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.
They Retired at Age 38... 30 Years Ago
By Robert Brokamp, CFP® - Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement
We get the latest update from Akaisha and Billy Kaderli,
two pioneers of the “retire early” movement.
Retire Early Lifestyle cap on the beach
It was in
2004 when Rule Your Retirement first profiled Akaisha and Billy Kaderli, two
who retired in 1991 at the age of 38 after careers in the
financial-services and restaurant industries. They initially needed
$20,000 a year in annual income, thanks to the “geo-arbitrage” of living in lower-cost
but exotic locations all over the world. Every few years, we check in with the Kaderlis to get their
latest insights and stories about their unconventional
Brokamp: I’m sure people are curious to know what it’s been like living
outside the U.S. during the pandemic. So… where are you now, and how has it
been? If you had wanted to return to the U.S., would you have been allowed?
Akaisha and Billy
Kaderli: Being U.S.
Citizens, we are welcome to return to the U.S. at any time. During this period,
some airlines imposed testing, but if you traveled via land you could cross the
border freely -- for example, through Tijuana and other locations -- with no
Chapala, Mexico, certain businesses were closed - bars, restaurants, and the Malecon
[a lakeside promenade], for instance -- or they had restricted hours. But most
places, including the central market and grocery stores, remained open.
Mexico, unlike the
U.S., does not have unemployment insurance, so when people’s businesses are shut
down, their income source is taken from them. Yet these businesses still paid
their employees in order to keep them and their families well. We did our best
to support as many business owners as we could so that they could get through
authorities closed the
beach in Mexico, but enforcement was another matter. Once they left town,
everyone was back in the water. This cat-and-mouse game went on for a few weeks
and not once did we witness any disrespect to law enforcement or to the people
themselves. Everyone understood they had a job to do, but the police also knew
there was no way for continued enforcement.
In January of 2020 we were in
Colombia, without issue. In early March, Billy traveled to
Panajachel, Guatemala, before the shutdowns began. Everything was fine in
the beginning, but three days later, the Guatemalan government began shutting
down the airport, then the borders, and then all public transportation and
restaurants. It took Billy five days to get out through backroads to the Mexican
border while paying hefty prices along the way to do so. It was another three
days to return to Chapala, Mexico, where we live. It was a bit of a harrowing
Despite Covid, we continued to travel
in-country and visited beaches and various colonial cities in Mexico several
times. We went to
Akaisha visits her family yearly, but it
took her a month to find a direct flight to Arizona. This used to be a basic
three-flight-a-day route, but flights were limited getting her to her sister’s
location. This was in August of 2020, and she returned in September. No shuttle
service was running in August, but by the time she left in September, she was
able to schedule a ride to the airport.
Fortunately, while there have been
precautions -- mask-wearing, various shutdowns of Chapala, some beaches, and
cities -- Mexico has been reasonably open. So, international travel was
curtailed, but we continued to enjoy Mexican locations. Flights were not crowded
and hotels were reducing prices by half.
and Akaisha on Chacala Beach, Nayarit, Mexico
In the past,
you’ve told us that you have been very satisfied with the
you've received outside the U.S. Is that still the case, and did the
pandemic create any concerns?
Akaisha and Billy: We are still very
pleased with the
medical care in Mexico where we now live. We have pharmacies, general-care
doctors, and specialists. Everything is reasonably priced, and we pay out of
pocket. Because the
Chapala area is popular with expats, many new medical facilities are opening
as well as full-on hospitals.
Billy has been working with a specialist
regarding a medication he is taking, trying to tweak dosage and brand. Since his
next appointment is not soon, and he has the doctor’s personal cell number, he
texted the doctor for advice and received his recommendations. This is what we
call “easy living”
whereby medical professionals are available as well as other services without
jumping through hoops for a simple solution.
Akaisha has been seeing a dermatologist in
the next town, and it couldn’t be easier. She either calls the office to set up
an appointment, or WhatsApps the doctor with photos showing progress for things
they are working on.
Recently, Billy had a
done as well as a crown, with his very skilled oral surgeon.
All of these doctors speak English, and we
have their cell phone numbers to arrange for anything or to get a prescription
We have not encountered any problems due to
the pandemic. A friend of ours contracted Covid while in Mexico and received
excellent and personable care.
can read about it here.)
Remind us of
some of the
places you've lived, and what locations would you recommend for people who
are just starting out or who want to give your “retire early lifestyle” a brief
try before making the big leap.
Akaisha and Billy: The
Mexico, area has been called “Mexico for beginners” as English is widely
spoken. With the ease of access from the U.S. and Canada to the Guadalajara
International Airport, it makes an excellent starting point for new retirees.
We would also suggest
as well as
in Guatemala, or various other cities in Mexico like
San Miguel de Allende. With solid expat communities, these locations would
be the places to easily make the living overseas lifestyle transition.
We have lived all throughout Asia, mostly
in Thailand and
America has been another long-term location that we enjoyed.
Robert: As you look back at your 30 years
of retirement, what are some of your best memories?
Akaisha and Billy: This would take a
few hours of discussion at
favorite cantina to go over just half of them!
We still remember the words of one of
Billy’s largest clients from his Dean Witter days, regarding travel: “Do it
while you’re young.” We have so many good memories -– which was the whole point
of our choosing travel as a lifestyle. It’s hard to pick out just a few.
However, we enjoyed Asia because it is so
exotic from our upbringing in the States. The food, the people and indigenous
tribes, the Buddhist temples and way of life, and Thai massages would be some
reasons we stayed there for so long.
Maya peoples in Guatemala was an enriching experience beyond description.
They are some of the kindest, gentlest, most engaging people we have ever met!
And of course, since our cultures are so
entwined, living in Mexico offers every bit as much as the grandest cities and
boutique towns in the States. The food is fresh and tasty, and people are very
kind and approachable as well.
Robert: And what, if anything, would you
consider to be among the lowlights?
Akaisha and Billy: Sometimes we see foreigners looking down
on local people, treating them with distain or arrogance. This is something we
We treat everyone -- from our maid to the
waitress to the food vendors to anyone we meet on the street -- with respect. It
does not cost anything to be nice. We consider ourselves to be global
ambassadors representing the United States of America.
However, if we were to choose something
that would qualify as a lowlight, it would be in our
early days of retirement. We were 38, with no mentors to show us the way, no
friends to accompany us. We were young, and all the retirees at that time were
65 or older!
Our families didn’t understand our
perspective of a lifestyle of travel and National Geographic living, and there
were no travel blogs or financial websites to discuss financial independence and
create a community. We were out on a barely visible trail… something that the
(financial independence, retire early) movement
has made into a highway now.
These days, the Internet, Skype, email,
digital nomadic learning and working has made all of this so much easier. There
is no reason to ever be twisting in the wind without guidance anymore!
and Akaisha in a lancha, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Robert: Two aspects of your story that I
think people find the most surprising is how much your lifestyle costs each
year, and that your net worth has actually grown and outpaced inflation since
you retired. So, let’s start with that first one. You started out living on
$20,000 a year, and it had increased to $30,000 by 2018. How much does it cost
to be you two nowadays, and does Billy still wake up every morning and track
your expenses in a spreadsheet?
Akaisha and Billy: Yes,
our expenses has become a way of life for us. We are able to see exactly
percentage of our net worth we are spending in real time and can make
changes if necessary. It’s really easy and a great tool.
In the beginning of our life away from
work, we lived on $20,000 a year (this was in 1991 dollars). These days, we are
around $30,000 annually, but we are trying to increase it on fun stuff,
staying in better hotels, and choosing more comfortable transportation options.
We are able to live on this amount annually
by having simplified our personal infrastructure and taking advantage of the
favorable exchange rates -- or geographic arbitrage, as it is known.
have been so for over a decade. Most overseas locations have terrific public
transport – buses, taxis, private drivers, tuk-tuks, boats, ferries, jak-a-rans
-- so we find no need to have a car outsside the U.S. We have no pets, and other
than our Internet fee and our under-$20-a-month cell phone charge for the two of
us, we have no subscriptions like cable TV.
We are now on Medicare, which is of no use
in Mexico, and our local health care is paid for out of pocket here in Chapala,
or elsewhere we might visit.
In fact, Billy teases that we’re trying to
find ways to spend more money! One can always make more money, but not more
time, and at 68 years old, the clock is ticking.
Recently he’s been toying around with the
idea of buying a sea plane because he’s tired of taking the bus from Chapala to
the beach. It takes all day, and he hates to waste that kind of time being
unproductive. In a plane, he could get there in an hour and be sitting under a
palapa before the bus made its way out of Guadalajara.
Although there are numerous flight
academies in Guadalajara, he would prefer not to get his pilot’s license, so
he’s looking for partners who have theirs already. Any takers?
Robert: And now, your net worth. You had
close to $500,000 when you retired in 1991, money you had accumulated by saving,
investing, and selling a restaurant you started. Is it still growing?
Akaisha and Billy: Yes, today we have a higher net worth
after inflation and spending than we did 31 years ago.
a money machine by keeping our spending low and staying invested in
tax-efficient index funds. Today we own SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE: SPY), Vanguard
Total Stock Market ETF (NYSE: VTI), SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSE:
DIA), Vanguard Information Technology ETF (NYSE: VGT), iShares Select Dividend
(NYSE: DVY), and a couple of flyers. Factoring in our Social Security as a bond
component of our asset allocation, we are 50% equities and 50% cash/bonds. Since
taking Social Security at age 62, we have not had to sell off shares,
although we do take the dividends to increase our cash position for buying
Robert: A year ago the stock market
plummeted by more than 30% in record time. Did that cause you any anxiety? Did
it cause a change of plans with any of the “fellow travelers” that you know?
Akaisha and Billy: During this downdraft, we did some buying
but otherwise stayed the course. Because we have years of spending cash
available, we had no reason to sell or panic out.
Most of the early retirees we are in
contact with also have cash cushions for these reasons, and it’s what we
recommend to our readers in our
Mentors Service as well.
Whenever these situations occur -- and they
do regularly -- we ask ourselves how we can profit from this event. Sometimes
doing nothing is best and at other times being proactive is the answer. In this
case, the market is up over 70% from the March 2020 lows, so we did fine by
holding our positions.
Robert: We recently published an
article on financial tools,
such as Quicken, Mint, and Personal
Capital. Any tools or services that you use and/or recommend – financial or
Akaisha and Billy: We created our own personalized financial
spreadsheet decades ago (offered in the
fourth edition of
our book, Your Simple Path to FIRE) that shows more than
enough data to manage our finances.
We did take a look at those financial tools
but do not like the idea of having all of our accounts available to them to
gather the information needed. Our website was hacked though a major provider, a
name that everyone would know, and made us realize the importance of not placing
our finances at risk for the little convenience these tools would provide.
Robert: In past interviews, you’ve
highlighted items that Americans should keep in mind, such as you still have to
pay your U.S. taxes even if you live abroad, and that Medicare generally doesn’t
cover expenses outside the U.S. Anything else you think that American citizens
(or anyone else) should be aware of?
Akaisha and Billy: We have witnessed numerous people trying
to live like they did “back home, only cheaper” and complaining when things
don’t fit their desires. Also, Mexico is the “Land of Mañanas” -- and that does
not necessarily mean tomorrow, but sometime in the future.
We suggest you
leave your expectations behind and open your eyes to the wonderful people, places, and experiences you
are about to enjoy, no matter where you choose to live.
We have learned that in Latin countries,
relationships are built and they last forever. From the little girl helping her
mother at their restaurant to the young man learning a trade from his father,
they remember us through the years. Today these children have families of their
own and we are invited to celebrate festivals with them. This is a special
feeling for us.
Robert: I’m a culinary coward, and I
remember you saying in a past interview that you ate large ants, which gave me
the willies. Any other interesting delicacies you’d like to tell us about, and
can people who are not so adventurous with their diets be fine in most of the
locations you’ve lived?
Akaisha and Billy: Grilled octopus fresh from the sea with a
squeeze of lime is amazing.
However, these “culinary delicacies” are
not the norm. People with a very conventional diet would find something to their
liking in most of our travel destinations. Vegan and ultra-strict vegetarian
leanings would be the hardest to accommodate.
However, you might be interested to know
that chapulines – or grasshoppers and crickets – are a staple protein source
with the indigenous all throughout Mexico, Central America, and Asia.
In the culinary capital city of
Oaxaca, Mexico, this is quite common and we had our share on salads, chicken
wings, and just out of the bag with a beer. They come fried and crispy in
various flavors, – lime and salt, lime and cayenne, garlic and salt, and simply
salted. One can purchase them ground (to sprinkle on food) or in various stages
They are very rich, packed with protein,
vitamins, minerals and non-essential amino-acids. No kidding!
Robert: After these three decades of early
retirement, aren’t you bored? How do you keep yourselves learning and
Akaisha and Billy: We are never bored!
Volunteering in the
community brings us great satisfaction, and we are lifelong learners -- so many
skills to gain, places to see, and things to do. With the
available, there’s a never-ending choice of what to discover next.
We utilize our traveling lifestyle to
expand our perspectives on different countries, customs, the indigenous, and the
historical backgrounds of locations we visit as well as their cuisines. Then we
encapsulate our experience and write about them
on our website.
We spend a fair amount of time helping
people to become financially independent themselves, and we just produced our
RetireEarlyLifestyle music video! All
of this is gratifying.
So, pretty much, we run out of time every
Robert: Do you feel like you’ve missed out
on anything by choosing this lifestyle of early retirement and travel?
Akaisha and Billy: Actually, we have thrived in this
financially independent lifestyle. We are both out-of-the-box thinkers and we
like it that way. Our world has opened up in ways we could never had imagined
when we first started our journey on the other side of conventional living. It
has been an amazing ride. Everything in life has a trade-off, and we have made
the best choice for us and love it!
The people we have met and friends we have
made along this journey are priceless. The experiences we have gathered are
unlike any book that’s been written.
We made the choice of having experiences
over having things, and it suits us. Some of our friends and those who write to
us are just now retiring in their 60s. While there is nothing wrong with
choosing a later age to leave the working world, we doubt that we would be
taking those high treks in the mountains, riding in the back of pickup trucks,
or trying to cram the 30-plus years we have had on the road into the dozen or so
years we might have left.
We think that at our mid-60s, we would be
more timid in our choices of locations, hotels, and cuisine if we were simply
starting out now.
and Akaisha in Tepatitlan,
Triangle of Tequila-Making, Mexico
Robert: Any parting thoughts or words of
Akaisha and Billy: We think it’s good to realize that there
is no perfect time to retire. None of us know the future.
People have written to us saying that we
were lucky to retire in the 1990s because we took part in a great bull market.
When we left our careers, it was Jan. 14,
1991. The Gulf War had just started! We had no idea how that was going to turn
out, and the government was advising not to travel.
We have witnessed and been part of many
market crashes and upturns and there will be more. In the early years, we stayed
100% long. But as the years have piled up, we now have a larger cash holding.
Then Covid hit us all out of the blue; I
bet you didn’t see that coming! How were the markets going to react? Another 50%
retracement or worse, and for how long? It is impossible to know.
Life is a risk.
There are no guarantees. We encourage people to make the most of their lives
and to manage their anxiety.
What we are saying is that one must have
faith and confidence in themselves – knowing that they can figure things out.
flexibility – it is such a worthy asset to invest in. Staying flexible both
physically and mentally helps you make needed changes more easily.
If people would like to learn more, or have
any questions, they can contact us through our website,
write to us at TheGuide@RetireEarlyLifestyle.com.
Akaisha and Billy Kaderli
retired in 1991 at the age of 38 on a
portfolio worth $500,000. Despite very early retirement, their portfolio is
bigger now than it was 30 years ago.
They initially lived on $20,000 a year, which
since grown to $30,000. They keep their spending in check by living in low-cost but exotic
locations all over the world… and by
and managing their expenses every
profiled the Kaderlis in 2004, and check in with them
every few years. In this latest installment, they tell us what it has been like
living in Latin America during the Coronavirus crisis.
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
Retire Early Lifestyle Blog
About Billy & Akaisha