Retirement; like your parents, but way cooler
In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
Interviews Billy and Akaisha
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
We love receiving offers to be interviewed, especially from the younger
generations. Since we have been retired 30 years now, what we know and the
experiences we have gathered can save lots of time for the future financial freedom-seekers.
Chen inquired if he could ask us questions on how we left the
working world all those years ago, we jumped at the chance to share.
Read our fun interview below.
Billy and Akaisha in the Dominican
My guests today are
husband and wife couple Akaisha and Billy Kaderli. I’m really excited to
bring them on the podcast today.
Akaisha and Billy
early retired three decades ago in their 30s to travel the globe. They’ve
remained retired this entire time, and they are recognized as one of the
early participants and experts of the FIRE movement even before there was
such a term.
Their story has
been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s, Motley Fool,
MarketWatch, Forbes, Fox Business, U.S. News and World Report, and many
other newspapers and radio and TV shows.
numerous books and guides about early retirement and nomadic travel
strategies, and they share much of this information as well on their
Akaisha and Billy,
thanks so much for joining us today to share your insights and wisdom about
early retirement and nomadic travel.
Yes. Thanks for having us.
Thanks for having us, Andrew.
Just to set context
for our audience so we can understand a little bit better about your story,
in what year did you early retire?
In 1991. We were 38 years old.
What was your
career path before you guys pulled the trigger?
We did lots of different things.
I was trained as a French chef. In 1979, Akaisha and I went to France. I was
trained in the U.S., and then I got more training in France.
And then we came back to
California, and we
bought a restaurant
because that was my dream: being a chef. We owned and operated that for 10
years. During that period, I was approached twice by the branch manager of a
local Dean Witter Reynolds office, which is now Morgan Stanley Dean Witter,
to join Dean Witter.
I refused the first time because I was enjoying what I was doing. But then
years later, he came back to me again and he asked me if I’d be interested
in doing it.
By then, I was getting burnt out on cooking. I had been cooking for so many
So I gave it a try. I became a stock broker. After a few years, they gave me
my own office and I was the branch manager of the Aptos, California office,
and doing quite well.
And then Akaisha, once we sold the restaurant, she became an executive
secretary for a civil engineering firm in Scotts Valley, California.
Now, because I was a broker branch manager in California, the stock market
opens at 6:00 in the morning and closes at 1:00, so 1:30 I’m at the beach.
Well, that didn’t work out real well with Akaisha.
No. It wasn’t working for me, especially when I was still running the
restaurant and when he was a stockbroker. That was five years long or so.
I’m working nights, weekends, and holidays. He’s off at the beach at 1:00 in
the afternoon. No, no, no.
So we started taking a look at things. We realized that we were starting to
drift apart. Anyway, it just happens.
We’re two Type A personality people, and we’re both gung ho into our own
Naples, Florida, on the beach!
So he comes to me with this idea that he writes down on the back of an
envelope. “Hey, I got an idea. Why don’t we quit our jobs and travel the
I’m going, “Yeah, right, sure.”
He goes, “No, really, we can do this.”
So I penciled it out. We had a computer that we ran our restaurant on, but
it was nothing like the stuff we have today.
I penciled it out, and for two years, we knocked around this idea. We tried
to poke as many holes in it as we could, both financially, emotionally, and
any other way we could, just trying to take the balloon down out of the sky.
Well, everything kept working.
tracked our spending and found out what we were spending on ourselves,
not for things work-related. And we found out that our money at the time
could support that.
The amount of money
we had invested in the equity markets.
Was there a single
moment of recognition when that came? And if so, what caused that? Or how
did you guys gradually realize that you wanted to make this big life change?
How it happened was it was a process. Like I said, he came to me with this
We had a beautiful home a quarter-mile from the beach in Santa Cruz,
California. My parents and sisters lived in the same town.
To be honest with you, I was hoping he’d forget about it. “Okay, we’ll track
our spending. Yeah, sure, we’ll do this.”
I just assumed that, at some point, he’d let it go, but he didn’t.
So this is the process part. When the numbers started lining up, he said,
“Look, we could travel.”
I’m a big traveler. He’s a big traveler. So I had to work out the family
thing and the house thing.
But once we did that, and again, that took two years or so, then we moved
into making that happen.
Now, during this period, Andrew, we didn’t tell anybody.
Our front porch, Island of Nevis, West Indies
Not our parents, not our friends, no one. We kept it to ourselves because we
didn’t want those people to try and to pressure us into thinking that we
were making a mistake or whatnot.
Remember this is 1991. There’s no FIRE.
There’s no financial forums. There’s no Amazon.
There’s no Facebook. There’s no email. There’s nothing.
So it’s just us two, and we kept it quiet. And that’s when it all happened.
We gave our bosses a two-week notice. Two weeks, period.
When you guys were
making this plan, was the life you envisioned one of long term travel even
from the very beginning, or did that unfold in a more gradual way?
Both. We both are travelers, and we wanted to go to places that we didn’t
have to go back in a four-day weekend or a two-week vacation.
I studied anthropology in college. I like native peoples and cultures. And
we both enjoy food.
We wanted to go places and stay months at a time. So we did envision that as
an expression of our way from work.
There was no FIRE at that time, so retirement was the only word we used.
There was no “financially independent” word. Michael Jordan and Bill Gates
were financially independent, but that was not what regular people did.
So we just said we were retired, and that is how we saw that lifestyle for
When you guys were
tracking your budget, the budget you would need (I guess that means your
expenses), it sounds like you were doing that daily. Were you factoring in
the budget you would need during travel or the budget you were spending in
Santa Cruz? Which one were you trying to beat?
What we did is we
tracked our spending, and then we excluded all
housing-related expenses, all work-related expenses, property taxes,
car-related expenses, all this stuff. And we found out that we really
weren’t spending all that much on ourselves.
So then I took that number and I said, “How much do we have to have invested
in the financial markets in order to generate that kind of income?” And
that’s pretty much the process that we did.
We don’t separate traveling from the lifestyle. I know a lot of FIRE
people do that. They say they want to travel, so they go somewhere or they do separate travel.
Ours was a travel lifestyle. That’s what we did. We’d go and we’d live in
hotels or apartments.
We’d go back and refurbish the wardrobe, but we’d be gone a year at a time.
That kind of thing.
Mostly, our time constraints are visas. I’m sure your people are familiar
with it, but when you go to a foreign country, you have to have a visa. You
have to have permission from that country to enter, and then they typically
restrict you to a certain number of days or months, and then it’s time to
Now, there’s ways of dealing with those things by either going to the
embassy and re-upping, or to go to a neighboring country for a week and then
But we never planned this out. It has been an evolution.
Yeah. It’s been organic.
It just came about.
What I’m trying to
get my head around is when you guys were planning for long term travel, if
you were planning to live in, say, Thailand versus in London (I’m sure
there’s many places you want to go), the budgets will vary widely.
How did you factor
in what you anticipated you would need for things like airfare and the cost
of living differential between high and low cost countries and make sure
that it would work essentially forever from the vantage point of 1991?
Cycling around in Bangkok, Thailand
What we did was we
tracked our spending. We had an annual amount and we had
a cost per day. So we managed that every day.
When we’d go to a higher-priced country, London or
daily average would go up. And then we would just arbitrage that amount
by going to
Mexico or Cambodia or something like that, and then
that average would go down.
We didn’t budget. We just monitored our cost per day.
And the more you do that, the more comfortable you get with knowing that you
can bring it back down to where you need it to be.
We’re going back some years, but I think when we were in Australia, we were
spending well over $100 a day, and when we were in Thailand, we were
spending $40 a day. We get back to Thailand and, all of a sudden, we start
seeing our averages come down and we’re all good.
Gotcha. Once you
realized that your investments would cover your average daily spend, how
long was it from that point, that realization, to actually pulling the
I think Billy pretty much said, “When we
take the house mortgage out, the
car insurance, and the house insurance, property taxes, we’re spending this
amount.” So our finances, our investments generated that amount plus a
So we had to sell the house. We had to sell our stuff. We had to get stuff
Little beach house, Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico
One thing was I got an annual bonus from Dean Witter, so I wanted to make
sure that I was there long enough to get that bonus. It was pretty much
two weeks into January I got the bonus. We’re gone.
Yeah, it was January 14th. He went down to Nevis, and I had to finish the
house. I’m still going to the flea market and Goodwill.
Nevis, West Indies
in the Caribbean.
Nevis, West Indies. Right. So then I just met him down there as I tidied up
what was left of the house.
What did you guys
invest in to build this retirement fund? Literally, what were the type of
stocks or bonds you were holding?
At that time, we were
100% long in equity funds. At the time, we were using
Dean Witter funds because I was loyal to the company. But then once I got
away from there, we switched things over to Vanguard and bought into the
Index 500 and pretty much 100% long for years.
VTI wasn’t around. It was the S&P, what’s now SPX. But it was the mutual
fund, open-ended fund, because ETFs weren’t around at that time.
Got it. And you
guys were 100% long on stocks for the growth and no fixed income?
Let me just tell you how that works in rough numbers. Say the markets
average 10% a year with dividends reinvested.
you're spending 4% of that
and you’re making 10%, that leaves 6% to be put back in or just left into
Exponentially, it’s just going to continue to grow. That’s what has happened
in our situation.
How much did you
guys have saved up before you realized it was enough?
We had about $500,000.
In ’91 dollars?
In ’91 dollars.
Gotcha. Now you
guys have been retired for
decades now technically, or you’re
right on three decades?
Over all those
years, how many have
you lived abroad versus in the U.S.?
Cigar maker in Dominican Republic
I would say that we have probably lived, especially now, about 80%.
I would say that because we spent a lot of time in
Yes, but we’ve mostly been overseas.
Yeah. 60/40, something like that.
It’s hard to say. Because what was happening for a while there is, of
course, my parents were still alive and we’d go visit home and family.
And then we’d have a three-year loop where we’d go to the U.S. and then we’d
go to Thailand and then we’d go to
Mexico. That would take two or three
years to do that. And
have a place in Arizona.
But then for when we would do that loop, we would just branch off to other
countries while we were in those areas, because it doesn’t make sense to be
in the U.S. and then fly to
Vietnam and then come back to the
US and then
Thailand. That’s ridiculous.
I see. So then you
had multiple home bases from which you would launch out to do more regional
And it sounds like
Thailand was the home base for
Asia, Mexico for
Latin America, and
then Arizona for North America?
Mai, Thailand specifically.
We would go for a year. We’d leave
Arizona and go to
Thailand for a year.
And during that time, we’d visit
all those areas.
And then we’d maybe go to
Mexico next or something, and then we’d visit
Central America and all those places, and stay there for a year.
And then once we got to
Mexico, we could easily shoot up to
California to visit her family or mine were in
Florida at that time. So we
just tried to coordinate that with airports and how easy it was to travel.
Yeah. The earlier years, we spent more time
in the States.
And then our
These days I go back for a month at a
time, five weeks, to visit family. And then we’re mostly overseas.
Getting foot massages in Chiang Mai, Thailand
I’ve been there.
It’s quite lovely.
Where are you guys
currently based at the moment?
Chapala, Mexico. It’s near Guadalajara.
About an hour south of Guadalajara.
We’re about 5200 feet in elevation.
Great. So your loop
U.S., how do you guys proportion your time between
these places now that you have even fewer obligations?
Do you mostly spend
your time now outside of the
U.S.? How do you guys think about the loop
We do spend most of the time outside of the
U.S. We probably did the
Asia loop for about eight years, from about 2000 to the Great Recession,
Billy wanted to be on the same time zone as the markets. When you’re over in
Asia, when we’re sleeping, the markets are open, so we went to this side of
the time zone. We started doing more
stuff to be on
the same time zone as the markets.
Got it. How did you
guys choose these home bases? I’m sure
living had something to do
with it, but there’s certainly other places that have low cost of living.
How did you guys
choose the specific home bases you did? What were some of the other factors
or considerations that went into the decision?
In between all this time, we bought a fifth wheel trailer and we were
traveling around the Western
United States: Montana, Washington, Oregon,
When we were in Texas, we met another couple who mentioned
and they invited us to come down and visit them. The plan was to come down
for two months, and we stayed four years.
We really liked it.
We got caught into a “Mexicoma” is what I call it, and it has just worked
out really well for us. So that’s how we discovered
Chapala. Then we’ve
since discovered many places throughout
And then years prior to that, before I met Akaisha, I had been in
and I told her I wanted to take her down there. So then we started basing
Panajachel, Guatemala, on
Atitlan. We stayed down there for four
or five years.
Yeah, much longer.
So if we like a place and we get a good vibe out of it and things are what
we call easy
living or we can shop easy locally and has little hassles and
easy to get to an international airport, we’re good.
Yeah. We like to look for good weather,
good cost of living.
We don't need a
car. We don’t want to have to have a car. We like to have
access to excellent food, friendly people, have it be safe.
We do have a list. And like Billy says, we look for easy living.
When you say that
you stayed in
Chapala for four years and
Guatemala for four or five years,
was that cumulatively, like a year at a time when you were doing the loop,
or actually altogether?
Chapala, it was altogether. Back then, you could get into
Mexico with a
driver’s license and a tourist card. They didn’t stamp your passport.
So we had a way to extend our visas. It wasn’t exactly the most legal thing
to do, but it worked.
Things are a lot more digital now.
Yeah. They know right where we are today.
I’m not a crook. (Fingers in Peace sign like Nixon.)
So that’s how we stayed in
Guatemala, we had to leave every 90
So we’d go to
Sunset over Lake Atitlan
What we did there is we would give our passports to a travel agent who would
run them through the border and bring them back with stamps in and out of
Guatemala. That’s how we did it down there. But that’s risky because you’re
giving your passport away to somebody else.
We never had a problem with it, but there were times when other people were
stopped at the airport and said, “This is an illegal stamp” or “We don’t
have you in the system.”
But we’d also go to
Panama or the
Dominican Republic. We travel.
We just recently went to
Colombia. You can get out of the country and get restamped.
How do you guys do
accommodation? Do you rent an apartment for a year lease, or do you do short
term accommodations to have the flexibility to travel regionally and locally
so that you’re not then paying hotel costs when you’re away as well as
apartment costs holding the apartment? How does that work?
We used to travel for a year at a time, and we’d have to bring beachwear and
mountain gear. That got to be really heavy.
But as time has moved on, we have a residence here that we rent. But on
those other years, we often would hire a hotel, get a room. You get a
Or you can do an apartment hotel. They come in and clean. You could have
three, four, or six months of that type of stuff, then you leave.
If you go to a hotel and you ask them the price for a night, it’s one. If
you ask them the price for a week, it’s another. If you ask them the price
for a month, it’s a third price.
You can usually get a pretty good deal if you go for a monthly rate. You can
get benefits thrown into it as well. “Okay, I’ll pay a little higher price,
but I want this, this, and this.”
Yeah. And this was before Airbnb.
And we’ve done
sitting. That wasn’t necessarily available in the
earlier years either.
Those things all affect your housing costs. It makes it a lot easier.
Gotcha. At this
point, how many countries have you guys gotten to visit in the last three
decades of nomadic travel?
I don’t know.
Dozens. We’ve never really had a list.
We don’t count it like that.
Not... like if you go to Europe and you visit all those little countries, is it
just the EU or is it all those little countries?
We’ve been to almost every island in the Caribbean.
Does that count?
Yeah. We’ve been all through Europe.
We lived on Nevis.
Mexico, lots of places in
Asia. We’ve not done anything
in Africa yet or Middle East.
Right. We’ve not been to Russia.
We’ve not been to Russia. We’ve been to
Yes. And Ecuador.
America, we’ve done some.
Inside the fortified wall of Cartagena, Cafe del Mar rooftop bar
What are the most
memorable places you’ve traveled?
Gosh. It depends on what category.
Weather makes a difference.
Food makes a difference. Ease.
We have memories from all of them.
We’ve discussed recently, because
China has been in the news, that our time,
we were in Western China. We didn’t go to Beijing or anything like that. We
Western China, in a place called Jinghong which is on the
There was only one other English-speaking person in that town that we could
find. Boy, we were on her like glue.
Yeah. “Help us here. Help us there.”
But people everywhere are wonderful.
everywhere is interesting.
We do prefer good climate.
forest sounds really romantic, but it’s
flipping cold and wet and damp.
I’m glad I went there. That’s a good memory in that I went there, and I
would choose not to go back.
Vietnam is great. We’ve been there twice now. Last time, I think we were
there for three or four months.
Saigon. Talk about a happening city.
Billy Kaderli 24:54
Lots of things are going on there.
Did you guys always
travel together from the very beginning of early retirement as a pair? Did
either of you travel solo without the other?
Sure, we do that. I’ve got a funny story.
Recently, in early March of just this year, a friend of mine that I met here
I said, “I’ll take you down to
Guatemala” because he’s never
It’s Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, which is where we go. It’s a beautiful lake.
It’s like Lake Tahoe, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, only warmer and
surrounded by three volcanoes.
We left on March 11th, and about four days later, the entire country shut
down because of this virus. That means the airports were closed.
I’m not with her. We’re communicating daily, but I’m telling her, “Look,
things are getting bad here. They’re starting to shut this place down.”
“I’ve got Plan B going here for us to get out of here.” But I wasn’t going
to be flying at that point because they closed the airports, they closed all
public transportation, and they closed the borders.
I’ve got a private driver down there and I’m talking to him, and he’d go, “I
don’t know. They got roadblocks all over.”
Fascinating Maya culture
I said, “How much do you need?” So we paid him quite a bit of money and we
left. It’s a six-hour trip
to get to the
Mexican border from Panajachel, Guatemala.
About four hours out, we got stopped. The police held us up for 45 minutes
and asking all kinds of crazy questions. At one point, they wanted us to go
back to Guatemala City and be quarantined.
I just told the police, “Look, that’s just not going to happen.”
I said, “We’re Mexican residents. We’re going to Mexico. You can’t deny me
exit out of this country.”
This went back and forth. Finally, they said, “Okay, you can go, but he’s
going to turn back.”
So here we are, my friend and I. We’re standing there in the mountains of
Guatemala hitchhiking when there’s no public transportation. Well, we got to
No. You know what a “tuk-tuk” is?
Two hours in it with a series of tuk-tuks. Our asses were sore.
One guy would take us so far, and then we’d stop, and he says, “I don’t go
any further.” So then we get off and find another one, and then another one.
Finally, we got to the border. Once we got into
Mexico, all was good.
Gotcha. Have there
been other times, not counting pandemics, when you guys decided to split up?
What I’m curious to
understand is how did you guys make the decision of when to go together,
when to go solo? Was it just one wanted to go one place and the other
didn’t? How did those things happen?
Garifuna storyteller, Livingston, Guatemala
One time, I did
end-of-life-care for my parents, and that was a
two-and-a-half-year period. So Billy did a lot of travel with friends on his
own during that time. That’s when he first went to
Asia, and that’s why he
wanted to bring me there.
And I really like it when he does these reconnaissance trips because I’m
older now, so I like to have a little bit more comfort. So I really like it.
He can do a guy trip and stay in crummy hotels and figure out where he can
I love it.
Yeah, because I did all that when I was younger. I can’t tell you the hotels
and the bugs I’ve seen. But I figured I’ve done it.
So now I love it when he goes with the guys. And I tend to do more family
trips and stuff like that because I see my family yearly.
down to the beach all the time by myself or with other guys, or I meet
other people down there. We rendezvous at some
beaches here in
And I might stay home.
She might come with me.
Gotcha. At this
point, it sounds like you guys have a familiar loop. You guys do
Did those home
bases emerge organically where you started out just continuously traveling
and then realized, “We want to stay in this particular place for a longer
period of time”?
Or did you guys
already plot out even from the very beginning the strategy of having home
bases to then branch off from?
It was just organic. One of the things, like Billy said, is we like being
close to an international airport. That’s one of our easy living things.
Chiang Mai, it’s a short flight to
Bangkok. But then from Bangkok, you can
go anywhere in the world. The same thing here,
Chapala to Guadalajara
Airport, you can go anywhere.
It’s 30 minutes from here.
That was organic. We didn't have that in mind ahead of time.
The thing that speeds us up is
usually the visa. We’ve been trying to get
back to Europe since 1979, and we were planning on being there right now. We
were ready to book tickets to go to Italy.
And then we decided, “Maybe we should hold off a little bit.”
“Well, the flights were really good prices.” I said, “Yeah, then maybe we’d
over there... For who knows how long?”
Yeah. But if we like a place, and like I said, if we can get comfortable in
a place, we’ll stick around.
In what ways does
travel feel different as a long term traveler versus a
Because I imagine there are going to be really big differences when you’re
going for two weeks versus
going for a year.
The size of your suitcase. Ours is much smaller.
longer you go, the smaller it is. I guess you buy a lot of stuff locally?
Exactly. If you need something, you buy it. We’re down to carrying just day
If it rains for a day, or if one of us gets ill, like we catch a flu or something,
we don’t have to go, “Yes, but it’s Tuesday, we have to get to Belgium.
We’ve got to get going.”
No, it’s not like that at all. We just stay another four or five days. Or if
we get into a bad weather pattern, we just move on.
We wait it out.
Or wait it out. So we have a lot more freedom. We’re not glued to a
If we can’t make the museum today or the beach today, we’ll do it tomorrow
or Thursday or something.
We’ve given up a fair amount of return tickets.
Do you guys
typically buy round trips or just buy one-ways now everywhere?
We buy one way if we can. Some countries, you need to have an ongoing ticket
to go through it.
And again, there’s ways around that. There are ways of doing these things
and making them work for you.
Yeah. What if we decide to go to "X" place and then take a bus from that
country to the next place?
We often will say that we’re going to overland from this place to that
place, so we don’t need a round trip ticket. And that works too.
Gotcha. Did you
guys ever have to deal with loneliness on the road over the years and
decades? I guess you had each other, but not everybody has that.
In the early days, I missed my family a bunch. With my parents both gone,
losing that connection has opened things up in other ways.
With my sisters, I talk to them every week. I visit them once a year for
five weeks at a
My girlfriends, I get them all on Zoom or Skype, and we do email and that
kind of stuff.
We do a lot of WhatsApp. I’ve got friends all over.
Loneliness not so much. We really self-entertain well.
I’m an artist. I can just zoom into my artwork for days.
And since I was trained in French cooking, since we’ve been “locked down”
here in Chapala, which is a loose term, I’ve been cooking
great gourmet meals.
Billy's Shrimp Fettucchini
Beef Wellington and blackened salmon and tenderloin pork crusted in
Good for you,
Yeah. I'm very fortunate!
We could still buy wine. There’s no beer here in town anymore. The Mexican
government had this great idea to shut down the breweries because they
weren’t essential, but the tequila factory is going.
You can’t make any sense out of any of this.
Geological wonder showing heat, power, and force, Boquete, Panama
I’m just curious
because you mentioned in the early years for you, Akaisha, homesickness for
family was somewhat of a struggle. Were there ever any moments for either of
you where you had a twinge of regret and thought, “Did we make the right
Even if not
financially, just life path. Were there ever any moments where you
second-guessed? And how did you guys grapple with that?
I never second-guessed. I never wanted to do anything different. Once I got
the communication together with my family and friends, then I was set.
I’m a traveler. I’ve been moving around
I was a young kid.
Andrew, when you travel to a new location, it’s like being reborn.
Everything is new.
It could be
new cultures. There’s new stores and restaurants. You’ve got to
get familiar with it.
New transportations, situations. It just pretty much occupies all of your
time just negotiating things early on there. So, no, I haven’t had any
regrets about this.
I wish we had started investing sooner, even younger than we did, but it’s
worked out well for us.
Yeah. I like to
bring the stories and the insights back to my family. That
makes me feel like
I'm including them in all my travels.
So I’m good. They’re good.
What is the
long term nomadic travelers like, as you’ve experienced it?
I’m sure there are
people you've met on the road over the years who are doing a similar
type of early retirement long term travel. I’m just wondering if you could
help us understand the community that you guys have met.
I would say that most of them are
learning. It is
It doesn’t even matter the age, because we started early.
We were 38, but not kids.
Now, people are that same age and they’re traveling. Young women are
traveling, which is just great. I just think that’s fabulous.
And everybody has a
story. There’s many occasions
we meet somebody and
they go, “Are you Bill and Akaisha?”
“Yeah.” “I bought
your book 10 years ago or something.”
That’s always fun.
So then we sit down and have coffee or dinner or whatever. But we want to
hear their stories. We want to hear what motivated them and how they got to
Plus travel tips because everybody has “When you go to this town, you got to
stay at this hotel.”
That’s how you learn about, I call it, the taco telegraph.
Yeah. It’s a great community. It really is because there’s no one-size-fits-all.
There’s no flavor that’s the same. Everybody is different. Different sizes,
Women who lunch - early retiree friends
Is there a mailing
list that you guys can keep in touch? Or is it more transient where you meet
people but then they drift away after you guys go your separate paths?
We do have long term friends who are also world travelers, whether they’re
in Asia or whether they’re in
America or they’re in the
whatever. That’s where WhatsApp comes in because it’s free. You can call or
chat or send a photo.
Right. I’ve been communicating with a friend of ours who bought our book. I’ve probably known him for 20 years or so.
He’s in the
Philippines right now and he’s stuck, so he has to decide
whether or not he wants to get out.
Yeah. We have other friends in Portugal.
We had a friend that just got out of Peru because he was stuck down there.
Billy helped him get out of Peru. We’ve got some friends that just came back
from Asia who are now in
There’s a group that sometimes we just check in to see how they’re all
We travel together if they’re around. We’ll say, “Do you want to
the beach? Do you want to go to the mountains?”
In all the time,
how have you guys
economic ups and downs since you retired?
Because there have been really big recessions during your retirement period.
Even in the early
‘90s, there was one. 2001, “dot-com” crash. 2008, Great Recession.
Now in 2020,
there’s been a big one.
Were there times
when your portfolio took a beating and you feared potentially having to
return to work?
I was a stockbroker in October of 1987 when the market went down 23% in one
Oh, yeah. Black
Coffee berries on the tree, coffee plantation, Panama
Yeah. All of a sudden, that scarred me. I saw
how fast this could happen.
So then when we retired, there was the 1989-1990. There was one I think in
1995, and then Y2K in 2000, and then 2008-2009, and then now this. We’ve
ups and downs.
What we did was, in the ’07-’08 recession, as we’ve gotten older, we talked
about “Let’s move a little bit more into dividend type funds or ETFs” so
that we had a better cushion on cash flow and so that we weren’t forced to
sell in a bad market.
We made that move back then. And we also used that opportunity to move out
of Vanguard open-ended funds into VTI and SPY because I wanted real-time
trading. With the open-ended funds, I was stuck with the end-of-day pricing.
Back then, the market was falling 5000 points a day, so it would put a sell
order into suicide. Then you wait until tomorrow, it drops another 5000.
With the ETF, you just sell it real time. So we used that opportunity to do
that and do some tax harvesting back then.
Since then, we’re only about 60/40, 55/45 stock equity to cash or bond
equity or bond portfolio.
Earlier on, when
you guys were doing the math of what your expenses were and whether your
investments had covered those expenses, how much of a buffer were you guys
factoring in to prepare for some of these market dips, which the only thing
you know is that they’re going to come but you just don’t know when?
True. They’re going to come.
We’re going to have another bear market. Well, we just had one.
What we did back in ’91, we
figured our living expenses were about $20,000 a
year. I multiplied that times 25 and I came up with half a million dollars.
At that point, that’s when we realized we were about there because that’s
basically the reverse of
Are you familiar with
% rule, Andrew? Okay. That’s pretty much a
backwards way of doing the 4% rule.
how much you're spending that year and multiply that times 25.
That’s what you need to have invested. So that’s pretty much the way we did
In spending $20,000 a year, we had a buffer. If the market is performing
10%, we could have done it on $200,000. So we had a buffer of twice that,
Does that answer your question?
Retirement - Like your parents, but way cooler!
Yeah. You mentioned
you’re 60/40, 55/45. Now you have a much bigger buffer, I imagine.
In the earlier half
of your retirement, did you guys have a withdrawal strategy so that you
could avoid selling investments at a loss? For example, having two years’
worth of cash or bonds, liquid investments, or a bond ladder, etc., so that
you wouldn’t have to touch equity investments in case there was such a loss?
Or did that emerge
only later, more organically?
It emerged later, more organically. In fact, like I said, we were 100% long
for a long time, and we rode these things out.
If I had a crystal ball and I could say “The market is going to drop next
month,” we would take more money out this month so that we could get through
We had a small amount of cash back then, but nothing like we have now. Now
we’ve got about five, six, seven years of cash to buffer it.
I think that’s important to have a couple of years’ cash. As you get older,
you get a little wiser.
There was nobody to guide us on this stuff, Andrew. We were on our own
trying to figure this out the best we could.
But we wanted to maximize growth at that time. It all just evolved.
Yeah. There were no forums or anything. There was no Skype, no FIRE
community or anything.
Nobody to knock these ideas around with.
What does your
portfolio look like now, three decades later? Is it larger than when you
started out? What are you actually holding in your portfolio these days?
It’s much larger after inflation and spending. It’s much, much larger.
We’re holding VTI, SPY, a dividend ETF called DVY, which is popular, and
then Vanguard Technology, VGT. I think that’s about it.
Social Security and we’re on Medicare now. Medicare is “free”
because you paid into it. But Medicare Part B, which is a supplement to
Medicare, we decided to stick with that because it’s fairly inexpensive.
So what I did is I bought an ETF called MAIN, and it pays a monthly
dividend. That covers our Part A amount.
Actually, it’s the Part B. "A" is your Social Security.
Okay. It’s the Part B amount.
It’s the Part B, and then that raises up every year. But our MAIN dividend…
…it’s a monthly payout, which is nice. I’m always balancing that with taxes
because we don’t want to put ourselves into a bad situation where we’re
giving money back. So I keep a pretty close eye on that kind of stuff.
Akaisha and Billy in Mexico City
Got it. When there
were market dips, did you guys end up reducing or adjusting your withdrawals
commensurately, or was it 4% rule pretty simply applied? Was there more
nuance to it?
Yeah, there’s more nuance because, even though we’re very familiar with the
4% rule that was invented many years after we retired, I wouldn’t say we
never because in 2007-2008, we went over 4% in our withdrawals.
But we have a tracking system where we not only track our spending, but we
track it as a percentage of our net worth. Every day, I know what percentage
of our net worth we’re spending. Once we see that starting to go out a lot,
we can contract our spending if we need to or make some other adjustments.
But we like to do things in real time.
Our lifestyle hasn’t really been affected very much, Andrew, by any of these
downturns. We did, at one point in the 2008 deal, consider going back to
But then we thought, “We’d have to get professional clothing. We’d have to
get a car. We’d have to move back to the States on a more permanent basis.”
“What kind of job would we get? We’d have to pack our lunch. We’d have to
have gasoline and maintenance.”
So we went, “Nah, I don’t think so.” That was our one and only, first and
last discussion about going back to work.
We really live well on very little, and we try to spend more money
sometimes. Sometimes we go out with friends and go, “Ah, Billy is going to
buy tonight.” We just don’t need to spend a lot of money.
We’re really happy. We eat well. We have great weather.
We’re healthy. Thank God. We’re self-entertaining.
Cathedral from a rooftop bar, Morelia, Mexico
We’re 67 now, so we know there’s an exit plan for us somewhere down the
road. We don’t have children, so you can’t take it with you.
We have causes.
When we travel, we try to have more comfort. We stay in nicer hotels. Maybe
sometime in 2050, we’ll be able to travel again!
I’m an optimist, Andrew.
Put my coffin on the plane.
Once they invent
the youth regeneration pill.
I’m in. Give me the ticker symbol.
Definitely long on
Were there ever any
large unexpected expenses that came up over the decades that put stress on
your retirement finances? I’m thinking in particular about healthcare, but
there might have been other things.
We were living in Arizona at the time and I had to go to the hospital, and
we had a $10,000 deductible. It was a hit, but it was one that we had
already factored in mentally, so we dealt with it.
Nothing has ever really hit us to the point where it affected our portfolio.
Billy had that incident in the States. That ended up being a $14,000
expense, but we were able to pay the hospital back on an interest-free loan.
I paid them every month.
I took advantage of that so the portfolio could grow.
So we didn’t have to extract anything out of the portfolio.
But we’ve had
other emergencies and surgeries and had that
taken care of
overseas. The cost difference is just huge, so we didn’t have to pay very
out of pocket for everything overseas.
Interesting. I see.
I’d love to understand a little bit more about how you guys do health
insurance and healthcare right now.
Now you’re on
Medicare, which will cover you in the States but not abroad. I guess there’s
some assurance in that regard.
If you could
comment, how did it work before you were on Medicare, and then how did it
change after you were on Medicare? That would be really insightful.
Billy driving a Chicken Bus, Guatemala
We lost you for a second.
Oh, yeah. Sorry.
We lost you for a second. We know you’re in Silicon Valley where they have
I love it.
We’re down here on Coke cans and a string, Andrew.
Let me just say that in the early years, we did have a U.S.-based health
insurance plan. We spent thousands of dollars a year to do that. And we were
traveling the world for so much of the time that we realized, other than
Billy’s one event that we happened to be in the States at the time, we were
not really using that U.S.- based health insurance.
So we did what in the community is called “going
naked.” We basically
went naked of any insurance company, of any insurance policy.
When we went to the States, we took out a travel plan from World Nomads, and
that took care of us if we were sick or something in the States. But
otherwise, we took care of everything locally and we haven’t had a
U.S.-based plan for 15 years maybe.
But we are on Medicare now and we’re covered. But Medicare doesn’t do
anything outside of the United States.
Unless you’re 30 minutes from the coast and on a cruise ship or something.
Health insurance is
one of the big ones, I think, that deter folks from making this life choice
of early retirement or at least make them think really hard about it
because, obviously, in the U.S. we don’t have universal healthcare. Once you
have a condition that arises, you’re pretty much locked out from preexisting
definitely changed that, but that didn’t come until two decades after you
guys were in retirement. Also, there’s a lot of pushback now politically to
try to roll that back. That’s a separate discussion.
But how did you
guys get the confidence that that would be okay? Because it is one of the
things that a lot of people worry about.
I can just give you an example. Here in Mexico, I can walk into almost any
pharmacy without a prescription or without going to see a doctor, and
medicines at a lot less than what it costs in the United States.
That eliminates me spending $100 or $200 or whatever it takes to go to a
doctor just to get a piece of paper to go to a pharmacy. The prices are so
much better here.
lost her finger in Guatemala. This was a very serious
accident where she cut an artery in her finger and she was bleeding out on
We got her to a local hospital where they patched her up, but she was losing
her finger as it was turning very black and very cold. There was no
circulation in it.
Long story short, we got in touch with a plastic surgeon in Guatemala City.
He’s also a hand surgeon. He took her under his wing.
She had to do two weeks’ worth of hyperbaric chamber treatments plus two
surgeries. The whole thing was about $3000, and $1000 of that was a private
Guatemala into Guatemala City. So that was very
manageable for us.
My advice, especially for younger people, is
don't be afraid. Go out and
If you’re going to stay fearful all your life of “What if I get this?” or
“What if I get that?” you’re probably going to get it.
Just get out of that
stinking thinking and move on.
The Maya ruins of Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico
We were very programmed. I certainly was.
My mother had illnesses when I was growing up, so
the idea of being without a health insurance policy terrified me when we
first retired. We were living in
Nevis, West Indies, and I’m assuming that I
health insurance, and two or three months later, I find out that I
have no insurance.
I don’t know what I was thinking at that point. I had something going on.
But I found out that I had been three months not covered.
I just broke out in a sweat and I said, “Well, I made it.” I made it three
months without a policy.
So things started to change then. And then like Billy says, just being
afraid of it.
If I were younger with a family, like the people coming in now, I would
seriously consider moving overseas, or trying some of the ministries where
they share prices, or one spouse could work digitally, nomadically, and get
a health insurance policy. You can get a concierge program from some doctor
who allows you so many visits, x-rays, access to prescriptions a year.
There’s all sorts of other things to do. You could move to a foreign country
and pay out of pocket. If you’re retiring early, you can afford most of
There’s a whole industry called
tourism. Bangkok has one of the
finest hospitals in the world, and they advertise full page ads in the
Bangkok Post of heart specials. This month, we got a special on…
Yeah, heart surgery.
We’re replacing hips this month. This is a deal right here.
They’re in competition with other hospitals. It’s like if you’ve got a
restaurant and the restaurant next door where you’re in competition for the
same customers. So they marked down their prices to get people in.
And their quality of care is fabulous. Princes and kings and presidents all
go to this hospital.
I’ve worn glasses since I was three years old, and I had the most thorough
eye exam in my life in that hospital. I had never had anything like this
done with any U.S. ophthalmologist. It was unbelievable.
Dentists do the same thing.
Did it not make you
nervous the first time you saw heart procedures being advertised like they
were beef in a supermarket?
No. We go, “What a great business plan.”
Freshly grilled octopus, Zicatela Beach, Mexico
Yeah. This is a top-rated hospital, I’m telling you.
You think you’re in the United Nations. When you walk in, you have your own
interpreter come with you.
They speak eight or 12 different languages. You get the language of your
native tongue. And that person takes you all around.
It’s a great business plan. And dentists do the same thing. They’ll give you
three caps and a bridge or something this week.
Even right now in Algodones, right on the border of Mexico and Arizona,
people go out of Phoenix, they drive to the border and get dental work done.
Because it’s a third of the cost.
Have you guys met
other travelers (maybe it’s not yourselves) who have chronic conditions? And
how do they manage trying to take advantage of medical tourism but also
realizing they need constant, continuous care?
Often that is
easier done when you go to the same hospital because, obviously, they have
your track record. They have all your stats, etc.
That’s one thing. Yeah, they’ve got all your stats.
Here it’s your responsibility. They give you your stats, so you travel with
it. You put it digitally.
You go in to another doctor, another hospital, they plug your chip into the
computer, they see all your history. So it takes a little bit of more
But if you’ve got a chronic thing where you need to be checked out, I’ll
give you a good example. A friend of ours who is younger than we are, he was
diagnosed with thyroid cancer here in Mexico.
He had the procedures done. He had two operations done. He had to be
monitored very closely because they did a chemotherapy on him, etc.
He’s on a plan now to be in
Mexico every three months. It was once a
month. Now it’s three months.
Soon it will be six months and then once a year. But he just makes it a
point to be back in this area right now.
He also got things done elsewhere. He got his thyroid hormones while he was
in Mississippi or Florida (they have family in both states), and he got his
taken there because he had his little chip.
“This is what I’m doing. These are my numbers. I get a blood test before I
go to the doctor.”
I’ve had something similar where I had a condition that every three months I
had to have checked. I did it in
Thailand, in the
United States, and
Because everybody has two arms, two legs, two eyes. Doctors know these
parts. As long as you have your information, you get your blood tests,
you’ve got your data, any doctor can read that.
They might want to take their own x-ray, but it works.
Measure twice, cut once.
Yeah, right. So it’s not as scary as it’s said to be in the States.
Right. And it goes back to personal responsibility. You’ve got to take on a
little bit of that yourself.
My theory, and I haven’t been wrong yet this year, is that this whole health
insurance thing was born out of World War II where our fathers came back
from the war and companies were retooling to a civilian society from a war
economy, and they were in competition for workers.
These men came back and they had a training in the military, so they offered
them health insurance. Before that, the doctor on the corner delivered the
So this whole thing is a fairly new phenomenon about when you get a job, you
get health insurance and you never have to worry again about your life
because somebody else is going to take care of me.
We don’t prescribe to that. We think our health is our responsibility.
It is a big leap, Andrew, when you first move from that mindset because we
were retired and three months into living on a paradise island. I realized,
looking back, I hadn’t been covered by my insurance.
I don’t know if I had a "panic attack", but (sigh). So I get it. I do
understand and I know some people do have health issues that they are
Got it. You cut out
a little bit, but I think it’s back.
I think I got the
gist of what you were saying, Akaisha, that it is a real fear and it was a
very personal decision, but it’s not the end of the world.
Right, because there really is good medical care in a lot of countries. If
you take responsibility and you bring your data with you, most doctors can
figure that out for you.
When we were in
Panajachel, Guatemala, that’s isolated there. It’s not the
best medical area. I had a gastritis attack and I had to go to
the hospital in Guatemala City, which is a hard three - to four-hour drive.
I was in the hospital for two or three nights. When I was getting ready to
leave, the doctor came in and he said, “I want to see you again in 10 days.”
I said, “Doc, I live in
Panajachel. You know what the drive is like.”
He said, “Here’s my personal cell phone number. Call me and let me know
you’re okay.” Done.
That’s the kind of care we’re used to getting in these parts. They actually
care about us.
Indigenous in Oaxaca, Mexico
gears and beginning to wrap up, I understand that you guys did not have
Can you share about
how you came to that decision? What were the factors you considered and why
you ultimately decided against having kids?
It was a personal decision. I think I would have been a nervous mother,
actually. I wanted a career.
I don’t think everybody is meant to be moms. I’m a much better teacher.
I’m a much better aunt. I’m a much better sister. I’m a great daughter.
But as far as the mother thing goes, it takes very special people to be
parents. That’s a forever job, 24 hours a day. It’s one of the biggest jobs
with the greatest respect I have.
I just didn’t think I wanted to do that.
And we came back from France and we bought a restaurant. Our 100% focus was
operating that restaurant, and it was no place to have a kid running around
in there. We were busy.
Working 80 hours a week.
Got it. Is it
accurate to say then that that decision preceded the decision to retire
No, it had nothing to do with it. In fact, I just want to say that we have
interviews with families.
One family is a family of five. They’ve got five children. Another family is
a family of
And they travel the world. One travels the world globally. The other travels
within their location.
They do a lot of camping and stuff. And they are retiring with children.
They're global people. Talk about healthcare, talk about education... They
do all of that digitally and use medical tourism.
She’s had a baby here. She’s had a baby there. So it’s just your style.
What do military people do? They do it all over the world. Or people who
live on sailboats.
World School, educating children while on the road
There’s plenty of them around.
Right. And I really admire those people too because they’re giving their
kids a world education. I think it’s great.
Based on what
you’ve observed, how does early retirement or nomadic long term travel
differ when you have a family? What are some of the considerations that the
families you’ve met have had to factor in that perhaps couples or solo
travelers do not have to?
We’ve seen them get their kids involved. With the times we’ve spent with
them, they’re very polite. They ask adult questions.
They’re not whining over there because of some reason, this or that. No.
They’re part of the group, and we find that very refreshing.
So I think the biggest thing is they want to be involved in the culture that
they’re in and to absorb as much as they can, because when you’re younger,
you’re like a sponge and languages just come easy to you.
They’re more flexible. They’re more solid in who they are.
Many of them speak different languages, two or three languages. Many of
them, obviously, either they go to bilingual schools or they’re home-taught.
They’re not fussy about their food because this is what we’re eating.
“We’re in Vietnam. This is what we’re eating.”
“Now we’re in Italy. This is what we’re eating.”
I think the kids get a real good self-reliance and self-respect perspective and a
At indigenous Saturday Market, Ecuador
Confidence. And like I said, they speak several languages. Personally, I
think it’s one of the greatest things you can do for your kid.
Now, I understand same school, basketball team, same friends forever. I get
that. That’s the other side.
There’s not one versus the other. But since our life is a global one, we see
what an advantage it is to those kids, and we really like that.
All right. Great.
Looking back, knowing everything you know now about early retirement,
nomadic travel, long term travel, is there anything you would have done
differently if you could go back and do it over again?
Start investing earlier.
We probably wouldn’t have bought a house.
Yes, I would not have bought a house.
At the time, we owned a fair amount of Exxon stock. We used that to buy the
Looking back, if I compare the two investments,
there's not a comparison.
That would be my thing.
That would have been mine too. I was in California on the beach. In my 30s,
we wanted to buy a house.
Why? Because I wanted a garden and I had a dog.
But like Billy said, we had Exxon stock. Later on, I would not have bought
that house. I would have kept the stock and we would have done far better
And investing much sooner. But nobody told us anything about investing.
It seems like it
worked out still pretty well.
It’s worked out fine. Yeah.
from your bucket list are coming up that we should keep an eye out for in
terms of future Akaisha and Billy sightings?
Hopefully June 1, they’re going to let us
the beach and into the water.
We want to go to Greece and Italy. We want to do our own style of food tour.
We want to go back to
Colombia because we discovered some new places that
we’d like to go next time we get there.
I wouldn’t mind doing a safari. I hear there’s some really nice safari
That would be a two-week deal, and I want to be comfortable. Yes, I do.
I should connect
you with my wife. I think you guys would be good travel buddies in terms of
what you guys look for.
All right. Listen,
Akaisha and Billy. This was so delightful.
I’m so glad I was
able to connect with you guys and share your story with our audience today.
Where can listeners find out more about you, your website, what you’re up
our website. We update it pretty much every day.
We have an eBook
We answer all emails. If somebody has got a question from this podcast,
you’re welcome to shoot us an email.
We also have a
mentor service. If people want to sort out some sticky problems
they may have for their own retirement, we answer.
We have a service for that. We answer questions, give you private phone
We have an eBook store. We have our
All right. We’ll
definitely link to all that stuff in the show notes, point folks to that.
So they can learn
more. Thank you again so much for taking the time to chat with me. All best
wishes with everything, and I hope we see you in your travels in the future.
That would be wonderful.
Thanks, Andrew. Come on down.
Yeah. Give your wife our best.
Thank you so much.
Thank you too.
About the Authors
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