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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.

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.

Our Retire Early Lifestyle cap on the beach

Our Retire Early Lifestyle cap on the beach

It was in 2004 when Rule Your Retirement first profiled Akaisha and Billy Kaderli, two adventurous souls who retired in 1991 at the age of 38 after careers in the financial-services and restaurant industries. They initially needed just $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 lifestyle.

Robert 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 Covid restrictions.

Here in 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 this period.

The authorities closed the Chacala 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 Cartagena, 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 adventure.

 

 

 

 

Despite Covid, we continued to travel in-country and visited beaches and various colonial cities in Mexico several times. We went to Puerto Vallarta, Chacala, Sayulita, Puebla, Cuernavaca, and Oaxaca twice.

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.

Billy and Akaisha on Chacala Beach

Billy and Akaisha on Chacala Beach, Nayarit, Mexico

Robert: In the past, you’ve told us that you have been very satisfied with the medical care 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 Lake 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 tooth implant 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 or advice.

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. (You can read about it here.)

Robert: 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 Lake Chapala, 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 Boquete, Panama, as well as Lake Atitlan or Antigua in Guatemala, or various other cities in Mexico like Oaxaca and 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 Vietnam. Central 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 our 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. 

Living alongside the ancient 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 don’t understand.

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 FIRE (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!

Billy and Akaisha in a lancha, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Billy 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, tracking our expenses has become a way of life for us. We are able to see exactly what 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 still 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.

We are car-free and 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?

We are Retire Lifestyle Mentors. Our goal is to help you achieve your retirement dreams.

Akaisha and Billy: Yes, today we have a higher net worth after inflation and spending than we did 31 years ago.

Basically, we created 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 we began 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 opportunities.

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 books or 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 otherwise?

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 of ground.

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 creating a meaningful retirement?

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 Internet courses 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 day!

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.

Billy and Akaisha in Tepatitlan, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha in Tepatitlan, Golden Triangle of Tequila-Making, Mexico

Robert: Any parting thoughts or words of wisdom?

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. Develop personal 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, RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, or write to us at TheGuide@RetireEarlyLifestyle.com.

 

Key Takeaways

·      *  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 has 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 tracking and managing their expenses every day.

·      *  We first 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.

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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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