel) and re-supplied our work wardrobe
(and lunches out, commuting time and expense) and moved to a
location where employment was abundant, that we weren’t willing
to make those adjustments.
some changes in our portfolio, tracked our spending, utilized
geo-arbitrage to reduce spending and continued living our
lifestyle. In fact, we made about 6 or 7 trips to Thailand
during that time period and just after.
find it hard going from being a saver to a spender?
As we have
aged, it did feel odd to spend more.
have children, so besides the charities and special causes we
will leave money to, there is no point in bringing this money
with us to the grave.
your social life like?
life is wide and varied.
friends from around the world who come and visit, some from the
Philippines, Panama, Thailand, Guatemala and the States. There
are private and public music concerts and theater and lots of
activities like tennis, pickleball, going to the natural hot
springs, hiking, and walking around town. Sometimes we'll go to
the beach or to a thriving international Colonial City in
Mexico, or visit another country.
back, what would you have done differently?
do two things differently.
known better, we would not have sold our Exxon stock to
purchase our home in the 1980s. The Exxon stock performed
far better than our coastal home in California and was more
thing we would have done differently, is that we would have been
more prepared for the emotional factor of leaving “conventional
society.” We hadn’t expected the pushback and thought friends
and family would be happy for us and supportive of our choice.
We learned a lot, but that was sometimes difficult, confusing
and unexpected to go through.
did your friends and family think of your unconventional plans?
In 1991, our leaving the working
world challenged the belief system of Everyone. We. Knew.
Remember, this was
before personal computers were commonplace, before financial forums, Skype,
WhatsApp and the internet as we know it today.
We were walking on a
"high wire" with no net, but we had a lot of confidence in ourselves.
It was an adventure we wanted to take, as we were following our dreams.
you manage your finances and mail while traveling so much?
We have very little "snail mail" coming
to us now, and 99% of our communication and bill paying is done
electronically. It wasn't this way when we started almost three decades ago,
but the internet has made dealing with these obligations much easier. Today we utilize
Traveling Mailbox where we can view our mail online from anywhere in the
world. They will deposit a check for us or forward our mail to any address
where we might be traveling.
utilize a personal assistant who handles private matters and various things that
need to be done if we are on the road.
We explain this topic in
more detail in our very popular books,
Guide to Early Retirement, 4th Edition, Your Simple Path to FIRE and
Retirement Dream IS Possible.
Akaisha in a coffee shop,
have long-term care insurance? Now that you are getting older,
what do you plan to do about assisted living in the future?
We do not
have long-term care insurance.
decades of living around the world, we have seen different
options for personalized care for the elderly or infirm.
If one is
still able to manage on their own but would like some
personalized daily attention like cleaning the home, cooking or
shopping, this service is very affordable. Countries in
Central America where we have lived, wages are less so house
keepers, gardeners, and dog walkers are readily available and
economical. Private drivers on retainer to take you to doctors
appointments, to meet friends for lunch or go to social events
are also very inexpensive.
of having a live-in caregiver is easily managed. Some people
have a small apartment or casita on their property where a nurse
or caregiver may stay as part of their wages. Or if one lives in
an apartment complex, then paying for a caregiver's apartment
next to yours is also an option. Doctors commonly make house
would rather live in an
Assisted Living facility, here in the town of
Chapala, Mexico for instance, there are a variety that are
full service. Laundry, meals, nurse and doctor visits, a driver,
activities, swimming pools, a gym, and more are included in the
monthly price. Sometimes there are restaurants, beauty shops,
and scheduled shopping trips available. Medical "packages" can
also be purchased. These monthly rates - depending on the
services one needs - currently run from $1,500 to $3,000 a
of these feasible and convenient choices available, we figured
we'd work out
something that fits our situation, should we need help.
There are so many options here.
much capital is enough? How/when did you know you were ready to retire?
When our days filled up with more "have to's" than "want to's,"
we realized we were going in the wrong direction with our lives. The amount of capital is
a personal decision, and one that needs to be thought about carefully. Financial
experts say one needs 25 times your annual spending invested in liquid assets
and apply a Safe Withdrawal Rate of 4%
or less and you should not run out of
As far as when to
retire, do not let Fear make that decision for you. Risk has a
price, and so
your investments in the stock market, were you hurt in any of the bear markets
over your retirement time period? Did it affect your lifestyle?
Did we get hurt? Sure we got hurt, but did it alter our
lifestyle? Not much if any.
We continue to travel and expand our lives
through what we learn and share. We survived the second worst bear market in history
and the Great Recession, lived
well to tell about it, and have a higher net worth now, after expenses, than
when we began in '91.
is not static. There are always changes in Life and one must be
the ups and downs that happen.
Why don’t you run out of
money? How can you have more money now than when you left your careers in 1991?
Today we have a higher
net worth after spending and inflation due to the fact that we created a
machine. What this means is that our investments create enough cash flow to
cover living expenses and higher costs of living and as long as we keep our
spending in a
withdrawal range our assets should continue to grow. After 30+
years of using this system we can say that it works.
Do you own a car? What do
you do about transportation?
car free years
The adjustment to this carless
lifestyle was easier than we ever expected. Now we don't worry about maintenance, licensing, parking fees, fuel costs
or insurance for a vehicle. In the States we hire a driver
to take us places if we cannot walk to them and share rides with friends.
Generally, we prefer walking to and from stores if at all possible.
These days there are Uber, Lyft and other transport services besides taxis, and there is always the
idea of ride sharing or sharing a vehicle.
Transportation is easy in foreign countries. Mass
transit, tuk tuks, taxis, boats and a variety of other sorts are plentiful and
is available for
a low expense. We often hire a private driver to take us places, including to
major cities for doctor's appointments. They drive us there, wait for us, and
then drive us back. Easy peasy!
Billy in a Chicken bus in
We do not have children. However, that does not mean
those who do cannot become financially independent. We know people who have adult
children and plenty of money, but feel they cannot afford to retire or step
away from a paycheck. It's
not the kids. It's the mental fear surrounding this issue.
couples with children who have successfully broken away from conventional
lifestyles. And of course, this way of living isn't for everyone.
Will you ever settle down,
buy a house and quit traveling?
We'll probably continue to
travel until we are no longer able to do so. While we never want to say never,
at our ages, purchasing a home with all that it requires in attention,
maintenance, taxes and insurance, might not be the best use of our assets.
What have you learned by being retired for
a lifestyle, not a vacation.
The stress doesn’t stop, it just changes form.
3.) We utilize the K.I.S.S. system
(Keep It Simple, Stupid); Keeping it simple pays dividends in time and
Retirement is a work in progress, and we're in charge.
Don't take life so seriously, have fun with it!
It's later than you think!
admire what you are doing, but it sounds risky. Aren't you being naive?
When we were in our
late 30's preparing to leave the conventional workplace, people certainly did
think we were being naive and expected us to fail at this endeavor.
After all these
years we have
walked the talk
have proven that
early retirement can
not only work out, but bring major life benefits as well.
We say that Life is a risk.
There are no guarantees for anything;
health, marriage, bear markets, the unexpected, weather, tragedy. Since we
have been retired,
"survived" SARS, the Asian Bird Flu, H1N1, the Ebola breakouts,
the bear market of 2000, The Great Recession, the first Gulf War, coups in
foreign countries, COVID, the deaths of close friends and some funny traveling debacles
just to name a few.
We like what Helen
Keller says: "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer
in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or
would you say to someone considering leaving the conventional working world and
becoming financially independent?
Know your motivation. Are
you wanting to quit a job you “hate”? Or are you pulled by your dreams to do
something different? What will you do with your time after you no longer have a
job? Do you know what your annual spending is?
Be flexible, there is no one way to do this, have your plan
and be willing to adapt to changes. Adaptability is an asset. There are many ways to live a life,
so find out what works for you. Never give up your dreams.
are you going next?
We continue to watch
for airfare deals, countries that interest us and where the currency exchange
rate is favorable and visa stays are friendly. The world is a big place!
What's Your Number? - How much money do you need to retire?
About the Authors