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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.

Our Interview with Michelle and Peter

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

We at RetireEarlyLifestyle thought this Financial Independence story would be appealing to our Readers for several reasons.

Michelle and Peter are fully able to FIRE now, and Michelle already has. However, for several reasons, Peter is choosing to work a little while longer to take advantage of a great job, at great pay, while being able to travel and work digitally.

Enjoy the interview with Michelle and Peter below.

Michelle & Peter at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Michelle & Peter at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Retire Early Lifestyle: Could you tell our Readers a little about yourselves? What type of work you did, what your life consisted of before FIRE?

Michelle and Peter:  Peter currently works in IT at a software company. His career has been in a variety of IT positions including support, product development, QA, and consultant since graduating from college. He has always loved technology and designing/creating. Michelle worked in the finance sector starting with banking in college working up to branch management. She later moved over to the operations side of mortgage lending and worked in that industry until she left the workforce.

REL: Peter, could you explain your viewpoint on working a bit longer? Seems you have the best of both worlds, really.

Peter:  I truly enjoy my work and believe it has a positive impact on my industry. I have the ability to work from anywhere in the world that has good internet access. This allows us to become semi-nomadic. We have found that many places around the world offer internet access at coworking spaces, restaurants, and cafés allowing me to get work done as a digital nomad and immerse in local life. Technology has evolved to allow working on the go via tablets and phones, without the need to be in a physical office any longer.

 

 

 

 

Working a bit longer has also helped to weather the current market downturn and allowed us to prepay some larger expenses such as home improvements. Having that extra peace of mind that we are not depended on our investments yet has helped us to slowly transition into the FIRE life. My work flexibility is a special situation that I had to fight to obtain. I understand that it can change at any time. If this is the case, I am fully prepared to quit.

REL: Michelle are you enjoying your FIRE and what do you do with your time?

Michelle:  I am! My days now are busier than before when I was working. I volunteer at a local chimpanzee sanctuary and get great joy from helping the chimps that were rescued from lab testing. I have made my health a priority so we go to the gym frequently and hike as often as we can. I have also been able to spend more quality time with family which is very important to me. I read much more than I did when I was working. And of course, we have increased our travel so planning trip itineraries keeps me very busy. The planning aspect of travel takes much more time than some people realize.

Hiking in the North Georgia Mountains

Hiking in the North Georgia Mountains

REL: When did you start your journey to Financial Independence? What was your motivation? Were you both always on the same page with this goal? How did you know you were ready to interact with the world differently? 

M&P:  We started our journey in October 2013. While bored at work one day, Michelle had read a news article about a couple that had retired early at the age of 43 and she was immediately interested to do the same. Peter was not instantly on board with the idea until Michelle ran the numbers and made some spreadsheets that showed it could work. He then read a book about early retirement and was on board also! Our biggest motivation was a desire to have control of our lives and not be dependent on any company or boss for our income. Then, three years into our FIRE journey Peter’s father passed away from cancer at the age of 59. That was a huge eye opener that no one is guaranteed a comfortable retirement at age 60+ so why not start living our lives as soon as possible?

REL: Did you ever think it was possible to live a different lifestyle other than the conventional one? What turned the light on for you to think outside of the box?

M&P:  We definitely were the typical Americans living the rat race and chasing the next pay raises and promotions. It was a huge mindset shift to get us to our current lifestyle. That one news article made Michelle realize there is a different way to live rather than the conventional one. This led her to go down a rabbit hole online to find other people like us which is where we found your website and books. This was so comforting because you were in your 30s when you retired! And you had a proven track record so we figured if it worked for you, it could work for us too.

REL: Who would you credit teaching you about finance and investing?

M&P:  Michelle has always enjoyed finance and would read finance and investing books for fun starting at the age of 18. Her parents also instilled into her to save a percentage of all income made. She would work for her parent’s business, babysit, or mow neighbor’s yards and put it into savings as a child.

Enjoying sunset on the beach in Isla Holbox, Mexico

Enjoying sunset on the beach in Isla Holbox, Mexico

REL: Michelle could you tell us how things have changed for you since you left your jobs and began to live the Early Retirement Lifestyle?

M&P:  I feel like my life has grown so much! First, my mental and physical health have improved drastically. I’m no longer in fight or flight mode 24/7. I have become much more patient and understanding of others. We have also been able to travel much more and have so much more flexibility in our lives. Because I worked in finance, I could work remotely anywhere in the US but not outside of the country due to security/regulations. Now, we have been able to travel for longer stays outside the US.

REL: Would you consider yourselves to be Financially Independent? Would you consider passion projects or side jobs to supplement your lifestyle?

M&P:  Yes, we are Financially Independent. We would definitely consider passion projects or side jobs if the right opportunities came along. We are not averse to work, it just needs to be something we are passionate about and enjoy. We will no longer work just to make a paycheck.

REL: Michelle, how many years have you been living this lifestyle?

M&P:  I ended up getting laid off in June of 2021 and realized we could make it work without my income. The timing actually worked out great as we had just sold our big city house and moved into our rental cabin two weeks earlier. I had planned on working a bit longer since the market was so shaky during the global pandemic, but it was actually the perfect catalyst to make me take the leap to stop working. I’m not sure I ever would have quit otherwise as the unknown is so scary.

Michelle scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico

Michelle scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico

REL: Can you mention a few of your favorite places where you traveled in the years since your FIRE?

M&P:  So many! First, our place that feels like a second home is Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We like to go there in the winter for a couple months. Second, Peter is from Germany so we plan an extended trip to Europe once a year to visit family and see new cities. We visited Barcelona, Spain last year and absolutely fell in love with the city.

REL: Since housing is a big expense, how do you manage lodging on the road? Do you house sit? Rent apartments? Stay in hotels? AirBnB?

M&P:  We do a combination of Airbnb and hotels. We always stay at least 28 days at an Airbnb to get the discount. Many times, the price is cut in half. We try to meet locals as we travel and then use those connections to book directly to avoid third party fees. We also use credit card hacking to get free hotel stays and airline flights.

REL: In your retirement lifestyle, did you choose to keep a home? Relocate? Travel? Do you have a home base now? Where do you keep all your “stuff”?

M&P:  We sold our “big” house in the city and downsized to our tiny rental cabin in the mountains in May 2021. We use the cabin as our home base when not traveling and we rent it out for extra income when we are gone on our travels. We also purchased a cheap, small mobile home on a lake in Oklahoma near Michelle’s family that we stay at during the summers and holidays. We keep all our keepsakes at the lake house along with some of our old furniture. The cabin is flipped over to rental mode when we leave so we pack up all of our personal belongings and take the basics with us while storing the rest in our shed or carport.

REL: What did your family and friends think of your choice to leave your jobs and previous life behind?

M&P:  Many did not understand and keep asking when Michelle is going back to work. Some were concerned about us and if we were struggling financially, especially when we sold the big city house and downsized to the tiny cabin. It definitely took some time for them to wrap their head around her not working and she did struggle a bit at first with the loss of her work identity and the connection with work friends. But, it’s been two years since Michelle has worked and it now seems to be more acceptable.

Peter trying new foods at the Sunday market in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Peter trying new foods at the Sunday market in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

REL: In your retirement life, what do you do about access to health care? Are you open to Medical Tourism?

M&P:  Since Peter is still working, we are both covered through his employer. We plan to use ACA once neither of us work. We will self-insure outside the country and are definitely open to medical tourism. We got a taste of it earlier this year when Michelle became extremely ill from a parasite and needed to seek emergency care while in Mexico. We received excellent top-notch care with an IV for fluids and medicine, numerous testing, several take home medicines prescribed, and the doctor personally texted to follow up several times to see how she was doing. We have never had a doctor in the US give us their personal cell phone number but that seems to be the norm for doctors in other countries.

REL: What do you average in spending annually? Does this include health insurance? Do you track your spending?

M&P:  Our target is around $50,000 per year including health insurance costs. We utilize credit card points and airlines miles to travel as cheaply as possible. We do a mix of high cost living in Europe and at our cabin with lower cost living in countries such as Mexico and at our house in Oklahoma. We do still track our spending and have for the past 4 years. We wanted to make sure our numbers checked out before either of us quit work.

REL: Can you share with us anything about how your portfolio is structured? Did your retirement affect your allocation at all?

M&P:  We are structured 95% index funds and 5% bonds/cash. The majority of the index funds are in the S&P 500 and VTI with a smaller mixture of international and healthcare. We have not yet changed our allocations since Peter is still working. We will more than likely keep this structure for now and reassess when Peter quits work.

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

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

M&P:  Everything is online. We receive no paper statements and use Charles Schwab for our bank account. We can make deposits and transfer funds electronically and receive free ATMs around the world so access to cash is very easy. All bills are paid online or through our bank’s bill pay system.

 

 

 

 

REL: Do you own a vehicle?

M&P:  We own two vehicles. One is a 20-year-old car for daily driving and we recently bought a new truck for our longer road trips. We hope to buy a camper and hit the road around the US within the next year.

REL: What has been the highlight of your year?

M&P:  Scuba diving in Cozumel. We had the best dive of our lives and saw sharks, rays, turtles, eels, crabs, lobsters, and the elusive splendid toadfish. It made it even more special that we were able to enjoy the dive with Michelle’s dad.

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

M&P:  Trying to find the perfect balance of travel and not getting burnt out. We have so many opportunities for travel now and want to see the whole world but have to remind ourselves to schedule in downtime during our travels and also downtime in between travels. We are working to embrace slow travel and to fully immerse ourselves in the culture and live like locals.  Michelle is a self-proclaimed control freak so learning to go with the flow has been a challenge. There will always be unexpected surprises and issues that pop up while traveling, and she’s working on letting go and being better with the unexpected. It has been a huge growth opportunity for her personally.

Man and woman with their dog on the beach

Taking our dog, Diesel the pug, for a walk on the beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

REL: What inspires you about your new life?

M&P:  Freedom and the opportunity to wake up every day and do what we love on our timeline.

REL: What has surprised you the most about your Early Retirement Lifestyle?

M&P:  How busy I am every day. It is so easy to fill my time up with meaningful things when I’m not stuck sitting at home in front of a computer screen working all day.

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

M&P:  Freedom and not living in fear. Money is a powerful thing. Financial Independence opens up so many choices. Also, the people we have met along the way. We have more time to slow down and soak in wherever we are in the world and make connections.

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

M&P:  Just do it! No one knows how much time we have left on this planet so make the most of it. Plus, you can always go back. If the lifestyle isn’t right for you, there’s no shame in going back to a more traditional life. But, you won’t know unless you try. Worst thing that will happen is you’ve saved more than you needed to and have even more to spend during traditional retirement.

REL: What are you most excited about right now?

M&P:  Having a month of downtime at our cabin. We have been traveling the Midwest visiting friends and family for 6 weeks and ready to recharge our batteries for the next upcoming travels.

REL: What’s your philosophy on life?

M&P:  You only live once. Life’s a journey, not a destination. 

REL: What would you say are your most unique talents?

M&P:  Planning and organization for Michelle. Programming apps for Peter.

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

M&P:  Peter relocating to the US from Germany. He packed up his entire life into two suitcases, said goodbye to his family and friends, and left the only city where he had ever lived.

Man and woman in scuba suits

Getting scuba diving certified in Cozumel, Mexico

REL: What are your greatest passions in life?

M&P:  Obviously, we both have a huge passion for travel. We also both love to learn. We are currently working on our Spanish language skills and are interested to play the guitar.

REL: How do you contribute to the world?

M&P:  Michelle volunteers at the chimpanzee sanctuary and we donate to causes that are important to us. We both are very active in our neighborhood HOA managing all projects for our community such as road and water (oh the joys of living in the country on a mountainside lol). We also write about and document our journey on our website www.thewanderbugs.com in hopes to inspire others to think outside the box.

REL: What is a secret fact about you?

M&P:  Peter started a successful website and media design company at age 16 to supplement his income for college.

REL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

M&P:  Gosh, that seems like a lifetime from now. We have no clue where we will be, but we have thrown out ideas of relocating to Europe or Mexico for at least a year or two. We don’t see ourselves relocating to another country permanently, but we never say never.

REL: What is your biggest splurge?

M&P:  Travel experiences and good food. We recently booked a semi-private tour of Stonehenge with access to the inner circle for our upcoming trip to London. It was worth it to us to not be stuck on a bus with 100 other people and be herded like cattle. We also will never hesitate to splurge on a fabulous meal (within reason of course).

REL: Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you've found to be very helpful?

M&P:  Happy spouse, happy house. Since we have created a nonconventional lifestyle, we make it a priority to do regular check-ins with each other to make sure we are both still happy with our choices. If either of us become unhappy, we have agreed to go back to a traditional lifestyle. Thankfully, we both still love our lives and don’t have any plans to change it in the foreseeable future.

REL: What do you do for fun or entertainment?

M&P:  We enjoy hiking the local trails near our cabin and traveling to the surrounding areas. We always get a kick out of the looks we get from others while hiking with our pug. Spending time with friends and family. Trying out new restaurants. Watching movies on a rainy day. 

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About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning 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 available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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